Calif. ‘Jungle Primary’ System Gives Democrats Veto-Proof, One-Party State
Linda Pain of Election Integrity speaks about the California "Jungle Primary" system.
UPDATED 5:28 PM PT —December 14, 2019
California is known as a stronghold for Democrats, but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, the entire state used to be solid red. It was a safe haven for conservative values, producing presidents like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
Since the November 2018 elections, Democrats have controlled the state and have a solid veto-proof supermajority. In the California legislature, there are 40 seats in the Senate, of which Democrats control 29. Out of 80 seats in the Assembly, Democrats control 61. Out of 52 congressional delegates, 45 are Democrats, leaving Republicans with just 7.
These uneven numbers mean Democrats never need to even talk with Republicans before passing their progressive legislation.
Democrats make up 80 percent of state level government positions — including the Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, and State Controller — even though they’re just 43 percent of the registered voters.
It’s the biggest discrepancy in California in over 136 years, and it’s due in part to the state’s one-sided election system. The system is called the ‘nonpartisan blanket primary,’ which is more commonly known as the ‘jungle primary.’
Most states have an open primary, which means the candidate with the highest number of votes from each party goes on to the general election.
However, in California, the ‘jungle primary’ allows the two candidates with the most votes, regardless of party, to make it to the runoff election. This means that races in California tend to involve two Democrats running against each other.
This system was so unpopular that in 2000, it was actually ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The ruling changed in 2009 when then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to pass the biggest state tax hike in American history, and he needed everyone’s support to do it.
The deciding vote fell to state Senator Abel Maldonado, a Republican from Santa Maria.
Maldonado didn’t think he’d get elected again, so he agreed to break his campaign promise against raising taxes in exchange for a deal to change the state’s elections to a ‘jungle primary’ system. He believed this new system would give him the chance to win.
Ballot harvesting and the jungle primary are two of the most destructive elements to free and fair elections.
Once California taxes were raised and the ‘jungle primary’ system was put in place, Schwarzenegger rewarded Abel Maldonado by promoting him to Lieutenant Governor.
By 2016, there were nine races in which Democrats faced off against each other — not a single race featured two Republicans.
Now, thanks to Schwarzenegger and Maldonado’s backroom bargaining, Californians are not only paying the highest taxes in the nation, but are also stuck with a broken primary system.