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Bad California Primary System Could Malfunction

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Goody — this is definitely what we need, another ill-conceived electoral mechanism that will help the Republican Party:

National Democrats, confronting mushrooming political chaos across Southern California, are pouring millions of dollars into congressional races to avert a self-inflicted disaster that could undermine their chances at taking control of the House.

After months of optimism that the state’s June 5 primary would position them to pick off seven Republican-held districts in November — a substantial down payment on reclaiming the House — Democrats are now trying to ensure that they do not hurt themselves because of their unusually crowded slates of candidates.

With so many Democrats running, the party’s fear is that the vote will be splintered, allowing Republicans — who have fewer candidates — to dominate some primaries. The party and allied groups are spending more than $4 million on just three campaigns, intervening in one contest to prop up a favored candidate; attacking a Republican from the right in another; and even reminding people not to waste their votes on “ghost candidates” who have dropped out yet remain on the ballot.

As any progressive activist will explain through gnashed teeth, the head-snapping scramble is because of the state’s “top two” open primary system, which allows the two leading vote-getters — regardless of political parties — to advance to the general election.

[…]

Actual policy issues are largely secondary: The differences between the Democratic hopefuls are a matter of degree, with all of them vowing a progressive agenda on health care, the environment and gun control while taking aim at Mr. Trump. The Republicans are focused on gains in the economy, a gas tax repeal measure and warning the largely moderate and center-right voters in the districts that Democrats are turning sharply to the left.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s arm in House races, is most concerned that two Republicans might prevail in the primary for Mr. Rohrabacher’s seat. The committee has broken with the state Democratic Party to endorse a candidate, Harley Rouda.

And even if the worst-case-scenario doesn’t happen, it’s still a bad system, making it difficult for voters in many races to make informed choices.

The jungle primary is a rather silly idea to begin with — it’s a classic “you fix politics by getting the parties and the politicians and the politics out of politics” “reform.” But in particular the combination of jungle primaries and plurality voting is a just a disaster waiting to happen.

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