Presidential Election

Should California parties decide who votes in presidential elections?

In this March 4, 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in New Orleans.
In this March 4, 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in New Orleans. AP

In California, non-Republicans hoping to vote for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or John Kasich will have to register with the GOP.

That’s because the Republican Party, unlike Democrats here, adheres to a closed system in presidential races, even as the rest of the down-ticket contests are open.

Now, a pair of GOP lawmakers want to chip away at their party’s walled system. Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Riverbank and Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres have joined San Diego-based Independent Voter Project in calling on Secretary of State Alex Padilla to print and issue a nonpartisan presidential ballot.

Such a ballot would list all qualified presidential candidates and allow anyone to cross party lines and vote for them. Though the resolution would retain the parties’ constitutionally protected rights to close their primaries – and count only the votes they want to count – Olsen thinks it’s time to open the process, however symbolic.

We shouldn’t be disenfranchising voters in an open primary state by not giving them an opportunity to vote for the most important office in America.

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank

“We shouldn’t be disenfranchising voters in an open primary state by not giving them an opportunity to vote for the most important office in America,” she said.

The move is part of the IVP’s mission to empower voters who have chosen not to align with a political party. The group, which was instrumental in creating the state’s top-two primaries, has made at least one previously aborted attempt to change elections.

Chad Peace, of IVP, said any additional costs to the state under the new plan would be “marginal” because the government already prints a complete ballot for all of the elections except the presidential. The change would merely require officials to include the presidential primary on that ballot, he said.

Peace said the results of the so-called “public ballot,” while likely not counted by the parties, would be considered by the public, the media and the parties at their conventions when considering which candidates would be competitive in the general election.

“There is nothing this could do but help the parties because it gives them a real-world gauge of exactly where the electorate is that they have to win over in the general election,” he said.

Padilla’s spokesman, Sam Mahood, said the secretary of state has yet to analyze the nonbinding resolution and is reserving comment.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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