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Ballot Measure Must be Split Court Rules

SACRAMENTO — A proposed constitutional amendment backed by lawmakers combined too many issues into one ballot measure and must be split into two items, a state appeals court said Friday.

Supporters of Proposition 62, which would set up a Louisiana-style open primary election, had asked the 3rd District Court of Appeal to remove from the November ballot a rival measure, Proposition 60.

Proposition 60 aims to keep a system that guarantees seven state political parties each a spot on November general election ballots, and would keep separate primary ballots based on political affiliation.

But Proposition 60, put on the Nov. 2 ballot by the Legislature, includes a provision asking voters to approve paying off $15 billion in deficit bonds by selling surplus state land instead of using sales tax revenue.

The court agreed Friday that the two issues were distinct and could not be combined into one ballot measure. But the court ruled that both questions could remain on the November ballot.

State Sens. Ross Johnson (R-Irvine) and Dede Alpert (D-Coronado) wrote Proposition 60 to head off the proposal for a Louisiana-style open primary. That type puts all candidates on one ballot, then the top two vote-getters face each other in a runoff, regardless of party.

The initiative supporting that style of election, Proposition 62, would not cover presidential primaries and elections for party central committee posts.

Of the competing measures, the one that gets the most votes in November wins.
"I don't like the idea, especially the way districts have gone lately, where you potentially have two Democrats or two Republicans running against each other in the general election," Alpert said.

Californians for an Open Primary, one of the supporters of Proposition 62, had argued that the lawmakers deliberately bent constitutional principles to make their measure more attractive to voters.

The legislative counsel's office, which represented the lawmakers' ballot measure, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Fred Woocher, who represented Californians for an Open Primary, also was not available to comment. He argued in court that splitting the measure and allowing both on the ballot would be a "grave mistake."

But Alpert said Friday that having both items on the ballot "gives us a chance to have a discussion with the public about what the election system should look like."

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