California Proposition 198, the Open Primary Act (1996)
However, in 2000, in the case California Democratic Party v. Jones, the Supreme Court of the United States invalidated Proposition 198 on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment freedom of association rights of political parties.
The goal of Proposition 198 was to change California's Election Code by allowing all persons who are entitled to vote in primary elections to vote for any candidate regardless of the candidate's political party affiliation. This means that voters in primary elections are allowed to vote for candidates who are running for the nomination of a political party regardless of which political party the voter has identified an affiliation with on his or her voter registration.
Proposition 198 also:
- Provided that county elections officials are to prepare only one ballot for all voters.
- Candidates for an office are to be listed randomly on the ballot and not grouped by political party affiliation.
- The candidate of each political party who receives the most votes for a state elective office is to becomes the nominee of that party at the next general election.
- Elections for political party committee members are exempt from the provisions of Prop 198.
Text of measure
The official ballot summary that appeared on the ballot said:
- Provides that all persons entitled to vote, including those not affiliated with any political party, shall have the right to vote at any election for any candidate regardless of the candidate's political affiliation.
- Provides for a single primary ballot on which, under the appropriate title for each office, the names and party affiliations of all candidates are placed randomly and not grouped by political party.
- Retains separate partisan ballot only for the selection of elective political party committee members by voters of each party.
- Requires Legislature to conform conflicting statutes.
Estimated fiscal impact
The California Legislative Analyst's Office provided an estimate of net state and local government fiscal impact for Proposition 198. That estimate was:
- "Unknown, but probably minor, savings to counties statewide."
- Official Voter Guide to Proposition 198
- Full text of Proposition 198
- March 26, 1996 California elections results
- PDF of the March 26 voter guide