Yet Another California Primary

Slate's blog on legal issues.
June 2 2008 7:41 PM

Yet Another California Primary

While much of the country trains its eyes on South Dakota and Montana tomorrow, California voters also will go to the polls.

According to my 23-page "Official Voter Information Guide" and my 40-page "Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet," I'm to choose candidates for four partisan offices (ranging from Congress to county committee) and two nonpartisan offices (judge and county supervisor). Then I'm to ponder two competing state ballot propositions ( Ban eminent domain? Or not? ), and one county ballot measure ( Taxes, anyone? ). Missing, for the first quadrennial year in memory, is a choice among candidates for president. It's thus as good a time as any to ask whether moving the presidential primary up to Feb. 5 was a good idea.

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For the GOP, it might've been a smart political move. Sen. John McCain trounced his competitors in California that day, and he clinched the nomination not long afterward. The Democrats are another story. Sen. Hillary Clinton won by eight points, but victory in California did not deliver her the nomination . What's more, in the interim four months, Californians changed their mind: Were the election held now, polling indicates, Sen. Barack Obama would carry California by 13 points . For Democrats at least, California's primary once again seems not to matter.

But forget politics for a moment. It cost at least $51 million to hold that early, extra primary . How many California taxpayers do you suppose would say it was worth the expense?

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