Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Tuesday, Jun. 5, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Primary elections are, by their nature, not conclusive political events, but rather stage-setters for the real showdown in November.

For the political cognoscenti, however, this particular primary carries some unusual interest because it’s a first test of two major structural changes.

They are legislative and congressional districts drawn by an independent commission rather than by politicians themselves, and a new voting system in which two top finishers will face each other in November, regardless of party.

In a handful of the 153 legislative and House seats up this year, that could mean that two Democrats or two Republicans, or perhaps even an independent, could qualify for the November runoff.

It will, however, almost certainly eliminate minor party candidates from competing, which strikes many as unfair.

The political reformers who persuaded voters to adopt independent redistricting and a top-two primary contend that it will result – eventually, anyway – in less polarization in the Capitol and in the congressional delegation.

That remains to be seen, since they are just experiments, not reforms proven in other venues.

The junkies and political pros will be watching one other thing on election night. What happens in a few state Senate contests should tell them whether Democrats are likely to gain a two-thirds supermajority in the upper house, which would alter the tenor of Capitol politics. Even if it happens, however, a two-thirds Assembly margin is probably not in the cards.

The Field Poll predicts that 35 percent of registered voters will cast ballots, the lowest of all time in a presidential primary. But exact comparisons with other presidential election year primaries are difficult because of multiple changes in election dates.

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