Props 15, 16 and 17 being defeated

LOS ANGELES — Blaming political parties for California’s dysfunction, voters have replaced their partisan primary, but there’s no guarantee it will change government.

The passage of Proposition 14 gives the nation’s most populous state an open primary where voters can cast ballots for any candidate.

“Californians hate their state’s politics and they are looking for measures to change it,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.

But it’s doubtful Proposition 14 will be the panacea to political stalemate in Sacramento, Pitney added.

Democrats will likely continue representing liberal regions of the state, with Republicans elected in the fewer Republican areas.

One of five measures on the ballot, Proposition 14 was backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has long argued that centrist candidates rarely win primaries dominated by party activists.

He praised voters for “bringing real accountability to government and putting the people back in charge of thepoliticians.”

Despite their willingness to reform primaries, voters rejected Proposition 15, a measure to experiment with public funding of political campaigns.

Also Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly adopted Proposition 13, a measure that would exempt earthquake-safety improvements from property taxes.

The three other measures on the primary ballot were rejected, including Proposition 15, which would have created a trial system for public financing of campaigns.

Two others were backed by businesses

Proposition 16, funded by Pacific Gas & Electric, would amend the California Constitution to require local governments to get two-thirds voter approval before they could use tax dollars to start a power agency.

Proposition 17 was put on the ballot by Mercury Insurance in a bid to overturn a state law that prohibits insurance companies from considering a driver’s insurance history to set rates. It also would allow loyalty discounts to follow customers if they switch insurance companies.

The open-primary measure was opposed by California’s political parties.

The Republican and Democratic parties complained that Proposition 14 would give well-funded special interests the greatest sway over the election process, arguing that candidates would be beholden to big-money donors, not voters.

Third parties said they feared their candidates would be shut out of generalelections because minor candidates typically draw fewer votes.

Until now, California voters have been limited in most primary elections to casting ballots for candidates of only the political party they are registered with. Decline-to-state voters are the only ones who can pick a party ballot of their choice in nearly all elections.

But by the 2012 primaries, a voter in the nation’s most populous state will be able to cast a ballot for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation. However, presidential candidates would still compete in a party primary.

Under the new system, two candidates of the same party could face off in a general election in state and federal races.

Thomas Garner, 65, said he voted for an open primary because he can’t see a difference between Republicans and Democrats.

“They fight like cats and dogs, but in the end they’re all the same. The system is broken,” said Garner, an attorney from San Diego.

Proposition 14 is patterned after a law in Washington state that has been in effect since 2008. That law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, although some provisions are still in litigation.

Louisiana also has a similar open contest for its general election and sends the top two vote-getters to a runoff.