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The governor and state legislature have, in their infinite wisdom, scheduled a third statewide election for next year — on Feb. 5 — ostensibly to increase California’s clout in the presidential nomination process.

On its face, their move appears to have merit. Who can argue against voters in the nation’s most populous state having enhanced influence over the selection of party nominees? Why should 36 million Californians take a backseat to a handful of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire?

But it turns out the motives of many state legislators who concocted California’s early primary had little or nothing to do with merit, and everything to do with self-aggrandizement.

The real reason we’re about to spend $90 million on an extra election is that many in California’s ruling class are facing an inconvenient encounter with voter-mandated term limits. In response, they dreamt up a scheme to extend those term limits through a voter-approved initiative. Problem is, the voters would have to approve the new term-limit rules before the March filing deadline for the regularly-scheduled June primary election to make termed-out legislators eligible to run for re-election.

Knowing that Governor Schwarzenegger could de-rail their little scheme, legislators cut a tentative deal to pair the term limits initiative with reform of the state’s redistricting process, an issue dear to the governor’s heart.   

But to properly package their self-serving scheme, they needed a cover to justify the gargantuan expense of a Feb. 5 statewide election. Thus was born California’s early presidential primary.

So, by now you’re probably a little peeved that the state legislature is playing you for a sucker at a carnival shell game. But, hey, at least we get a meaningful vote in the selection of the presidential nominees, right?

Well, as it turns out, your opportunity to cast an early and potentially significant vote for president in Feb. may come with a number of unintended — and troubling — consequences. More on that in my next posting.


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