The Los Angeles Times has this story about Thomas Palzer’s initiative to repeal California’s top-two system. The article is valuable but at the same time deeply flawed. It says that before top-two passed, independent voters were not allowed to vote in the primaries of some parties. For congressional and state office primaries, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party always allowed independents to vote in their primaries, during the period 2001-2010. Top-two took effect in 2011.
It is true that some of the minor parties did not allow independent voters to vote in their primaries during the 2001-2010 period, but the thrust of the article is completely oriented to the two major parties. The article does not even mention any of California’s minor parties.
Anyone who does not believe that the Republican and Democratic Parties always allowed independents to vote in their congressional and state office primaries 2001-2010 is free to google “History of political parties that have adopted party rules regarding no party preference voters”. This leads one to a page on the California Secretary of State’s web page, which documents which parties submitted a letter, allowing independents to vote in their congressional and state office primaries, for all primaries starting in 2004. For some reason the Secretary of State omitted 2002, but documentation that both major parties allowed independents in their 2002 primaries can be found on page 61 of America Votes 25, the election returns book published by Congressional Quarterly. It says, “2002 primary type: semi-open. Voters registered with a recognized party in California could only vote in their party’s primary. Other voters could participate in the primary of the Democratic, Republican, American Independent or Natural Law Parties.”
Before 2001, California had a blanket primary for 1998 and 2000, so all voters could vote for anyone in the primary, with the top vote-getter from each party advancing to the November ballot. One must go all the way back to 1996 to find a year in which independent voters could not vote in the congressional and state office primary of the Republican or Democratic Parties.