Top Two Primaries

I mentioned the Top Two Primary system last week as adopted by the State of Washington. Well, in case you didn’t know (as I didn’t) California was the second state to adopt such a system, which it did by referendum in 2010 and held its first primary under the system last week. Well, how did it work? Thought I’d try to find out for us.

How Top Two Works: All candidates for a single House of Delegates seat (single-delegate district), are on the SAME primary ballot whether they be Democrat, Republican or whatever. If four Democrats and three Republicans run for that seat, then all voters (regardless of party-affiliation) vote for one person amongst the seven. The top two vote getters then go on to face each other in the general. That could be a Republican vs. Democrat, or two Republicans, or two Democrats or, again, whatever. If a nominee croaks before the general, then the third place finisher is promoted. I would assume in a five member district, then the top ten vote getters would go onto the general although I don’t know since California nor Washington are smart enough to have multi-member districts as we have.Theory: by having all candidates run in basically two general elections, candidates would appeal to a broader spectrum of voters and not just the factions dominating the current partisan primaries. That could, in turn, help prevent the fiscal gridlock that California was experiencing. More details on California’s plan. And here’s what the pundits were saying in 2010 at the time of the passage of Proposition 14.

Okay, now how did it work in this year’s California primary Tuesday?

New York Times: Independents in Short Supply June 6, 2012 – For those who hoped that an open, nonpartisan primary in California would bring in a new wave of independent candidates and voters, Tuesday’s primary might have felt like a splash of cold water. Turnout remained stubbornly low, and the vast majority of candidates who advanced to the fall election were registered Republicans and Democrats … But the election did provide a few surprises that would not have been possible with a traditional primary ….

One comment in the article caught my eye. Dan Schnur, director of a political institute at University of Southern California said, “There’s no indication that an open primary will lead to more moderate members, but it will lead to more responsive members because they will have to talk to people who they don’t always agree with. It allows them to negotiate in a way that someone who is really beholden to the party really can’t.”

Also of interest is the fact that parties still were a big deal in the outcomes even though the theory is that their influence would be lessened. Here are more stories on the outcome for your info:

ABC News: California Jungle Primary Alters November Landscape

Christian Science Monitor: California Primary First Step Toward Recasting American Politics

San Francisco Chronicle: Democrats Downgrade House Goals After Primary Doesn’t Go As Planned

Would politics changed in West Virginia if we had the Top Two process? Sellers of political ideas need to be conversant in this topic and to watch it with interest. I know I will.

West Virginia Lowest of Low Among Voter Turnout

Speaking of voter turnout, a New York Times story, (June 5, 2012) concluded, “residents of Texas and West Virginia … tend to occupy the lower end of the voter-participation spectrum.”

Seniors and the Internet

According to new research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, for the first time more than half (53%) of Americans age 65 or older now use the Internet or e-mail. Also, most Internet-using seniors have made a daily habit of going on-line; Pew noted that 70% of them access the Internet on a typical day according to a report by CNN News.


My intuition tells me this makes sense. Why? Grandchildren. We grandparents are willing to do about anything to support those guys including learning how to email, friend and tweet. One thing we can’t understand is how such jerk-faced-kids can have such perfect grandchildren, but that’s another story. Oh yeah, not all seniors have grandchildren so they are less inclined to have any computer access. Even some who do are digital curmudgeons but then so are a bunch of twenty-something’s who like Facebook but don’t get Twitter.

Point is there are different channels of digital communication for different people, not overlooking the fact that plenty of people still are hooked on print and will be for many years to come (television did not replace AM radio as example).

What digital media is preferred by what group of seniors? Pew found a third of seniors who use the Internet, use social media daily meaning the predominant use by seniors currently is email. My theory is that the age of the grandchildren predicts what digital media is preferred.

Those with older off-spring grew up in the age of email dominance and thus favor email and static websites. Later came Facebook and Twitter. I call it the “jitterbug conundrum.” My dad never did understand or like the crazy racket of “rock ‘n roll,” especially when he saw folks “acting like fools” dancing to Buddy Haley and the Comets. My older brother thought it was cool, so I did too. Course my brother always though he was cool right down to his pegged pants, but I digress.

Even though I learned to jitterbug, by the time I hit college “The Twist” was invented so I jumped right on that because … well … I can imagine but don’t confess to the fact that a girl might have been involved. But my brother, well he had graduated from college and married, so he peeled off and stayed stuck in the jitterbug era as he went on with more important things of life.

So here’s one way to think about it. Big bands = print. Email = Jitterbug. Facebook = Twist. Twitter = Shake and so on. But, and this is a big but so to speak, digital is forever like radio; it’s not a fad. Yeah, MP3 files replaced 8-track and Facebook replaced MySpace, but that doesn’t matter. Get on the dance floor now. Every new dance craze you skip makes it harder to “dance like a fool and learn something new.”

What’s it all mean? West Virginians might be behind the digital curve as our state is predominately older rather than younger. Yet a tsunami of public demand is coming and when it hits there won’t be time to learn to swim. Today every seller of political ideas needs to be on FacebookTwitter and whatever comes next while still maintaining print as a major communication channel. After all, even though I can “twist and shout” doesn’t mean I have forgotten how to jitterbug. So, don’t be caught on the sidelines with just a buncha leisure suits and no one to dance with.

Cable Television Channels and Voices

Would you run the same ad on ESPN as you would the Smithsonian Channel? I ran a “Johnny Cash” sound alike ad once on a Charleston rock and roll station. Geeze, did I get calls! You’d think those people were insulted. Knowing the audience of each cable channel and speaking in the right voice is important. Same thing with digital channels, OMG!!!

Do you know there’s a difference in writing for a book versus writing for radio? In a book, you use whole and even compound sentences. Radio has to be written as people talk …. short … choppy … not even full sentences much of the time.

Same is true of digital media. Facebook and Twitter requires headline writing skills. Sending five tweets to make one point is like leaving five voice mails. Uncool. If you’ve got a lot to say, post it to your blog and tweet a headline with a link. And bounce your tweets to Facebook so they will publish there with one send (you can do this with LinkedIn as well).

Point: learn your voice for each media. How? Get out on the dance floor now while everyone is still learning to jitterbug.

Other News You Might Find Interesting

USA Today: Census data shows minorities now a majority of U.S. births

Governor Tomblin: West Virginia ranks third highest in nation for GDP growth

Charleston Gazette Editorial: Government Hides Too Much From People

Charleston Daily Mail Editorial: Volunteer Fire Departments do need help, but how to provide it?

Final Note

Saturday was another remarkable day. Helped my son move. Least I did in my own way: I supervised and offered broad-general advice. In doing so, a thought came to me about family heirlooms. I’m wondering if his six-foot life-size statute of Master Chief from Halo will ever qualify? Dunno …

= = = = =

As always, I invite your comments, criticisms and concerns. You may reach me by responding to this email or by calling my cell phone at (304) 541-3714. Finally, one thing that I will definitely promise is my opinions won’t be rehashes of anyone’s talking points. My goal is to express an independent view that will help all of us in West Virginia move forward.


Where ya live? In East Sissonville ….
Tom Crouser
235 Dutch Road
Charleston, WV 25302
Cell (304) 541-3714