The hidden zinger in Prop. 14

Proposition 14 would remove the Peace and Freedom and Libertarian parties from the ballot

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By Richard Winger

OPINION Proposition 14, a June 8 ballot measure, would mandate that all candidates for Congress and state office appear on the same June ballot, and that all voters use that ballot. Only the two candidates who got the highest vote totals could run in November. Even write-ins would be banned in November for Congress and state offices.

Prop. 14 also has a hidden zinger in it that would remove the Peace and Freedom and Libertarian parties from the ballot. But so far only one daily newspaper has mentioned it — the San Francisco Chronicle, in a March 11 story by Wyatt Buchanan. The state ballot pamphlet says nothing about this particularly nasty detail of Prop. 14.

California has six recognized political parties: Democratic, Republican, American Independent, Green, Libertarian, and Peace and Freedom. The parties remain ballot-qualified either by polling 2 percent of the vote for any statewide race in a midterm year (all parties get a free ride in presidential years) or by maintaining registration equal to 1 percent of the last gubernatorial vote.

In practice, it's far easier for the smaller parties to meet the first test. The Peace and Freedom Party has 58,000 registered members, and the Libertarian Party has 85,000 registered members. But these parties always meet the 2 percent vote test. Minor parties typically draw far more votes than they have registered members.

The problem is that Prop. 14 eliminates, in practice, the 2 percent vote test. Under Prop. 14, no party officially has any nominees for any office except president and vice-president. And since minor party candidates almost never place first or second in the June primary, minor party members would never be able to run for statewide office in November. And, the catch is that only the November vote counts for meeting the 2 percent vote test.

Prop. 14 also says that members of unqualified parties will not be permitted to list their party label on the June ballot.

The real irony is that the big newspapers of California know about this problem with Prop. 14 but refuse to mention it. That's ironic because back in 1981, when Democrats in the Legislature wanted to toughen the ballot-access requirements, the big newspapers of California denounced that bill with full fury. Forty of California's biggest newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations editorialized against that measure.

This year the Los Angeles Times (which led the charge for minor-party access in 1981) refused to mention that Prop. 14 has the same characteristic as that bill, only worse. The Times has rejected at least 10 op-eds submitted by various individuals in the last year that mentioned this problem. None of the Los Angeles Times stories about Prop. 14 have mentioned it. None of the political columnists for that newspaper have mentioned it.

Prop. 14 is supported by the Chamber of Commerce, the for-profit health insurance companies, the for-profit hospitals, and various multimillionaires, and the Yes on 14 campaign has a huge war chest. Why won't the L.A. Times even mention this flaw in the measure? Who are the big dailies afraid of offending?

Richard Winger is the editor of Ballot Access News.

 

Comments

Proposition 14 will not take effect until January 1, 2011. Parties that maintain their "qualified" status on the basis of this November's election will retain it until after the 2014 election.

In Washington, where a Top 2 Open Primary was approved in 2004, but blocked by the political parties,including the Libertarian, Republican, and Democratic parties, until 2008, the Secretary of State has proposed common sense legislation that would only require a party to have 100 signatures to be recognized as a political party, which candidates may express a preference for. Major parties would be be those that received 1% or more of the vote in the presidential election, and be entitled to a presidential primary and presidential ballot access.

Under Proposition 14, political parties will no longer have primaries for state, congressional, and legislative candidates, so it is nonsensical to base the right to have a presidential primary on performance in the insurance commissioner race.

Proposition 62, which was defeated in 2004, did say that a candidate affiliated with a "non-qualified" party could only run as a candidate affiliated with "No Party". There is absolutely no such language in Proposition 14, or its companion legislation SB 6.

A voter in California is free to affiliate with a non-qualified party on their voter registration. There are 1000s of voters who are still affiliated with the Natural Law and Reform parties, even though those parties became non-qualified several years ago. And voters may affiliate with a non-qualified party merely by filling in a write-in blank on a voter registration affidavit.

Under Proposition 14, this will be recast as a "disclosure of preference for a political party", whether the party is qualified, such as Democratic, Libertarian, or Green; formerly qualified such as Reform or Natural Law; or the Bull Moose, Constitution, or Salmon Yoga parties. Under Proposition 14, a candidate has two choices. He may have the party preference that he disclosed on his voter registration appear next to his name on the ballot ("I prefer the Bull Moose Party" or a blank space. Only if a candidate had disclosed no party preference, does he have the option of having, "I have no party preference" appear on the ballot.

Proposition 14 makes it easier for write-in candidates to qualify for the November general election ballot. In June 2008, candidates who actively sought the Democratic nomination for the state senate, with no competition from on-ballot candidates in the primary, still failed to qualify.

The write-in provision for the general election is poorly written, and directly contradicts other sections of the Elections Code. It is unlikely to survive a legal challenge. It is not intrinsic to Top 2 type elections. Washington permits write-ins in the primary and general election. Louisiana doesn't permit write-ins in either the primary or general election.

Posted by Jim Riley on Jun. 02, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

Thanks for pointing out how Prop 14 actually *reduces* voter choice by weeding out all but the top two candidates during the low-turnout primary, so that the November ballot offers far less choice than before.

Prop 14 would prevent Greens from reaching the fall ballot in almost every case; in some districts voters would get a "choice" in November between two Democrats, and in some other districts between two Republicans. (Look how well one-party rule served the old Soviet Union.) In other states with this system, independent parties disappeared completely from the November ballot.

Another feature of Prop 14, the "Incumbent Protection Act": In elections using this system, incumbents have won nearly every race.

Laura Wells, running for the Green Party nomination for Governor, is offering excellent ideas that the candidates of the "Titanic Parties" won't touch. She's endorsed by the full slate of statewide Green candidates and hundreds of Green elected officials and leaders statewide. Having Greens on the November ballot means broader discussion of the issues and more choice for voters. If Prop 14 passes, you may never see another Green on your November ballot (nor Peace and Freedom candidates, nor American Independents).

Tell your friends to vote NO on Prop 14, the "Top Two" initiative. It is deceptively called "open primaries." More honest would be: "closed general elections."

Posted by Campaign Manager on Jun. 02, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

why do 3rd parties even matter? in reality, we have a two-party system: democrats and republicans. no 3rd party has a single member in the CA legislature, CA statewide offices, or US Congress (well, the Senate has two independents, but that's not really a "party"). so even though minor parties currently make it to the general election, no one votes for them because they are simply spoilers. if you want to empower 3rd parties, we need proportional representation (in my ideal world, the CA senate would be proportional representation and the assembly would remain districts. but that has nothing to do with prop 14). if you want to loosen the gridlock that hardcore dems and repubs have placed on CA, then vote yes on 14.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

There is a 3rd party Senator currently enjoying incumbency. He is a member of the Socialist party.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2010 @ 1:11 am

Sanders does not belong to the Socialist Party. He is an independent (no party affiliation).

From the link you gave:

"Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist,[1][2] and has praised European social democracy, but because he does not belong to a formal political party, he appears as an independent on the ballot. He is the first person elected to the U.S. Senate to identify as a socialist.[3] Sanders caucuses with the Democratic Party and is counted as a Democrat for the purposes of committee assignments. He was also the only independent member of the House during much of his service there. He is one of two independent Senators in the 111th Congress, along with Joe Lieberman."

Posted by Sam on Jun. 03, 2010 @ 1:28 am

In fact we have only a one-party system, the party of bigger government, higher debt and more taxes...

Posted by scientist_sailor on Jun. 07, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

Unfortunately, most people don't have the intelligence or foresight to vote for any candidate other than the corporatist Ds and Rs. It's part of most people's programming.

We have a corporatist, pro-war, pro-military industrial complex, pro-USA "Patriot" Act, anti-US Constitution one party system which charades as two parties and THEY have been the real spoilers in this nation for years. They are ruining/spoiling this nation. It is crumbling because of them. Half of the congress = millionaires. They could care less about We The People. They have gotten us to the dismal place we are today. The "third party" candidates or independents haven't gotten us where we are. Corporatist Ds and Rs are responsible for where we are, including the Gulf of México oil pool. (The pictures I've seen, it almost looks like a volcano).

Meanwhile, voters will keep voting for these corporatist scum and then the same voters will continue to wonder why little changes for the positive. Duh.

I voted for Nader in 2008, when he ran as an independent. He received about 672,000 votes, so some people do indeed vote for candidates other than the D and R rut.

The definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. (Like voting for Ds and Rs repeatedly and expecting positive change...and I'm talking about positive change on major policy issues, not "window dressing" stuff).

Posted by Sam on Jun. 03, 2010 @ 12:52 am

Guest (6/2 9:53pm), minor parties matter a lot even when they don't get elected. Everyone -- even those who are well-represented by the D's and R's -- is hurt when alternative points of view are shut out of debates, kept off the ballot by restrictive ballot access laws, and made irrelevant by winner-take-all election rules. Prop 14 is winner-take-all with a vengeance.

Posted by Bob Richard on Jun. 03, 2010 @ 6:40 am

I like prop 14 because it give us more choices, just like instant runoff voting.

It opens up the voting to everyone, and I can chose who I like. I'm not limited to parties anymore like the old way. This is the new way. I like this. I want to vote who I want to vote for on my ballot, not who you tell me I have to vote for.

Posted by Dorothy on Jun. 03, 2010 @ 10:47 pm

>>It opens up the voting to everyone

In reality, voting is already open to everyone. Primaries are focused on races within the parties, but obviously the general election is not.

Prop 14 proponents have made misleading statements, i.e., "voters can only cast ballots (in the primary) for candidates in the party where they’re registered."

Richard Winger points out: "In reality, independent voters may vote in California Democratic primaries for all office, and in California Republican primaries for all office except President."

So independents are only currently unable to vote in the primaries of Third Party candidates, and since Prop 14 will eliminate those, your claim of Prop 14 "opening up voting for everyone" makes no sense.

Posted by victronix on Jun. 04, 2010 @ 11:55 am

>>It opens up the voting to everyone

In reality, voting is already open to everyone. Primaries are focused on races within the parties, but obviously the general election is not.

Prop 14 proponents have made misleading statements, i.e., "voters can only cast ballots (in the primary) for candidates in the party where they’re registered."

Richard Winger points out: "In reality, independent voters may vote in California Democratic primaries for all office, and in California Republican primaries for all office except President."

So independents are only currently unable to vote in the primaries of Third Party candidates, and since Prop 14 will eliminate those, your claim of Prop 14 "opening up voting for everyone" makes no sense.

Posted by victronix on Jun. 04, 2010 @ 11:54 am