Sacramento Bee Covers Proposed Initiative to Repeal California Top-Two

Angela Hart in the Sacramento Bee (H/T Ballot Access News):

Frustrated that Democrats dominate elective office in California, a Republican eyeing a 2018 run against Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants to repeal the state’s top-two primary system that he says shuts out Republicans and disproportionately propels left-wing Democrats into office.

“There’s no question more liberal candidates have been more successful,” said Thomas Palzer, who is pushing an initiative for the November 2018 ballot to repeal a clause in the California Constitution that says regardless of party, the top two vote-getters in a primary election advance to a November runoff. “To me, that’s not representative government.”

Voters adopted the top-two primary system in 2010 after a political deal involving former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then state Sen. Abel Maldonado put it on the ballot. It was aimed at encouraging more competitive races and seen as a way to help more moderate candidates get elected.

“That was really a lie,” Palzer said, noting the Democratic hold on the state Legislature, where they have a supermajority. Palzer also mentioned last year’s U.S. Senate race, in which Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris faced off against former Rep. Loretta Sanchez, also a Democrat. It was the first time since 1914 that a Republican wasn’t on a general election ballot.


Both Republicans and Democrats oppose the top-two system. It has been criticized by the Republican Party for making it more difficult for Republican candidates to make it through a primary contests in a state growing more blue, and by Democrats because it forces them to fight one another, driving up the cost of races.

Palzer estimated that he’ll need between $4 million and $12 million to successfully put the initiative on the ballot next year. He’s seeking to raise money from the state Democratic Party and the Republican Party, as well as the California’s Green Party, Tea Party caucus, interest groups and individuals. So far he has raised between $80,000 and $100,000, he said.


“I’m coordinating with Trump groups, Libertarians, the Green Party…Democrats and Republicans…they already know the top two is not good for them,” Palzer said.

In a statement, state Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman argued the top-two system “weakens the Democratic Party.”

“Progressives have been forced to spend nearly $200 million in contests featuring two Democrats,” Bauman said. “This is a system that silences the Democratic base and completely excludes third parties from even competing in the fall…the fact that this initiative was filed by Republicans underscores how flawed the top-two system really is.”

Bauman said repealing the system is a core priority for the party.

Full article

17 thoughts on “Sacramento Bee Covers Proposed Initiative to Repeal California Top-Two

  1. Starchild

    Encouraging that both cartel parties are against “top two” in California – hopefully this measure will pass and we’ll get the discriminatory system tossed out.

  2. paulie

    The LP should get behind this effort officially. The SacBee’s headline is that it is a Republican effort, which will probably be the biggest line of attack against it. Clearly it is not, and the more people from a variety of parties get involved the more we can dispel that mischaracterization.

  3. Andy

    I suggested multiple times, right here on IPR, that Libertarians in California start this effort, but once again, Libertarians are sitting on the sidelines watching other people play the game of politics.

  4. Anastasia Beaverhausen

    The California LP couldn’t lead their way out of a paper bag with printed directions. The whole ineffective leadership team needs to be thrown out – but it’s hard to do when only a handful of people show up at conventions.

  5. Andy

    This would be much better if one or more Libertarian Party members in California were the ones to have become the proponents of this initiative to repeal Top Two Primary. It would have been an excellent opportunity to gain much needed publicity for the LP of CA. Now some Republican will get credit for coming out with this initiative, and if it passes, Republicans will get credit for repealing Top Two Primary in California. Then people can say, “See, those Republicans really do care about fairness. Golly gee, the Republican Party is really on our side.” Never mind the fact that the Republican establishment in California played a big role in getting Top Two Primary passed in the first place.

    Even though Libertarians in California have missed their opportunity to take credit for this effort, Libertarians, both in and out of California, ought to strongly get behind this effort. If you are a Libertarian who lives in California, donate money to this initiative, and go out and gather volunteer signatures on it as soon as possible.

    When I say go out and collect signatures on it, I don’t mean that you sign it, and then you get a few family members or friends to sign it, and then you stop collecting, I mean actually go out and talk to the public and get signatures (you can talk to people about the LP, and hand out LP pamphlets, flyers, and bumper stickers while you are doing this, and you can also carry a separate sheet of paper to get contact information from anyone you encounter who says that they are interested in the Libertarian Party), instead of just signing it yourself, and getting just a few family members or friends to sign it. If you are busy with your job or business, and/or other commitments (like taking care of kids, or elderly parents, or whatever), I understand, but once this initiative is officially approved for circulation, the proponent will have six months in which to gather petition signatures. There is no reason why any Libertarian in California who is not hospitalized or severely handicapped (note that I have seen people in wheel chairs gather petition signatures) can not each gather at least a few hundred signatures over a period of six months. California is one of the easiest states in which to find locations to gather petition signatures, because in California, it is officially recognized as a legal right to go anywhere the public has access, including storefronts and shopping centers, to ask people to sign petitions or to register to vote. Most of these locations will not hassle you. Some of them will, but if they do, you could probably work it out with the local police, and if you can’t, or you don’t want to go through the hassle, then just go somewhere else. California is the most populated state in the country, so there are plenty of places to go.

    Now on the minus side, I would say that it is more difficult to get people to stop and sign in California as compared to a lot of other states, for two reasons, 1) California tends to have more petitions than most states, so a lot of people there are more likely to get sick of being asked to sign stuff, and there has been negative publicity surrounding various petitions, and sometimes around petitions in general (a lot of the negative publicity is actually just BS propaganda), and 2), California has lots of foreign people, many of whom are not American citizens, and even out of the ones who are citizens, some of them do not speak English.

    I should add that there are lots of people in California who are not registered to vote, including all of the people who are eligible to vote (felons can vote in California once they get off of probation or parole). The last time I checked, 47% of the general population (as in the population counted in the census, or census estimates) in California is registered to vote. Contrast this with say, Pennsylvania, which has around 66% of the general population registered to vote. There was a law passed in California that is supposed to automatically register everyone to vote who is eligible, and who has a California drivers license or state ID card, unless a person fills out a form to opt out of being added to the voter rolls. I don’t think that this law has actually been implemented yet, but assuming that it is implemented, it will add millions of people to the voter rolls. Even if this law has not been implemented yet, you can carry voter registration forms with you while you gather petition signatures, and you can have people who are not registered, but how are legally qualified to vote (which means that they are an American citizen, who is at least 18, and who has a residence address in California, and who is not prohibited from voting due to being on probation or parole (I think that it may actually just be parole, but I’d have to check to be sure)) for a felony), fill out a voter registration form (which is a great opportunity to ask people to register as Libertarians), and then they can sign your petition. Every petition in California has space in the margins to write in a person’s vote ID #, which is a string of letters and numbers that is found at the bottom of a California voter registration form (each voter registration form in California has a unique letter and number code on it). You can pick up a stack of voter registration forms at any county election office. Some of the Post Offices and public libraries have them as well. If you end up working as a paid petition circulator, most of the petition coordinators out there carry voter registration forms. If you get somebody to fill out a voter registration, and then sign your petition, fill in the voter ID # in the margin of the petition next to the person’s name, and as long the voter registration is filled out properly, and as long as you turn in the voter registration (note that all California voter registration forms have postage pre-paid, as in you can mail them in for free; you could also drop them off in person at your local county election board, or, if you work as a paid petition circualtor, you can turn it in to your petition coordinator, and they will turn in the voter registration form for you) before the petition gets submitted to the Secretary of State’s office, that person’s signature on your petition will count as valid.

    If you live in California, and you are a Libertarian, or a Green, or if you support any other minor party, or independent candidates, you simply have no excuse to not support this ballot initiative. Donate to it, and/or collect volunteer signatures on it.

    If you feel that you are not in a good enough financial situation, then work as a paid signature gatherer to get Repeal Top Two Primary on the ballot. Even if you just do it part time, it is still some extra money, and you can get paid for doing political activism for a worthy cause (plus, you can promote your minor party while you are out there).

    I have done lots of petitioning in California, so I am very familiar with the state, and the petition process, so if anyone has any questions, feel free to get in touch with me.

    Am I going to go out there and work on this myself? I would like to go, but it would have to pay a decent rate, and/or there’d have to be other petitions going on at the same that were paying enough to make it worth my time financially. California is an expensive state, and I am a long way from there right now, plus I have other work. So as much as I’d love to work on Repealing Top Two Primary in California, the only way I could go were if it were financially worth my time and effort.

    Regardless of whether I am there or not, if you are a Libertarian, or a Green, or a supporter of any other minor party or independent candidates, then you absolutely must get involved with this campaign to Repeal Top Two Primary.

    Libertarians in California (I know that some of you are reading this), this may be the only chance you have to revive your state party. The LP of CA has the potential to be much larger, and a lot more successful than it is now, but this is not going to happen as long as you are under Top Two Primary. Top Two Primary absolutely must be repealed if you want any chance of building a bigger and better Libertarian Party of California, Do not waste this opportunity.

  6. Andy

    Oh, I forgot to mention that I took informal surveys of the public in California about Top Two Primary while working on petition drives there in 2011, 2014, 2015, and 2016. I did not talk to one person in California about Top Two Primary who supported it. Most of the people did not even know what it is, but after I explained it to them, none of the people I explained it to said that they supported it. Out of the people I spoke to about it who already knew what it was, none of them supported it either.

    So I think that the campaign to Repeal Top Two Primary can win in California, if it qualifies for the ballot, and if it has an adequate enough advertising campaign to counteract the negative advertising campaign that will come from the pro-Top Two Primary people. Top Two Primary got shot down in Arizona and in Oregon, even though there was a lot of money spent to get it passed, so fortunately for us, it never passed in those state. I think that it is within the realm of the realistically possible that Top Two Primary could be repealed in California if this initiative qualifies for the ballot.

  7. Andy

    “steve m
    August 24, 2017 at 20:25
    I would like to see an initiative that replaced top two with ranked choice voting”

    Start one up and get it on the ballot and see if you can get it passed.

    I would like to see Instant Runoff Voting for all elections.

    The previous system in California prior to Top Two Primary was actually pretty good. All ballot qualified parties got a primary. When people voted in the primaries, they got a ballot for their party’s primary. If they were registered as independent, which, in California is known as Decline To State A Political Party, they could chose in which party’s primary they voted. Each candidate who won in their party’s primary got to go on to the general election. Independent candidates had to petition their way on to the general election ballot. This is what would go back into effect if Top Two Primary is repealed.

  8. Tom Palzer

    Starchild, Andy, Paulie, Anastasia, and Steve m – I want to thank you for your comments on my and the Foundation to Stop Top 2. The repeal of the Top Two is not a Republican Party initiative. It is an attempt to repeal a bad law by a person who felt it should be repeal so that the top vote-getter in each Party would appear on the general election ballot. As I’ve said in the past, the Top Two is “not representative government.” When I wrote the initiative, in my mind was the fact that the repeal cuts across Party lines. That’s why my work since December of 2016, has, in part, led to a support by the Democrat Party, the California Tea Party Caucus, the 3 Divisions of the Republican Women Federated, Libertarian Party, California Progressive PAC, College Republicans, MAGA, C4Make California Great Again, many other organizations and scores of voters who have signed a Declaration of Circulator form which authorizes them to circulate petitions. I’ve been advised that the Republican Party has been waiting for the initiative to be filed with the Attorney General before its 1,387 delegates decide for the Party. Well, I submitted the initiative on August 10 and both the Attorney General and the California Legislative Analyst Office confirmed receipt of the initiative on August 20. I don’t care who gets credit for what or WHO takes credit for what. The plain and simple fact is that the Top Two has not resulted in the claims made by Charles T. Munger, Jr., Abel Maldonado, and their band of well-off consultants and associates that the Top two would result in “more moderate” candidates from which to choose. They offered no data to substantiate this because there was none AND using the Legislature to pull the Top Two off rather than ‘by the people’ which is what my initiative is all about. The results of the 2012, 2014, and 2016 Congressional and Statewide Elective Office affected by the Top Two resulted in “more liberal” incumbents retaining their offices and “more liberal” candidates winning their races. So, I would ask that every voter in the State go to: and download forms and circulate them as well as the mountain of information on the site, including the Stop Top 2 Calendar which indicates the path of the initiative. The petitions, if no one plays around with the initiative, will be available in mid-October to early November. Large-donor solicitation is underway. I look forward to further comments on the repeal. But, more than that, I look forward to voters signing up as Stop Top 2 Coordinators (go online) and volunteers to circulate Declaration of Circulator forms and Contribution forms now and circulating petitions when they become available. When they do, the signature collection period will be 180 days. Starchild, Andy, Paulie, Anastasia, and Steve m, if you have any questions about the Initiative to Repeal the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act, please contact me. Thank you!

  9. paulie

    Hi Tom, thank you for your work on the initiative and thanks for stopping by here to comment. If you choose to comment again, as long as you use the same exact name and email for your comment and don’t include more than 5 links in the same comment it should post without moderation (sorry…anti-spam measures. Same name/email combo gets moderated on the first try, or 5 or more links, or the system is screwing up which it does sometimes do).

    Unfortunately, I have a particular brain condition which makes it impossible for me to read long paragraphs. But I appreciate what you are doing and will do what I can to get the national Libertarian Party on board with promoting your initiative as well.

  10. Jill Pyeatt

    Tom Palzer, do you have people in Los Angeles County who might be able to speak to my group? The Pasadena Libertarian group would love to get involved with this.

  11. Tom Palzer

    Thank you Paulie. Would it be better if I broke my comments into smaller paragraphs for you, including the article above? That’s not a problem at all. I’d be happy to do it.

    Jill, I’d be happy to make a presentation to your Pasadena Libertarian group. Just let me know the date, time and place of the event.

    Tom Palzer
    P.O. Box 2413
    Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91729

  12. paulie

    Thank you Paulie. Would it be better if I broke my comments into smaller paragraphs for you, including the article above? That’s not a problem at all. I’d be happy to do it.

    Personally I would find it a lot easier to read that way. I usually have good reading comprehension but for some reason when I see a really long paragraph my eyes kind of go sideways and I just can’t force myself to read it.

  13. Michael

    I talked to Mr. Palzer tonight, and also asked his permission to discuss the content of our conversation.

    The Sacramento Bee article above says that Mr. Palzer has raised $80,000 to $100,000 as of August 22. This is not true. Mr. Palzer has personally put in about 9 months of his own time on a full-time basis, and that monetary amount is his estimate of the value of his time, translated to dollars. The actual dollars he has raised are quite a bit less.

    In my opinion, it would take $2 million to hire petitioners to put this measure on the California ballot. (Alternatively, the Democrats, who control the California legislature, can put a measure on the ballot.) After that, in my opinion, it would take several million more dollars to win.

    So Mr. Palzer needs at least one angel right away to make progress, and a lot more to win.

    I sure would like to see Top 2 removed from California politics before other states copy it. However I think this project at this time does not have the backers to do so in 2018.

  14. Andy

    Michael said: “In my opinion, it would take $2 million to hire petitioners to put this measure on the California ballot. (Alternatively, the Democrats, who control the California legislature, can put a measure on the ballot.)”

    $2 million is probably a low estimate for the cost of getting it on the ballot.

    “After that, in my opinion, it would take several million more dollars to win.”

    Some money would obviously be needed for advertising, but I think that most of the public would support repealing Top Two Primary, if they understand what it does. When I took an informal survey of California voters on this issue I did not talk to one person who supported Top Two Primary.

    “So Mr. Palzer needs at least one angel right away to make progress, and a lot more to win.

    I sure would like to see Top 2 removed from California politics before other states copy it. However I think this project at this time does not have the backers to do so in 2018.”

    The petition signature requirements in California are based on voter turn out in the gubernatorial race, and voter turn out it probably going to go up in 2018 as compared to what it was in 2014, and if so, this will increase the petition signature requirements for the next four years. So if the initiative to Repeal To Two Primary does not make the ballot in 2018, it probably only become more difficult to get it on the ballot for 2020 or 2022.

    Libertarians and Greens in California, are you listening?

  15. Bill Abbott

    Top Two was put in place because the increasingly irrelevant Republican Party was producing primary winners with no possibility of winning the general election. Being listed in the general election ballot was a participation prize for minor parties, and the selection of the Democratic party’s primary voters ended up the winner of statewide contests. Neither the Republican nor Democratic primary voters were necessarily representing the majority of the state’s voters, although the Democratic candidates were proving to be more widely acceptable.

    The hierarchical world of powerful parties and party leaders vying outside the realm of public office has never had much appeal in California. A Green party candidate won a state office in my area, some years ago, defeating a Democratic primary winner who lacked wide appeal. She caucused with the Democrats and ran as a Democrat in succeeding elections. That’s Top Two by another name and did no service to the Greens. Their participation prize was effectively stolen by a carpet bagger who used them and then cast them aside.

    People talk trash about Governor Schwarzenegger, but as a moderate who didn’t vote for him, I still think both Top Two and the non-partisan commission to draw election districts were steps in the right direction. Partisan politics is clearly a problem, not a solution, in our nation today. I’m also for instant runoff, which we have in the East Bay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *