Email from Debbie Tharp:
Prop 14 in California in incumbent protection and access prevention. Loss of ballot access in California is a loss for the nation as a whole. Prop 14 (the top two initiative) allows voters to vote for any party they want in the primary elections, and it is being sold as a way to open up the primaries, but any time a similar bill has been passed in any other state, it has resulted in incumbents being re elected 95% of the time. Voters can come out in droves during the primary to bring an incumbent’s weakest opponent to the finals and drive out the viable third party alternative altogether. Please help us defeat this un-democratic initiative and retain our right to a real choice in the fall elections. We only have until June 8th to stop this nightmare!
You can help by contacting Beau Cain at firstname.lastname@example.org . This is a very organized effort. We have a call center and professional scripts. We have to call 60,000 voters by June 8th so every phone call helps!
Thank you so much!
Debbie also mentioned that phonebanking training is taking place about every other night:
it’s liberty manager. i did the training and it is a great system. the calling is over tonight, but they are going to keep doing training sessions every other night or so.
Debbie continues, explaining that this system was first tried out in the last days of the Joe Kennedy special election campaign, and that she hopes to see it used by other states in the future:
My idea at National, and I am getting from people’s reactions that this may be a pipe dream, is that when something like this comes up, for instance the Kennedy campaign, prop 14 here, Michigan’s lack of ballot access, etc., we can have nationwide efforts at calling people, instead of just statewide. You see, when a crisis or opportunity for the party pops up, it is not all of the time, so libs in any one state will be very active for short stints, and then become inactive again because there is no volunteer effort that needs their participation. If we, on the other hand, help each state as a national whole when a problem or opportunity comes up, volunteers will stay more active and excited, and we will have more success with all of our efforts nationwide because we have more volunteers as a whole. I don’t see why it should only be Californians who fight prop 14, or Michiganians who are forced to fight for ballot access without outside volunteer help. Any victory for one state is victory for liberty as a whole.
What do you think?
This video shows how to use Liberty Manager:
More about what has been done so far in an email forwarded from California LP State Chair Kevin Takenaga to IPR’s Trent Hill:
We started our phone calling GOTV program on May 10th, using Stewart
Flood’s Liberty Manager (aka BallotBase from several years ago.)
We have had ongoing training sessions (with Stewart) to teach people how
to use the system and we are continuing to recruit others. Recruitment
emails have been sent to our general email list, our county officers, and
to our candidates. Our State Party officers have been putting out the
call to local affiliates.
We have 60K numbers of registered Libertarian voters in our system. We
have contacted a little over 1K so far. Volunteer signups have been slow,
but are steadily increasing. I suspect that will increase as we publicize
the results of the recent poll.
Our top caller is Chuck McGlawn, a member from Orange County and has
personally made 432 calls and reached slightly half that amount (either a
live person or answering machine.) He is a veteran of BallotBase and once
made over 2500 calls in one week.
In June 2006, the last California Gubernatorial primary election, the LP
had a 26.31% participation rate, far lower than both the D’s & R’s. We
aim to increase that with this GOTV effort.
See for the breakdown–
We are also stuck with having a National Convention in between now and the
June 8th election (bad timing.) We’d like to make at least 3-4K calls
before the Convention.
The following was sent out by the Libertarian Party of California about Prop 14:
Why Defeat Proposition 14?
Proposition 14 would change California’s voting system in the following ways:
1. Parties will no longer be able to hold closed Primary Elections, and thus will not be able to protect themselves from ill-intended outside interference from the two major Parties.
2. Only the two candidates who get the most votes in the Primary Elections would be put on the ballot for the General Election in November, regardless of their Party affiliations. Thus, a race on the November ballot will have only two candidates, and it would almost certainly be a Democrat and a Republican, or two Democrats, or two Republicans. Voters will lose choices in the elections that count!
3. It would also eliminate write-in votes in the General Election, further guaranteeing that only Democratic and Republican Party candidates will ever be put on a California General Election ballot.
4. With NO Libertarians candidates on the General Election ballot, our Party will likely lose ballot access, forcing us to spend enormous amounts of money and volunteer hours to regain it every year.
Since there are still a majority of Democrats and Republicans in California, it’s unlikely that any other Party’s candidates would ever make it to the General Elections ballot, where all voters can vote for whichever candidates they wish.
It practically guarantees that Democrats or Republicans will be on California’s General Election ballot in every race, but other parties’ candidates never will be on California’s General Elections ballot.
The only way this pernicious proposal could get on this June’s ballot was by Republican Abel Maldonado cutting a back-room deal to approve Governor Schwartzenegger’s unpopular budget. It needed only one vote to pass, and Maldonado sold his vote to the Governator. In return, our Governor supported this protectionist proposition by hosting a very expensive fund raiser in Los Angeles just last night.
Proposition 14 is a worthless proposal, except that it will protect Democratic and Republican Party candidates from the increasing competition of other Parties’ candidates.
Help us stop Proposition 14!
Ballot Access News today reports Prop 14 has a big lead in the polls:
A poll released on the evening of May 19, taken by the Public Policy Institute of California, shows a big lead for Proposition 14, the top-two ballot measure. The poll shows 60% support the measure, 27% oppose it, and 13% are undecided.
A poll in March showed 56% support for the measure. The gain for the measure is undoubtedly due to the heavy advertising for the measure, especially in radio ads. There has been no advertising against the measure.
The fundamental reason for the measure’s strength in polls is its wording. The ballot says in large type, “Proposition 14. ELECTIONS. INCREASES RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN PRIMARY ELECTIONS.” Then, in smaller type, it says, “Changes the primary election process for congressional, statewide, and legislative races. Allows all voters to choose any candidate regardless of the candidate’s or voter’s political party preference. Ensures that the two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes will appear on the general election ballot regardless of party preference. Fiscal impact: No significant net change in state and local government costs to administer elections.”
Assuming the measure passes, those who favor having more than just Democrats and Republicans on the November ballot will resort to the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court said in Munro v Socialist Workers Party, 479 U.S. 189, “We are unpersuaded, however, that the differences between the two mechanisms (a petition to get on the November ballot, versus polling a certain share of the vote in a preliminary election) are of constitutional dimension.” This means that the U.S. Supreme Court thinks that a prior vote before the general election, as a condition of appearing on the general election ballot, is subject to the same precedents that apply to petition hurdles to the November ballot.
Those who attempt to rebut that conclusion invariably say that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ballot access precedents do not apply for an election in which parties do not have nominees. That notion is incorrect. The early ballot access victories in the U.S. Supreme Court were not based on freedom of association for political parties. The first three full-opinion ballot access victories in the U.S. Supreme Court were based on voting rights, and the rights of candidates, not on the rights of political parties. Those first three ballot access victories did not have any political party plaintiffs. They were Williams v Rhodes, Hadnott v Amos, and Ogilvie v Moore; the plaintiffs were voters and candidates. These decisions were issued in 1968 and 1969. At that time, the U.S. Supreme Court had never ruled that the Freedom of Association portion of the First Amendment pertains to political parties. It is true that in 1935, in Grovey v Townsend, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn a Texas Supreme Court ruling that said the Democratic Party is free to limit membership to whites, but that decision does not mention the First Amendment, and furthermore that decision was overturned in 1944 in Smith v Allbright.
California voters have restricted the franchise in the past. In May 1879, the voters approved a new state Constitution that said, “No native of China shall ever exercise the franchise in this state.” That passed 54%-46%.
Slowly, painfully, the movement to improve ballot access for minor parties and independent candidates has been winning. States in which ballot access is significantly better than it was in 1980 are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming, and also the District of Columbia.
But, ballot access is disastrously worse in the state of Washington. This can largely be blamed on Initiative 872, a measure approved by the voters of Washington in 2004, which was used for the first time in 2008. As a result, for the first time since Washington became a state in 1889, there were no independent or minor party candidates on the November ballot for either Congress or statewide state office–a major step backwards, both for fair and open elections and for ballot access reform advocates. Initiative 872 mandated that only the candidates who place first or second in the primary may be on the general election ballot.
In Washington state in 2004, 45 minor party candidates filed for office, because they had a good chance of appearing on the general election ballot. That was under Washington’s old classic open primary. But under the top-two system, in 2008, only 12 minor party candidates even bothered to file, because they knew that in almost all cases, they had no chance to be on the November ballot. They hated to waste their filing fee money when they faced a certainty of being washed out of the general election campaign season.
Now the Washington-style system is threatening to be enacted in California. The California version is even worse than the Washington system, where candidates can at least choose any party label they wish to appear on the primary ballot next to their names. Additionally, if a party isn’t ballot-qualified, it can still place its presidential nominee on the November ballot with only 1,000 signatures in Washington.
By contrast, if California’s Prop. 14 passes, the only way a minor party will be able to remain ballot-qualified, and to at least have its presidential nominee on the ballot, will be to have approximately 100,000 registered members. Prop. 14 deletes the existing method by which parties remain qualified, that they poll 2% for a statewide race in a midterm year (they get a free ride in presidential years). So the only method left is that they have registration of 1% of the last gubernatorial vote, which will probably be at least 100,000 after November 2010.
Supporters of Prop. 14 can’t come up with any pro-democracy reason to vote for the measure, except that it lets independents vote in all primaries as a matter of law. But already, independent voters in California are free to vote in any Democratic or Republican primary for Congress or state office. So already, independents in California are treated better than registered Republicans or Democrats. Registered Republicans can only vote in the Republican primary (although anyone can switch parties 2 weeks before the primary), and the same goes for Democrats. But independents on primary day can choose which major party primary to vote in. Proponents of Prop. 14 are always pointing out that the primary means more than the general, in most legislative and US House districts, because most of the districts are strongly Democratic or strongly Republican. But any independent voter who can figure that out, is free to choose the primary ballot of the dominant major party. The idea that independent voters in California are abused doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
Furthermore, proponent of Prop 14 have suggested that their system will result in more moderate candidates being elected–but history and experience do not support this claim. In Louisiana’s 1991 gubernatorial election, an open primary was held, very similar in structure to the one Prop 14 suggests, which resulted in the advancement of two extreme candidates. The runoff election was between David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the KKK, and Edwin Edwards, the corrupt incumbent governor. More centrist candidates, Buddy Roemer and Clyde C. Holloway, missed the runoff. More importantly, in the general election there were only the two options–resulting in a pathetic election and humorous bumper stickers that read, “Vote for the Crook, It’s Important” and “Vote for the Lizard, Not the Wizard”.
FairVote did an extensive analysis of the claim that Prop 14, or it’s Washington or Louisiana counterparts, result in moderation, which can be found here. Richard Winger has also done some important reporting on the subject here.
The measure is sometimes referred to as “Top Two”, and for good reason, it wants to limit voter’s choices in November to only the top two, instead of giving them the full range of electoral choices that should be available to them.
In the meantime, corporations and politicians are funneling money towards the Prop 14 effort by the millions. Third parties and their activists don’t have access to that kind of money, but they do have access to the truth about Prop 14, thanks to the hard work of activists like Christina Tobin and Richard Winger. We at Independent Political Report stand with the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, Californians for Electoral Reform, and the Coalition for Free and Open Elections against Prop 14.
The Editorial Board of Independent Political Report