Regular readers of IPR are by now familiar with California’s “Top Two” Proposition 14, which would have the effect of eliminating all or almost all third party and independent candidates from the general election ballot, removing party labels from the primary ballot, and ending all write-in voting in the most populous US State. IPR’s first (and so far only) official editorial, against Prop 14, is here. The vote will be held this Tuesday, June 8. IPR’s articles on Prop 14 are among the top Google News results for “prop 14” and “top two.”
What many IPR readers may not know, however, was that there was a previous Prop 14 in California, way back in the 1960s, which many believed discriminated against racial minorities (much as the current Prop 14 is believed by many to discriminate against political minorities). The California and US Supreme Courts came to that conclusion about the earlier Prop 14 in the 1960s. If the new Prop 14 passes on Tuesday, it is likely that the California and US Supreme Courts will once again be asked to consider whether a California Prop 14 unconstitutionally discriminates against the rights of certain minorities.
Wikipedia article text follows.
See the link for sources, links, and future revisions.
California Proposition 14 was a 1964 ballot proposition that amended the California state constitution, nullifying the Rumford Fair Housing Act. Proposition 14 was declared unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court in 1966. The decision of the California Supreme Court was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 in Reitman v. Mulkey.
Rumford Fair Housing Act
The Rumford Fair Housing Act was a law passed in 1963 by the state of California to help end racial discrimination by property owners and landlords who refused to rent or sell their property to “colored” customers. It was drafted by William Byron Rumford, the first African American from Northern California to serve in the legislature. The Act provided that landlords could not deny people housing because of ethnicity, religion, sex, marital status, physical handicap, or familial status.
Many of these property owners disagreed with this act. Many felt that it was too restrictive and represented unfair interference by state government in private affairs. Thus, in 1964, the California Real Estate Association sponsored an initiative to counteract the effects of the Act.
The initiative, numbered Proposition 14 when it was certified for the ballot, was to add an amendment to the constitution of California. This amendment would provide, in part, as follows:
Neither the State nor any subdivision or agency thereof shall deny, limit or abridge, directly or indirectly, the right of any person, who is willing or desires to sell, lease or rent any part or all of his real property, to decline to sell, lease or rent such property to such person or persons as he, in his absolute discretion, chooses.
Following much publicity the proposition gained the endorsement of many large conservative political groups, including the John Birch Society and the California Republican Assembly. As these and other groups endorsed the proposal it became increasingly more popular and the petition to have the proposition added to the ballot garnered over one million signatures. This was more than twice the 480,000 signatures that were required. The initiative proved to be overwhelmingly popular, and was passed by a 65% majority vote in the 1964 California elections.
Soon after it was passed, the federal government cut off all housing funds to California. With the support of Governor Edmund G. Brown, the constitutionality of the measure was challenged soon afterward. In 1966, the California Supreme Court held that the proposition was unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection and due process provisions of the California Constitution.
The US Supreme Court in the case of Reitman v. Mulkey affirmed the decision of the California Supreme Court and stated that the proposition violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This decision established an important precedent that states could remove a constitutional amendment passed by initiative, if the amendment encouraged racial discrimination.