Ralph Nader: ‘California Enshrines the Duopoly’

By Ralph Nader at Nader.org:

Last month, Big Business interests shamelessly dealt our already depleted democracy a devastating blow by misleading California voters into approving Proposition 14, without their opponents being able to reach the people with rebuttals. This voter initiative provides that the November elections in that state for members of Congress and state elective offices are reserved only for the top two vote-garnering candidates in the June primary.

There are no longer any party primaries per se, only one open primary. Voters can vote for any candidate on the ballot for any office. Presidential candidates are still under the old system.

Since the two major parties are the wealthiest and have the power of incumbency and favored rules, the “top two” as this “deform” is called, will either be a Republican and a Democrat or, in gerrymandered districts, two Republicans or two Democrats.

Goodbye to voter choices for smaller third party and independent candidates on the ballot in November who otherwise would qualify, with adequate signature petitions, for the ballot. Goodbye to new ideas, different agendas, candidates and campaign practices. The two Party tyranny is now entrenched in California to serve the barons of big business who outspent their opponents twenty to one for tv and radio ads and other publicity.

To seal this voter incarceration by the two-party duopoly, Proposition 14 decreed that even write-in votes in November by contrarian citizens could no longer be counted.

The Democratic and Republican Parties nominally opposed it, devoting very little money or staff to show their seriousness. Their principal complaint is that the Proposition opens a larger door for known celebrities to jump into the race and disrupt the Parties’ command-and-control systems.

The prior public debate over Proposition 14, for those who noticed the measure, was strange. First, the Ballot Book, sent to voters, misled voters by describing the measure as one that “Increases Right to Participate in Primary Elections.” In fact, it wipes out all other candidates on other lines but the top two vote-getters in November, thereby decreasing the right to participate in the general election.

Second, many of the state’s largest newspapers, except for the conservative Orange County Register, editorially endorsed Proposition 14, saying it would reduce “partisan bickering.”

As detailed in Ballot Access News, Richard Winger, the San Jose Mercury News claimed the measure would not harm minor party candidates. Their one example of a Green Party legislator was erroneous. The Monterey County Herald inaccurately claimed the League of Women Voters had endorsed the initiative. The Sacramento Bee, supported it, saying that the Green Party could well place first or second in San Francisco. The Greens never placed first or second in blanket primary years, according to the super-accurate, Mr. Winger.

Indeed, the smaller Parties all opposed Proposition 14. These included the Peace & Freedom Party, the Libertarian Party, and the Green Party. The energetic ballot-access group Free & Equal developed the leading web page (freeandequal.org) against the measure, and along with Californians for Electoral Reform used their tiny budgets to organize lightly covered press conferences to inform the public.

The final vote was 53.7% for and 46.3% against. The pro side advertisements, distorted as they were, reached millions of more voters than did the penurious opposition.

Curiously, if the by-mail voters were taken out of the equation, more voters who went to the polls on election day voted against Prop 14 (52%) than for it (48%). Winger suggests this difference may reflect the fact that election day voters benefited from the fuller public discussion of the Proposition 14, including its negatives, in the two weeks before election day.

Supporters of a “top two” scheme want to spread it throughout the country, with Michigan as the next stop. Already, Washington state enacted “top two” for the 2008 election. Predictably, it resulted in a “Democratic-Republican monopoly on the ballot [in November] for all congressional and all statewide state offices,” reports Winger.

The Washington state law is being challenged in the courts. Opponents of Proposition 14 assert they too will file a lawsuit challenging this censorious law, on constitutional grounds, in the federal courts.

The constant squeeze plays on the peoples’ democratic procedures to have a voice, to participate, challenge and dissent extends from the courts to the patsy regulatory agencies and the elections.

Ballot access obstacles are not enough for the monetized minds of corporations. Better, they say, to abolish election day altogether for minor parties and independent candidates.

What’s next for the corporate supremacists, who misled and lied to the people to get their vote for Prop 14? When will the people awake and repeal it?

52 thoughts on “Ralph Nader: ‘California Enshrines the Duopoly’

  1. Nad and Nader

    Hmmm, so Ralphie Boy would prefer a system where only the 10% of Republicans and Democrats who bother to vote in their party primary select the candidates that have any chance of winning in November, while all independent voters are shut out….just so he can run his vanity presidential campaigns every four years?

    Jeez. Nad and Nader.

  2. d.eris

    Given the passage of prop 14, if it is not overturned, the deceptively simple question for third party and independent strategists is how to knock out the puppets of the corporatist parties in the primary.

  3. Nad and Nader

    Up in Washington State, Top Two is working just fine!

    Peter Callaghan in the News-Tribune:

    Unless you hang out with the most-devoted of the state’s political-party devotees, you probably don’t think much about the “top two” primary anymore.

    While the party leadership continues to challenge the details of the primary, after losing quite convincingly at the U.S. Supreme Court, the rest of us have moved on.

    A majority of voters would prefer the old blanket primary. That form of election let us vote for candidates of all parties in the primary. We could hop-scotch our way down the ballot – supporting a Republican in one race and a Democrat in another. The Democrat with the most votes and the Republican with the most votes advanced to the general election.

    But that went away after the Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians sued us. The primary is their event, they successfully argued. They get to control access.

    From that came the pick-a-party primary, which was about as popular as an oil spill. Only self-described Democrats could help select which Democrat was nominated, and only Republicans could help select which Republican was nominated.

    Unhappiness bred top two, which was adopted by initiative. Top two isn’t a nomination process but is instead a way to winnow the field down to two candidates. It may be a difference without a distinction, but the U.S. Supreme Court bought it.

    Top two makes its second major appearance on your ballot Aug. 17 (it was used in a few races in 2009). So how has it worked? Mostly as advertised – or, for some, mostly as feared.

    That both finalists might be from the same party is a consequence – not totally unintended but not the main point either. Still, it is the leading cause of consternation among some voters who think their freedom of choice is diminished.

    That requires a revision of history, however. In the days of the blanket primary and in the short-lived pick-a-party, many voters in safe districts had just one name on the ballot in November – often the incumbent who ran unopposed.

    Voters in other districts had the appearance of choice without actual choice. Two names might be listed, but only one – the nominee of the district’s dominant party – had a chance of winning.

    So in one important way top two increases competition. Under top two, districts dominated by one party have a real choice on the November ballot. Both finalists may prefer the same party, but often they fill different parts of the political spectrum, and both have a chance to win.

    In this way top two increases competition in November. But it also seems to be increasing competition in the August primary. Voters are more likely now than before to have more than two Democrats and more than two Republicans to choose among in the primary election.

    In 2006, the last year for pick-a-party, in which voters had to ask for one party’s ballot, there were only five contested U.S. House primaries (out of a possible 18), five state Senate primaries (out of 48 possible) and 11 state House primaries (out of 196 possible).

    While technically not a partisan primary, top two’s debut in 2008 saw the numbers of contested August election races go up to seven for U.S. House, seven state Senate and 25 state House.

    This year, the numbers went up again in two of the three categories – 12 contested U.S. House primaries, seven state Senate and 41 state House.

    Competition is getting better, but isn’t yet good. In this year’s campaigns for state Legislature there are 123 races – all 98 House seats and 25 of the 49 Senate seats. Fewer than two-thirds will have traditional, multi-party primaries followed by a two-candidate runoff.

    That’s because 26 of those races have only one candidate. Another 16 are single-party affairs – six with no Democrat in the race and 10 with no Republican.

    It is in these so-called safe districts where top two has its most-important effect. Without it those 16 single-party primaries would have turned into single-candidate general elections.

    Peter Callaghan: 253-597-8657
    peter.callaghan@thenewstribune.com

    http://www.thenewstribune.com/2010/07/20/1269940/like-it-or-not-the-top-two-primary.html#ixzz0ubxKALIK

  4. Nad and Nader

    Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed wrote, after California adopted a nearly identical Top Two primary system in June, that the system “puts the voter in the driver’s seat.” A 2008 voter poll showed that 70.5 percent of voters preferred the Top Two method to the previous “pick-a-party” system.

  5. Richard Winger

    Prop 14 and Washington’s system are not “nearly identical”. In Washington state ballot access for presidential candidates continues to be very easy, only 1,000 signatures. In California, because of Prop. 14, the only way minor parties will be able to ever put a presidential candidate on the November ballot with the party label is if they have, by January of the election year, approximately 100,000 registered voters. That is more registered voters than any other state even requires signatures!

    And top-two is not working well in Washington. In 2008, for the first time since Washington became a state in 1889, voters could only vote for Democrats and Republicans for all congressional and statewide state offices, in November. I wouldn’t even vote in an election like that.

  6. Nad and Nader

    ” In California, because of Prop. 14, the only way minor parties will be able to ever put a presidential candidate on the November ballot with the party label is if they have, by January of the election year, approximately 100,000 registered voters. That is more registered voters than any other state even requires signatures!”

    You say that like it’s a bad thing. But really, what do these vanity presidential candidates like Nader accomplish by being on the ballot? Either they are pretty much totally ignored, or they help get the worst candidate from their perspective elected – like Nader did for Bush. Either way they don’t accomplish anything useful.

    Whereas, allowing all the voters to pick the candidates they will see on the November ballot, rather than a tiny minority of party stalwarts, is very useful. Being able to choose a Democrat in one race and a Republican in another in the primary is useful. Having two candidates on the November ballot rather than one in a heavily one-party district is useful.

  7. Bad Republicrat

    Nader didn’t cost Gor-Lieberman the election. Daddy Bush’s friends on the Supreme Court stopped the recount. Gore-Lieberman won if they counted all of the votes.

    Besides, Gore-Lieberman ran a crappy campaign and their policies would have been just like Bush’s anyway.

    I for one was glad to have an anti-war candidate to vote for. Nader gave many people an honest campaign to volunteer for where you didn’t have to hold your nose and vote for the so called lesser evil.

    A country with 300 million people deserves more than two corporate parties to vote for. We can either have a real democracy or continue with two factions of a corporate party that have run this country into the ground.

  8. Nadering Nabob of Negativism

    Prop 14 has not been allowed to prove itself in practice yet. So let’s start slamming it before even giving it a chance!

    Nadering Nabob of Negativism

  9. Nadir makes me ralph

    Hey, Nadir,

    Thanks for giving us Bush-Cheney, asshole.

    Kudos to California for passing Prop 14, now maybe we can keep Nadir and the other spoilers off the ballot.

  10. Green Party Conservative

    Thanks for the excellent article from that great Green Party and American hero Ralph Nader…

    And the foremost authority on ballot access in the United States, Richard Winger.

    Both gentlemen are right on the money.

    Thank you.

  11. Thomas M. Sipos

    “Nader didn’t cost Gor-Lieberman the election. Daddy Bush’s friends on the Supreme Court stopped the recount. Gore-Lieberman won if they counted all of the votes.”

    Not true. There was a count. Bush won.

    There was a recount. Bush won that too.

    Gore lost the recount.

    So Gore wanted a third count (i.e., a second recount), this time by hand, included the rejected/botched/unreadable ballots.

    It was this third count that the USSC stopped. And rightfully so, because it violated equal protection. It was to be a subjective count, with individuals trying to interpret hanging chads or what not, with each district would have its own subjective standards. So each botched ballot would have be interpreted differently.

    Anyway, the New York Times reported that Bush would even have won the third count: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/12/politics/12VOTE.html

    So get over this myth that Gore won.

    I can’t stand Bush and his destructive wars and national security state.

    But this nonsense that the USSC “selected” Bush is as crazy-ass as any Birther, Truther, or global warming insanity.

  12. Gary

    Every democratic nation on the planet earth has all political parties and independents on a general election ballot. PERIOD.

    Republicrats BANNED four opposition political parties from general election ballots. In any other nation we would call that DICTATORSHIP.

  13. Erik G.

    Why is it so hard, so inconceivable, to just have a g-damn runoff after the general election if nobody garners 50+% of the vote (or even something like IRV, range voting, etc. instead)? Anyone who’s in favor of crap like Prop. 14 should instead focus their energies on killing plurality voting.

  14. Bryan

    I can only believe that the D’s and R’s will seek to repeal this bull when it bites them in the ass.

    If what would have been a “third party” contender for, say…the Constitution Party, files to run as a Repub, he/she will take away some of the vote from the more conservative R. Meaning that in a County such as mine, a moderate, or even two D’s could represent the only options in the general.

    It appears that “third parties” could turn this into the D’s and R’s worst nightmare…by flooding the filing, watering down the percentages and equalizing the money situation.

    I hope this type of primary is a flash in the pan, that will burn itself out. As it stands, a low percentage of voters go to the polls in off-year elections…this means that the races will be decided by the primary numbers of 30% and less.

  15. Rocky Eades

    I like Nader’s response when he was accused of “costing” Gore the 2000 election. “I didn’t cost Gore the election,” said Nader; “he cost me the election!

  16. Deran

    >>Nad and Nader // Jul 24, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Up in Washington State, Top Two is working just fine!<<

    Uhm, I assume you are a Democrat or Republican, because you wouldn't be blathering so if you were looking for fair and equal elections.

    Nader didn't cost Gore the election. I was one of the nearly 3 million who voted for Nader in 2000, in no small part because Gore was such a corporate flack and so very lame in his campaign. Gore elected Bush.

    Primaries are for parties to select who they want to represent them in November. November is when all people who want to vote vote. If you are not a a member of the party, why should you have any say over who they put on the General Election ballot?

    Top Two in WA has meant no minor party or independents on the ballot in my part of the state. Other than for president.

    You are obviously against open and fair elections, I think you'd be happier in the Peoples Republic of China, or some other one party state.

  17. Nad and Na-der @ Der-der-deran

    Der,

    “Uhm, I assume you are a Democrat or Republican”

    Uhm, you make an ass out of you, although not me. Like Nad-der, you are wrong.

    I am independent. That does not mean I vote for spoiler candidates with no chance of winning or think they should be allowed to be on the ballot – they should not. It means I pick the best of the two who have a chance of winning regardless of whether they are Democrat, Republican, or on the rare occasion that they have a chance to win, independent candidate.

    “Nader didn’t cost Gore the election.”

    Yes he did. If he was not in the race Gore would have been President, no recount necessary. Regardless of whether you would have preferred Gore or Bush, that is an absolute 100% undeniable fact. If you want to argue this you are just being ridiculous.

    “I was one of the nearly 3 million who voted for Nader in 2000”

    And who would you have voted for if Nader was not on the ballot that year? Der.

    “Primaries are for parties to select who they want to represent them in November. November is when all people who want to vote vote. ”

    Hmmmmm so in November I only get to pick from who 10% or so of the voters in each major party chose – in some states independents are not allowed to participate, in the rest they have to choose which contests are most important to them. Unless I want to throw away my vote. Yeah, that’s fair.

    “If you are not a a member of the party, why should you have any say over who they put on the General Election ballot?”

    Because that’s who I get to choose from and one of them will be elected. Der!

    “Top Two in WA has meant no minor party or independents on the ballot in my part of the state. Other than for president.”

    So what? What good does it do to have candidates on the ballot who have no chance of winning? That is so stupid. It’s a good thing they are not on the ballot and it’s too bad that does not include President.

    “You are obviously against open and fair elections”

    I know you are, but what am I?

  18. Erik G.

    “Nad,”

    Perhaps you should focus your anger at plurality voting instead of third-party candidates.

    Also, the ‘who would you have voted for then/otherwise’ argument is flawed, as it assumes said voter would still bother to vote.

    That’s like saying one would vote between Hitler and Stalin.

  19. Nader and naderer

    “Why is it so hard, so inconceivable, to just have a g-damn runoff after the general election if nobody garners 50+% of the vote?”

    Hmmm. Well let’s see. You have two rounds, one for everybody and one just for the top two.

    Why does it matter what you call each round or what month they are in?

    You could have one round in June and call it the “primary” and one round in November and call it the “general election.” You could have one round in November and call it the “general election” and then one round in January and call it the “runoff.” Or maybe you could call the round that is in June the general election and the one in November, the runoff. It’s a distinction without a difference.

    The system you are arguing against is actually the same one you support, just under a different name!

  20. Nad and Nader 2: Nad and naderer

    Eric Stulberg: Protecting America’s democracy

    http://www.michigandaily.com/content/eric-stulberg-protecting-americas-democracy

    Since Nov. 29, 2008 I have been anxiously waiting to cast my first statewide and national vote. As the primaries for the Michigan governor and U.S. representative for the 9th district approach, I have been enthusiastically researching candidates’ positions on a wide range of issues. Like many Americans, around 31 percent according to a June Rasmussen poll, I don’t affiliate with either party and identify as an independent. And we third of Americans, the swing voters, tend to decide many significant elections, i.e. Bush v. Gore and Obama v. McCain.

    But independents have little say in deciding who gets to run. In most states, including Michigan, the two major parties forbid voters to split their tickets in the primaries. This means no voter is allowed to vote for a Democrat for one position while voting for a Republican for another. Departing from the Republican ideal, we are not entitled to vote our preferences. Millions of Americans are forced to concede certain votes and prioritize which candidate or seat to support.

    This is not only unfair, but it also deters many independents from voting in primaries. Instead of voting for either all Republicans or all Democrats, many independents (and many Democrats and Republicans as well) decide they would rather just not vote at all. This causes an extremely low voter turnout in the primary, which inherently elevates the hardcore bases of the parties – the most dedicated partisan troops – to decide who can and cannot run for office. Only a few percent of Americans, not the Democratic majority, determine the candidates for some of the most important public offices.

    The sum result of all this is a primary system that catalyzes the election of people who represent the political fringes. As we can see today on so many issues, from health care to the economy, these ultra-partisan politicians constantly fail to reach compromises and agreements. They render our government inefficient.

    But there is valid criticism to allowing primary voters to split their tickets. Some contend that allowing this in the primaries would lead to Democrats sabotaging the Republican primaries and vice versa.

    There is a radical solution, though, that would permit a split ticket while at the same time making it hard to sabotage the other party. Instead of having party primaries, there should be one open primary, after which the top two vote-getters compete in a run-off for the general election. In order to run in the primary, a candidate would have to garner a certain amount of signatures, in order to prevent a ballot with hundreds of names for each seat. In theory, the most broadly popular Republicans and Democrats would garner the most votes by drawing from their bases while also balancing their views to appeal to moderates. California recently passed a proposition to enact a similar primary system with 54 percent of the vote.

    A moderating force could even be seen in some of the most partisan states. For example, if two Democrats get the most votes in a Vermont primary, then one (or both) of the Democrats would have to appeal to more conservative Democrats, Republicans and independents to win the general election. A similar scenario could happen in a historically conservative state like Wyoming. Additionally, under this system, the entire public would be directly responsible for who is in office — and the decisions they enable them to make.

    In the 2008 presidential primaries, the Michigan Democratic and Republican parties took controversial steps to enhance and improve voter representation. Although condemned by the national parties, Michigan moved their primaries to earlier dates so Iowa and New Hampshire alone didn’t decide who ran for president. I commend them for this bold and necessary action. Governor Granholm should be applauded for demanding in 2008 that “the voices of 5,163,271 Americans” aren’t silenced. Equally deserving of praise were the Michigan Republican leaders who ensured our state’s voice was heard in deciding the Republican nominee. It’s time again for Michigan to take the steps necessary to protect the integrity of America’s democracy, and follow the precedent set by California, by allowing the entire public to cast ballots for both Republicans and Democrats in one open primary.

    Eric Stulberg

  21. Deran

    “And who would you have voted for if Nader was not on the ballot that year? Der.”

    Not Gore or Bush. I only vote for candidates who hold ideas similar to mine; or any other independent or minor party. Never a corporate party.

  22. Nad, Nader; Der, Deran

    “Not Gore or Bush. I only vote for candidates who hold ideas similar to mine; or any other independent or minor party. Never a corporate party.”

    OK, so you would not have voted. However other Nader voters would have voted for Gore and Gore would have won.

    Are you seriously trying to claim that either

    A) 100% of Nader voters would not have voted if he was not on the ballot

    or

    B) More of them would have voted for Bush than Gore ?!

    Let’s cut the crap and acknowledge that Nader was why Bush got to sit in the white house whether you like it or not.

    Which brings me to …

    “Also, the ‘who would you have voted for then/otherwise’ argument is flawed, as it assumes said voter would still bother to vote.

    That’s like saying one would vote between Hitler and Stalin.”

    There are two problems with this line of argument.

    The first is that, luckily, none of the choices we face in America’s elections are anywhere close to being that bad.

    The second is that if in fact you were faced with that choice, you would indeed have to make a choice or just let the odds play themselves out if you really don’t care either way. It’s not as if you would magically absolve yourself of being ruled by Hitler or Stalin if you chose to stick your head in the sand and pretend you have another choice if those were your only two choices.

    Sometimes life involves hard choices we don’t like. In WWII America’s leaders and those of other Western democracies made a hard choice to make a temporary alliance with Stalin because Hitler was the bigger immediate threat. That’s what grownups learn to do. Those stuck in mental/emotional childhood do stupid things like cast protest votes for candidates they know can’t win, like Ralph Nader, and try to stick the rest of us with a very bad primary system where 10% of the people pick who the rest of us get to vote for just so they can continue throwing away an insignificant number of protest votes.

  23. Nad, Nader; Der, Deran

    “Vote Green Party come hell or high water…”

    Spoken like a true ostrich, or should I say dodo bird, and what the hell is a Green Party Conservative….is that kind of like a jackalope?

  24. paulie Post author

    what the hell is a Green Party Conservative

    The “Independent Green Party of Virginia,” which has no connection to the Green Party US. IIRC they nominated the Constitution Party presidential candidate this last election. There are apparently also some Green parties in other countries which are a lot more conservative than the GPUS.

  25. paulie Post author

    Are you seriously trying to claim that either

    A) 100% of Nader voters would not have voted if he was not on the ballot

    or

    B) More of them would have voted for Bush than Gore ?!

    Possibly. More particularly, in the case of Florida, many of Nader’s voters were Arab-Americans who usually vote Republican.

    Additionally, many people came out to vote who would not have otherwise because they originally supported Nader, but at the end (sometimes right in the voting booth) switched their support to Gore.

    So it’s certainly possible that Nader helped Gore, not Bush.

  26. paulie Post author

    “Also, the ‘who would you have voted for then/otherwise’ argument is flawed, as it assumes said voter would still bother to vote.

    That’s like saying one would vote between Hitler and Stalin.”

    There are two problems with this line of argument.

    The first is that, luckily, none of the choices we face in America’s elections are anywhere close to being that bad.

    If we keep allowing the left-right seesaw to keep dragging us to the bottom, it’s only a matter of time until they are.

    The second is that if in fact you were faced with that choice, you would indeed have to make a choice or just let the odds play themselves out if you really don’t care either way. It’s not as if you would magically absolve yourself of being ruled by Hitler or Stalin if you chose to stick your head in the sand and pretend you have another choice if those were your only two choices.

    Sometimes life involves hard choices we don’t like. In WWII America’s leaders and those of other Western democracies made a hard choice to make a temporary alliance with Stalin because Hitler was the bigger immediate threat. That’s what grownups learn to do.

    The choices these “grownups” make often have unintended consequences that are worse than whatever problems they are trying to solve. I’d rather quit allowing these so-called grownups to treat me as a child.

    As for hard choices, see

    http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/PitPen.shtml

  27. Catholic Trotskyist

    Nad, thanks for your thoughtful comments. You’re the most intelligent poster we’ve ever had on this site.
    No disrespect to Paulie, Milnes, Tom Knapp and Trent Hill, who are intelligent but misguided.
    But Nad makes all the points I have been making, better than I possibly could.

  28. Catholic Trotskyist

    And, though some people may think that Nad and I are the same person, this is not the case.

  29. George Phillies

    “In WWII America’s leaders and those of other Western democracies made a hard choice to make a temporary alliance with Stalin because Hitler was the bigger immediate threat. ”

    Extremely bad history. We were at war with Germany only because Germany *declared war on us*, and at that point we were de facto allies of their other enemies.

    If Germany had not declared war on us, we would have been at war with Japan, and there was no clear road that would embroil us in the European war.

  30. Deran

    Nad/Catholic Trot

    I would have voted for another third party. I always vote, even if I have to write someone in.

    A few might have voted for Gore, or Bush, but many would not have voted, or a few stalwarts like me, would vote for a yellow dog before they would vote D or R.

    And let’s look at 2004. Nader ran then, I voted for him, and Bush still won.

    Let’s take your assumption; that lacking Nader in ’00, most of the other 3 mil who voted for him would have voted for Gore. Let’s assume many of them went on to vote for that lame weasel Kerry. Bush was still re-elected. How is that possible given your hypothesis?

    Rather than prattle inanely against Ralph Nader, better to blame Donna Brasil and the other Democratic chiefs who refused to pursue a full recount.

  31. paulie Post author

    I would have voted for another third party. I always vote, even if I have to write someone in.

    Luckily your version of top two at least still allows write-ins, unlike California’s. It still sucks though.

  32. Catholic Trotskyist

    Deran, would you have voted for someone like the Constitution Party, which you probably disagreee with on social and econ issues, if that was the only third party?

  33. paulie Post author

    This is not only unfair, but it also deters many independents from voting in primaries. Instead of voting for either all Republicans or all Democrats, many independents (and many Democrats and Republicans as well) decide they would rather just not vote at all. This causes an extremely low voter turnout in the primary, which inherently elevates the hardcore bases of the parties – the most dedicated partisan troops – to decide who can and cannot run for office. Only a few percent of Americans, not the Democratic majority, determine the candidates for some of the most important public offices.

    The sum result of all this is a primary system that catalyzes the election of people who represent the political fringes.

    In practice, the top two primary has not increased primary turnout or led to more moderate politicians being elected (which would not necessarily be a good thing even if it did happen). The above two contentions appear to be empirically false.

  34. paulie Post author

    In order to run in the primary, a candidate would have to garner a certain amount of signatures, in order to prevent a ballot with hundreds of names for each seat.

    Notwithstanding the California recall election example, there are a number of states that don’t require candidates to get signatures, and they have no such problem with anything close to a hundred candidates.

    And in that one example, although they had 135 candidates, voters had no trouble in finding their choice on the ballot.

    Ballot crowding is a myth.

  35. paulie Post author

    “Why is it so hard, so inconceivable, to just have a g-damn runoff after the general election if nobody garners 50+% of the vote?”

    Hmmm. Well let’s see. You have two rounds, one for everybody and one just for the top two.

    Why does it matter what you call each round or what month they are in?

    You could have one round in June and call it the “primary” and one round in November and call it the “general election.” You could have one round in November and call it the “general election” and then one round in January and call it the “runoff.” Or maybe you could call the round that is in June the general election and the one in November, the runoff. It’s a distinction without a difference.

    The system you are arguing against is actually the same one you support, just under a different name!

    Unless I misunderstood, Erik was actually talking about a (potentially) three-step process.

    Step 1. The parties pick their candidates, whether through primaries or – preferably – conventions. This step would also include some mechanism for independents to qualify.

    Step 2. General election; everyone participates.

    Step 3. Top two runoff ONLY if no one gets above 50% in step two, thus not the same as the “top two primary” system.

    Steps 1-3 or 2-3 could also be compressed into one election through instant runoff.

  36. paulie Post author

    I am independent. That does not mean I vote for spoiler candidates with no chance of winning or think they should be allowed to be on the ballot – they should not. It means I pick the best of the two who have a chance of winning regardless of whether they are Democrat, Republican, or on the rare occasion that they have a chance to win, independent candidate.

    Who has a chance of winning can change during the course of a campaign.

    When Jesse Ventura started running for Governor he was considered to not have a chance.

    Near the end he was seen as a contender.

    At the end he won.

    But given your assumptions, you would not allow him on the ballot.

    Another example was in this past election. There was a Democrat in Arkansas who was a shoo-in for re-election, until he was caught in some kind of scandal. It was a heavily Democratic district, so either there was no Republican, or there was a Republican who was not a serious contender. Due to the Green Party having a candidate on the ballot, he was elected. However, given your system he would not have been on the ballot, so the corrupt politician would have been re-elected by default, or – if a Republican ran at all – there would have been a candidate elected who did not reflect the ideology of his district.

    I’m sure there are other examples.

    Even in cases where a given candidate has no chance to win the immediate election, he/she can influence the debate and push the other candidates in a given direction, as well as build momentum to make winning possible in a future election.

    That candidate can also give some voters the ability to peacefully express opposition to the status quo. If you take away that choice, what do you propose those voters do instead?

  37. paulie Post author

    “Nader didn’t cost Gor-Lieberman the election. Daddy Bush’s friends on the Supreme Court stopped the recount. Gore-Lieberman won if they counted all of the votes.”

    Not true. There was a count. Bush won.

    There was a recount. Bush won that too.

    Gore lost the recount.

    So Gore wanted a third count (i.e., a second recount), this time by hand, included the rejected/botched/unreadable ballots.

    It was this third count that the USSC stopped. And rightfully so, because it violated equal protection. It was to be a subjective count, with individuals trying to interpret hanging chads or what not, with each district would have its own subjective standards. So each botched ballot would have be interpreted differently.

    Anyway, the New York Times reported that Bush would even have won the third count: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/12/politics/12VOTE.html

    So get over this myth that Gore won.

    I’m not sure I would trust the NY Times account, and I don’t feel like reading it. But what gave the US Supreme Court jurisdiction to override the Florida Supreme Court in interpreting the electoral laws of Florida, anyway?

    And if the count would have gone for Bush no matter what, what would have been the harm in allowing another count, why were Republicans outside the room using intimidation to stop the counting, and why did Republicans fight in court to stop the count?

    Also, what about the non-felons, mostly black, who were taken off the rolls after being falsely flagged as felons?

    There should have been either a recount or better yet a revote.

    I can’t stand Bush and his destructive wars and national security state.

    I agree, and I also can’t stand Gore (who I suspect would have given us the same, as Obama has).

    But this nonsense that the USSC “selected” Bush is as crazy-ass as any Birther, Truther, or global warming insanity.

    They did select Bush, and the Birthers are the only crazies in that bunch.

  38. paulie Post author

    Thanks for the excellent article from that great Green Party and American hero Ralph Nader…

    We’ve been over this before. Nader allowed himself to be endorsed by the Green Party in ’96 and ’00, but never joined. He ran as an independent, competing against Green Party candidates, in two more recent elections.

    He’s not the Green Party’s Nader…and the IGPV is not “the Green Party,” either.

  39. paulie Post author

    Prop 14 has not been allowed to prove itself in practice yet. So let’s start slamming it before even giving it a chance!

    The idea has been shown to be bad in practice elsewhere. Why should we give it a chance before slamming it? How about dunking your head and a plugged in, running hair dryer in a bathtub full of water….are you going to slam it without trying it first?

  40. paulie Post author

    Gore-Lieberman ran a crappy campaign and their policies would have been just like Bush’s anyway.

    True.

    Nader gave many people an honest campaign to volunteer for where you didn’t have to hold your nose and vote for the so called lesser evil.

    So did Harry Browne.

  41. paulie Post author

    Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed wrote, after California adopted a nearly identical Top Two primary system in June, that the system “puts the voter in the driver’s seat.”

    He forgot to mention that it was a crash test vehicle with no seat belt or airbag.

    A 2008 voter poll showed that 70.5 percent of voters preferred the Top Two method to the previous “pick-a-party” system.

    Not everything the majority prefers is a good idea. Lynch mobs are “majorities,” too.

  42. Erik G.

    “Nad” @21:

    You stated that, “The system you are arguing against is actually the same one you support, just under a different name!”

    Um…no, not actually. What Paulie refers to @39 is actually (mostly) what I’m talking about.

    See, I actually like the current primary system for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it does a fairly decent job of eliminating (largely) duplicant candidates.

    Secondly, it puts forth candidates that more or less are agreeable to a decent portion of the population. Disgruntled second-place finishers in primaries may well be better off running under a different party label or as an independent, but generally they wouldn’t pursue that option over an existing party primary if they’re not exceptionally different than their primary foes. I’ve always maintained that a few key factors, none of which have to do with ideology, prevent better ideology coalescing into parties (ballot access, debate access, plurality voting, gerrymandering, single-member districts, etc.).

    Third, though what Paulie says @38 is largely true about ballot-crowding, I’m not a fan of huge ballots for multiple races. I believe party primaries function decently as by my first and second points, and I’m not a fan of making ill-informed down-ticket decisions. It’s true that, ideally, voters will go to the polls knowing the ins and outs of all the races and who most of the candidates are, but that’s rarely true, even among electoral die-hards. When I get down to voting for positions like judge, or even occasionally state rep./delegate/assemblyman, it’s easier for me, as a libertarian partisan, to see if there’s a candidate the LP has deemed worthy of its ballot line than to spend tons of time researching candidates for low-level positions (important though they be). Correct me if I’m wrong, but in ‘Top Two’ primaries, candidates are labeled by their choice of ballot line or by their party registration, are they not? I’d hate to run into a ballot line where there are two ‘Libertarian’ options, but not realize that one is as batshit crazy as Eric Dondero. Since I prefer not to abstain on lines where there’s an LP member, how do I decide who to vote for? Heaven forbid I pull a South Carolina and vote for the next Alvin Greene.

    What I’d like to see are two rounds of voting: a round of party primaries/nominating conventions, and a general election that uses a runoff mechanism (I currently prefer IRV because it’s fairly simple to explain and therefore has a better chance of catching on than other systems, but I’m open to a number of options). That’s not a difficult concept.

    If the ‘wasted vote’ phenomenon were largely combated by the elimination of plurality voting, I think most of the other dominoes would begin to fall (though I think the death of plurality voting needs to be widespread so everyone understands that ‘wasted votes’ can no longer exist – a mere few states/localities wouldn’t be enough for the common voter to understand, even in said state/locality).

  43. paulie Post author

    I think I covered that scenario, although I probably phrased it so awkwardly in trying to cover several at once that it didn’t come across.

  44. Eddie

    I am a Green Party activist, and although I was opposed to this proposition, since then I have become perhaps a little optimistic. It might give a third party the ability to knock off one of the corporate parties in the primaries. I still oppose it, but this new proposition might actually be a good thing. We shall wait and see.

    The important is is that the Green Party needs to stick together and volunteer in close race districts.

  45. paulie Post author

    It might give a third party the ability to knock off one of the corporate parties in the primaries.

    Don’t count on it.

    I still oppose it, but this new proposition might actually be a good thing.

    Highly unlikely. It has been in effect in Washington State for several years, and alternative parties and independents have virtually disappeared from the November ballot. California’s prop is even worse than Washington’s.

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