John Hrabe: In Statewide Debut, Top-Two Primary Blocks Third Parties from June Ballot

H/T Cindy Sheehan and Ballot Access News:

California’s top-two election system –by its very design– excludes third parties from the general election ballot. But, as the law makes its debut in statewide races, minor parties say it’s undermining their ability to even field candidates for the June primary ballot.

“I had planned to run for Secretary of State, but I did not because I could not afford the filing fee,” said C. T. Weber, a member of the Peace and Freedom Party of California’s State Executive Committee. “As a result of Top Two and its implementing legislation, I could no longer get the signatures in lieu of filing fees.”

This year, the Peace and Freedom Party only has the resources to get a few candidates on the ballot. They aren’t alone in their struggle. All of California’s “third parties” are battling new ballot qualification procedures established with the Top Two primary, and they say that it’s a fight for their very survival.

Read the full article here.

8 thoughts on “John Hrabe: In Statewide Debut, Top-Two Primary Blocks Third Parties from June Ballot

  1. Pete Blome

    I’ll bet similar restrictions are creeping into many states. Here in Florida, you cannot run on a party ballot if you changed parties within 365 days prior to the qualifying date, or about one and a half years prior to the election. Republican and Democrat Party Committeemen get to have their elections paid for on the general ballot to the specific exclusion of third parties. On top of that, if a candidate is unopposed in a primary, a political party does not have the right to exclude that candidate from using the party name. The candidates could be diametrically opposed to what a party stands for, but there is no legal way to prevent them from being on the ballot under a party name. It goes on, but who wants to write a thesis…

  2. Matt Cholko

    History shows us that its pretty typical of groups/people who wield political power to use that power to keep out competition. Further, though I haven’t done a scientific study, it appears that they tend to increase these efforts as their popularity decreases and/or their policies become more fucked up. I’m not sure about causation, but there definitely seems to be correlation. It also just makes sense, in a power hungry scumbag kind of way.

  3. Richard Winger

    Peter Blome, the US Supreme Court said in 1986 in Tashjian v Republican Party of Connecticut that it would violate a party’s freedom of association to tell a party that it can’t nominate a non-member. So any qualified party in Florida would probably win a lawsuit against that new law. Such a lawsuit can only be won if a party files it. A candidate, by himself or herself, can’t win, but a party can win. Nancy Argenziano wanted to run as a Democrat for the legislature in 2012 but the Democratic Party wouldn’t join her in her lawsuit, so she lost. We have won against laws like this in Colorado and New Mexico.

  4. Deran

    Top Two has really put the kabosh on independents and third parties in Washington State as well. Kshama Sawant made it to the November election in 2012 against an incumbent State Representative only because no one else ran. The same applies in every race in WA, except for President. The state’s Green and Libertarian Parties are pretty much moribund as far as candidates.

  5. Gene Berkman

    Top Two was not passed in California because the two major parties feared competition. It was put on the ballot by Democrats in the legislature in order to buy the vote of St. Sen. Abel Maldonado, when the Democrats needed a Republican vote to pass the budget.

    When it was voted on in a general election, all the parties, including the big two opposed. Part of the reason it passed is because voters wanted to show their opposition to the party bosses.

    The in-lieu signature option itself was originally a means to make it easier for candidates with less money to get on the ballot. California has long had a filing fee to qualify for the primary ballot. In the early 1970s members of the Peace & Freedom Party won a court case in which they challenged the filing fees as discrinatory against candidates with little money.

    The first means to end the discrimination was a law that said that candidates could file a pauper’s oath, indicating they were too poor to pay the filing fee. Then it was decided that this handicapped any candidate who filed such an oath, so the option of collection signatures on a petition was put in – to make it easier to get on the ballot, not to make it harder.

    Before top two was adopted, the in-lieu petition requirement was based on 10% of the voters registered with a party in a jurisdiction, with a maximum in districts of 1500 signatures for a major party candidate, or 150 signatures for a minor party candidate. The major party politicians in California have been quite willing to share the ballot with alternative party candidates.

    When Top Two was adopted, the signature requirement became a percentage of all the voters in the district, but any voter can sign an in-lieu petition, regardless of whether they prefer the same party as the candidate. So yes, it is harder to qualify for the ballot if you can’t afford the filing fee, but this is not the fault of any Democrat or Republican politician.

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