Proposed California Constitutional Initiative to Stop Top Two Filed

Ballot Access News:

On August 11, Thomas E. Palzer and his organization Foundation to Stop Top Two filed a proposed constitutional initiative with the California Attorney General. Here is the text. It would return California to the system used between 2001 and 2010. Parties would again have their own nominees and their own primary ballots. Each party would decide for itself whether to let independent voters vote in its primaries.

When California had this system 2001-2010, both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party always let independent voters vote in their congressional and state office primaries. The press frequently did not understand that. There was confusion because in 2008 the California Republican Party did not allow independents to vote in its presidential primary, but it did allow independents to vote in the Republican primary for congress and partisan state office.

The California top-two system, on the ballot in June 2010, was not an initiative. The California legislature voted to put it on the ballot.

The Foundation to Stop Top Two is seeking contributions to help pay for the petition drive, which can’t start until the Attorney General processes the submission. Probably the initiative will be ready to start circulating in late October or early November.

Thomas Palzer is a Republican Party activist, but his group is non-partisan. It can be reached at PO Box 2413 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91729, The group is working to set up organizations in each county. See

18 thoughts on “Proposed California Constitutional Initiative to Stop Top Two Filed

  1. Andy

    Awesome news. I suggested awhile ago right here on IPR that Libertarians in California should work on launching such an effort for the 2018 ballot.

    The person who launched this effort it not a Libertarian, but I am glad to see somebody doing it.

    I wonder if there is any money behind this effort. It is going to take a lot of money just to get this on the ballot, and then it is going to take more money after this for the vote yes campaign.

    I hope that this effort is succeeds.

  2. paulie

    I’m not aware of any donation limits, but there is contact info for the proponents in the post and they could give you additional details that I may not know.

  3. Richard Winger

    Thank you, Aiden. Any individual can give as much money as they wish, as the Ballotpedia article says. Generally there are no limits on how much money an individual can give to a ballot initiative. There is no logic to imposing any contribution limits on ballot measures, because the purpose of campaign contributions is to prevent bribery, but a ballot measure isn’t a person who can be bribed. However there are campaign finance laws restricting campaign committees of candidates from unlimited contributions.

  4. Just Some Random Guy

    @ paulie

    I do too. It will be an uphill battle for sure.

    I don’t know about that. The top two primary led to the goofy situation of having the only two choices for senator be from the same party. Now granted, this is California so a Democrat being the senator was a given anyway, but I do expect a fair amount of people would think it’s not a good thing to have situations like that occur.

  5. paulie

    The top two primary led to the goofy situation of having the only two choices for senator be from the same party.

    Except that the people who support that party may like that, and there are a lot of them in California. Just getting the money to put it on the ballot won’t be easy. Fighting the campaign will be even more expensive. The best funded source of such funds would probably be Republicans, who as you point out have been hurt by it more than Democrats. But if the Yes campaign becomes identified in the public mind with Republicans – Republicans are pretty unpopular in California. Plus the opposition will have well funded donors, if it even comes to that; and they can mix dislike of Trump and the Republicans with dislike of generic (even if imaginary) “party bosses” – that will be tough to overcome.

  6. Andy

    The Republican establishment in California supported Top Two Primary. Now that Republicans have been screwed by Top Two Primary in the US Senate race last year, a lot of the rank-and-file Republicans may turn against Top Two Primary.

    I took an informal survey on Top Two Primary while petitioning in California, and I did this on more than one occasion in different parts of the state, and I found that nobody who knew understood what Top Two Primary really does supported it. Some of those people I had to explain it to them, but once I did they realized it was a bad idea (and why there were less candidates on their ballot during the general elections). There were some people who I spoke to who knew what it was and already knew that it was a bad thing.

    Libertarians, Greens, American Independent Party (if they have any actual activists left) supporters, and anyone else who supports minor party or independent candidates in California ought to get behind this petition, and when I say get behind it, I mean donate money to the campaign, and/or go out and gather petition signatures on this initiative.

    Libertarians in California, this is your big opportunity to pull your state party out of the doldrums and to create a new golden age for the Libertarian Party of California. Do not waste this opportunity.

  7. Bondurant

    I have no doubts many had no clue what they were actually sanctioning. Here in AZ the petitioners were using a dishonest pitch to get a signature. They were selling it simply as an open primary where they could vote for anyone. Not once did they indicate it would leave only two candidates on the ballot. Thankfully, when people were presented with the reality once it was on the ballot, voters killed it.

    The backers of Top Two tried again last year but couldn’t get enough funding to keep the petition drive going.

  8. Richard Winger

    Top two has also been defeated by Oregon voters, twice (both times by 2:1), and by South Dakota voters in 2016. The only reason it won in California in June 2010 was that the legislature had been unable to pass a budget on time, for years and years. State workers were being paid by script. But the California budget problem was solved with another ballot measure in November 2010, which repealed the constitutional provision that said the budget needed a two-thirds vote. Once that happened, budgets were always on time, because Democrats only needed a majority. If only Prop. 25 had been created and passed before June 2010, there would have been no top-two.

  9. Anastasia Beaverhausen

    “I suggested awhile ago right here on IPR that Libertarians in California should work on launching such an effort ”

    The only problem with that is the California LP can’t launch their way out of a gazebo in broad daylight.

  10. Solomon Kleinsmith

    Shame they were what their name says – against top two – and not also taking the open primary down. Top two is garbage, but they open primary is the right thing to do.

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