In statewide debut, top-two primary blocks third parties from June ballot
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.
Proposition 14′s False Promise: More Participation and Increased Options in the Primary
Approved by voters four years ago, Proposition 14 ditched the traditional party primary system, where the winner of each party primary appears on the general election ballot. Under Top Two, all candidates appear on a single primary ballot. Then, only the top two vote-getters advance to the November general election, regardless of party.
According to the official ballot title and summary, Proposition 14 was written to “encourage increased participation in elections” and “give voters increased options in the primary.” The measure has had the opposite effect, making it harder and more expensive for minor party candidates to qualify for the primary election ballot. That’s because, under the new system, minor party candidates must collect a substantially higher number of signatures or pay a sizable filing fee.
Under the old system, statewide candidates could submit 150 signatures from registered party members in-lieu of a filing fee. Now, the signature-in lieu threshold for small parties has jumped from 150 party members to 10,000 signatures from all voters, a 66-fold increase.
Minor party candidates, who couldn’t afford the filing fee, now are unable to pursue the signature in-lieu route, leading to fewer candidates and, in turn, fewer choices for voters.
Michael Feinstein, a spokesperson for the Green Party of California, says that this effect was nowhere to be found in the official ballot title and summary for Proposition 14.
“I don’t believe voters would have approved of Proposition 14 had they been told about its negative impacts upon our democracy,” said Feinstein, a former mayor of Santa Monica. “This increase is having a chilling effect on democracy in California.”
Some Green Party members add that voters were hoodwinked by a misleading Prop. 14 campaign.
“California’s voters were effectively hoodwinked when they passed Proposition 14 without knowing the facts,” writes Christopher Kavanagh, a member of the Green Party of Alameda County. “Even Russia allows qualified political parties to field candidates without obstructing their access to the ballot. This situation is both shameful and brazenly anti-democratic.”
Filing Fees Prohibitive to Minor Parties
Few if any statewide candidate will qualify for the ballot by collecting 10,000 signatures. Alternatively, they can pay a filing fee, which ranges from $2,600 to $3,500. The fee is
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