If you’re an Independent voter like myself, you’ve probably encountered situations in which the Democratic and Republican candidates in the November general election were so bad, that you couldn’t bring yourself to vote for either of them. But at least you had the option of voting for a third party candidate.
Well if you’re a California voter and you intend to vote in future elections, that latter option will no longer be available to you after 2011.
Touted by its supporters as a referendum in favor of an “Open Primary”, Proposition 14 was actually a referendum in support of a blanket top two primary.
Just what is a blanket top two primary, you ask? Well, allow me to direct you to the definition that was printed on the ballot under the summary portion:
Changes the primary election process for congressional, statewide, and legislative races. Allows all voters to choose any candidate regardless of the candidate’s or voter’s political party preference. Ensures that the two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes will appear on the general election ballot regardless of party preference. Fiscal Impact: No significant net change in state and local government costs to administer elections.
The argument in favor of Proposition 14 that was printed on the ballot read as follows:
A YES vote means YOU will be able to vote for any candidate you wish for state and congressional offices, regardless of political party preference. Experts say non-partisan measures like Proposition 14 will result in elected representatives in Sacramento and Washington who are LESS PARTISAN and MORE PRACTICAL.
The argument in opposition to Proposition 14 that was printed on the ballot read as follows:
The politicians behind Proposition 14 included a deceptive provision, that won’t make primaries “Open” at all. Candidates will no longer be required to list their party affiliation on the ballot. They want to look like “independents” while they actually remain in their political party. Business as usual disguised as “reform.”
But what does that have to do with excluding third party candidates, you ask? The term “third party” didn’t even appear in the text of the referendum, nor did it appear in either the “pro” or “con” arguments that were written on the ballot.
Well, allow me to explain.
Proposition 14 assures that only two candidates advance to the November general election. This means that in the November general election, instead of have the choice to decide between the Democratic candidate, Republican candidate, or a candidate of any one of the four third parties recognized by the state of California (Green Party, Libertarian Party, American Independent Party, and Peace and Freedom Party), you’ll now have only two candidates to chose from, with those two being the two candidates that garnered the most votes in the June blanket top two primary.
Now I ask the intelligent readers at TMV, just which two candidates do you suppose will advance to the general election?
Let me give you a hint.
Looking back over the last 30 years, no third party candidate has ever managed to do any better than third place in any California statewide election. During that period, the top two candidates have always been a Democrat and a Republican.
What this means is that with the passage of Proposition 14, Californians now face the almost certain prospect of never again having the opportunity to cast votes for third party candidates in a statewide November general election. Even the opportunity to cast a protest vote via the “write-in” option will be gone, since “write-in” candidates will no longer be allowed in the November general election.
But it gets even worse than that.
Per Section 5100 of the California Election Code, ballot access for existing political parties (as opposed to proposed political parties) requires one of the two conditions below to be met:
(a) If at the last preceding gubernatorial election there was polled for any one of its candidates for any office voted on throughout the state, at least 2 percent of the entire vote of the state.
(b) If on or before the 135th day before any primary election, it appears to the Secretary of State, as a result of examining and totaling the statement of voters and their political affiliations transmitted to him or her by the county elections officials, that voters equal in number to at least 1 percent of the entire vote of the state at the last preceding gubernatorial election have declared their intention to affiliate with that party.
Both options (a) and (b) tend to be difficult for third party candidates. Third party candidates rarely manage to obtain more than 2% of the vote for governor (this was accomplished by the Greens in the 2006 Gubernatorial Election and by the Greens & Libertarians in the 2002 Gubernatorial Election), but they tend to do much better in other statewide elections such as Lieutenant Governor, State Controller, and Insurance Commissioner).
On the other hand, third party candidates almost always fail to garner enough signatures from a number of registered voters equal to 1% of the statewide vote in the preceding gubernatorial election, as required by option (b). Therefore, as a general rule, it is easier for a third party to achieve ballot access in California via option (a) than via option (b).
With Proposition 14, only two candidates will advance to the November general election, and when it comes to statewide elections such as governor, lieutenant governor, state controller, you had better believe that those two candidates will be the top Democratic candidate and the top Republican candidate.
Proposition 14 supporters will point out that third party candidates will still have the option of fielding candidates in the June primary. The problem, however, is that under Section 5100 of the California Election Code, option (a) (attaining ballot access by obtaining at least 2% of the vote in the last gubernatorial election) can only be obtained during the general election–not the primary election.
Opponents of Proposition 14 voiced this concern in hopes that the crafters of Proposition 14 would amend the law to make it easier for third party candidates to achieve ballot access (this was done for 2004’s Proposition 62, which was defeated by Californians). However, the crafters of Proposition 14 were unwilling to amend the law (as Proposition 62 would have done, had it passed).
If third party candidates fail to make it to the November general election, option (a) no longer becomes an option for them. Therefore, Proposition 14, as it is currently written, makes it virtually impossible for most of California’s recognized third parties to maintain ballot access given that third parties are rarely able to qualify via option (b).
Thus, Proposition 14 (which was backed by big name Republicans such as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado as well as big name Democrats such as former State Controller Steve Westly), will essentially exclude third party candidates from all statewide races, and thus, will ultimately benefit the California Democratic and Republican parties.
And by creating a blanket top two primary, political parties will no longer have any incentive to offer numerous candidates in the primary since offering more primary candidates will only dilute the amount of votes that any one candidate of a single party receives (i.e. if the Democrats and Republicans each field two candidates in the blanket top two primary, it would disadvantageous for either of them to allow a third or fourth candidate to run, as these two candidates would only serve to dilute the votes of the other two candidates in their party, thus throwing the top two spots to the opposite party). What this means is that Democratic and Republican party bosses will have even more of an incentive to restrict the number of candidates their party fields and increases the likelihood that the prevailing Democrat or Republican will be the party bosses hand-picked candidates.
Proposition 14 weaken California’s third parties and simultaneously strengthens the stranglehold that the Democratic and Republican parties. This is something that no Independents should be cheering.
Birthplace: San Diego, CA
Birthdate: That’s for me to know
Political Party: Independent
Political Philosophy: Libertarian-liberal