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Making Proposition 14 Fair to Minor Parties, Candidates

by Richard Winger, published

Proposition 14 placed some noble and admirable principles into the California Constitution. Our constitution now says, thanks to the proposition, “All registered voters otherwise qualified to vote shall be guaranteed the unrestricted right to vote for the candidate of their choice in all state and congressional elections (emphasis added).”

Unfortunately, the details of Proposition 14 contradict the proposition’s own core principle. The details of it, which need to be improved, now prevent members of minor parties from voting for the candidate of their choice in the general election.

In November 2012, California was one of only nine states, and the only large-population state, with no minor party candidates on the ballot for Congress. The next largest state with no minor party candidates on the ballot for Congress was Georgia.

The details of Proposition 14 also injured independent candidates for Congress. Only four California districts (out of 53) had an independent candidate on the ballot in November 2012.

Independent candidates for the California Legislature were even scarcer; only one independent candidate, out of 100 seats up, appeared on the November ballot. No independent candidate in California was elected for either Congress or state legislature.

By contrast, in the rest of the nation, two independent or minor party candidates were elected to the U.S. Senate, and 25 were elected to state legislatures.

This defect in Proposition 14 can be fixed. Proposition 14 could be amended to provide that the top vote-getter from the ranks of each party would advance to the general election. That would transform Proposition 14 into a blanket primary, which is currently used in Alaska.

To the objection that blanket primaries are unconstitutional, that is easily solved by keeping Proposition 14’s current language that explains on the ballot and in the Voter Pamphlet that all candidates for Congress and partisan state office are voter-nominated.

Voters, not parties, would be nominating candidates for the general election. It’s just that the voters would be nominating one candidate from the ranks of each party.

As for independent candidates, the law could provide that they petition directly onto the general election ballot, which is how elections were handled in California in 1998 and 2000, the years California used a blanket primary. Or, they could be handled as they were in all California special elections from 1967 through 2010, when all independent candidates who qualified for the primary ballot also automatically appeared on the November ballot.

A third idea, copied from the system used in Washington from 1977 through 2002, would be that independent candidates appear on the primary ballot and they also appear on the November ballot if they polled at least one percent of the primary vote.

Amending Proposition 14 so that it is friendlier to minor parties would vastly increase the security and popularity of Proposition 14.

There are no lawsuits now pending against Proposition 14 that were filed by Democrats and Republicans. Instead, all current lawsuits filed against Proposition 14 were filed by minor party members, or the minor parties themselves.

An alternate method for making Proposition 14 more friendly to minor parties would be to use the Louisiana system.

Louisiana has no primaries. Instead, it has a general election for Congress in November of even-numbered years, just as all states do.

In the Louisiana system, all candidates run in the November election. The person who gets the most votes is elected. In the comparatively rare instances when no one gets 50% in November, a run-off is held in December.

No one has ever brought a lawsuit to overturn that system, because everyone is happy with it, including minor parties, who are able to run candidates in the general election just as everyone else is.


- A response from former Sen. Steve Peace, author of Proposition 14, has been published on IVN HERE

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