Press Coverage

Five New Papers Issued on Relationship Between Primary Systems and Polarization

The September issue of the print edition of Ballot Access News includes a detailed review of five recent academic studies of the effects of closed, open, blanket and top two primaries. All five support the conclusion that top two does not reduce partisan polarization. Here’s the bottom line:

The top-two system in California would not have passed in 2010, except that all but one of the state’s largest daily newspapers strongly editorialized in its favor, on the grounds that the top-two system would reduce polarization and partisanship. Thus, these recent Political Science studies may be influential, if California holds a future vote on whether to repeal the system.

Alameda County, California Superior Court Hears Oral Arguments in Minor Party Case Against Top-Two System

Ballot Access News reported in detail on the October 29 hearing in detail. Here is a brief excerpt:

The hearing was to determine if the case can continue. The state of California, and the intervenors who support Proposition 14, are trying to get the case dismissed now. Judge Appel understands the point of view of the plaintiffs, and it is difficult to predict how he will rule. The case for the minor parties was presented very well. The attorney for the minor parties, Dan Siegel, distinguished the Washington state top-two system from the California system by noting that Washington state’s congressional/state office primary is in August, whereas California’s is in June. He also emphasized the very low turnout in California’s June 2012 primary, and used this as evidence that the impact in minor party voters and candidates is severe, because the California primary is now not an event which attracts much voter interest. And he noted that it is so obvious that primary turnout is low that recently the legislature passed a bill, which was signed into law, that puts all statewide initiatives on the general election only, because it doesn’t seem fair that the paltry primary turnout should decide the fate of statewide initiatives.

California’s minor parties facing extinction under new voting system

Since Proposition 14 was passed two years ago there has been almost no mainstream media coverage of its impact on minor parties. This article is a rare exception.

They’ve been a colorful part of California’s political landscape for decades — Greens, Libertarians, American Independents and members of the Peace and Freedom Party. But after Tuesday’s election, most of them will be all but invisible — and perhaps on their way to extinction.

Josh Richman, California’s minor parties facing extinction under new voting system, San Jose Mercury News, June 1, 2012.

California State Court Won’t Enjoin Proposition 14 Now, but Keeps Minor Party Ballot Access Issue Alive

From Richard Winger’s coverage of the first court hearing on April 10:

On April 10, California Superior Court Lawrence John Appel, of Alameda County, heard oral arguments in Rubin v Bowen, the case filed last year by the Peace & Freedom, Libertarian, and Green Parties. The judge won’t issue any injunction against the operation of Proposition 14, the top-two system. However, even though he feels the law is facially constitutional, he is allowing the plaintiffs to amend their complaint and make an as-applied challenge. The next status conference is on July 10. By then the results of the June 5, 2012 California primary will be known.

[…] The April 10 hearing was the first time that any court has held oral arguments over whether top-two systems violate the voting rights of minor party members and voters. The previous litigation over top-two has either dealt with two particular aspects of California’s top-two system (labels on the ballot and write-ins), or has dealt only with freedom of association.

– Richard Winger, California State Court Won’t Enjoin Proposition 14 Now, but Keeps Minor Party Ballot Access Issue Alive, April 10, 2012.

Third Parties Challenge Open Primary

From a March 24 article in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat:

Political third parties, which typically veer to the left or right of the Democrats and Republicans, don’t like California’s new top-two, open primary that makes its debut in the June 5 election. … A lawsuit filed last fall in Alameda County by seven third-party members contends that the top-two system “effectively denies voters their fundamental right of choice by precluding small party candidates from the general election ballot.”

– Guy Kovner, Third Parties Challenge Open Primary. Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, March 24, 2012.

Prop. 14 faces more legal challenges: Is the party over?

In a December 8 post on the faculty blog at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, law professor Jessica Levinson wrote:

I … believe that Proposition 14 faces serious constitutional questions for similar reasons. I recently published a law review article in the Loyola Law Review – “Is the Party Over? Examining the Constitutionality of Proposition 14 as it Relates to Ballot Access for Minor Parties” – in which I argue that that law unconstitutionally infringes on the ballot access rights of minor parties. Indeed, Proposition 14 could sound the death knell for some minor parties in California by making it more difficult for them to retain their ballot qualified status. Ballot qualified status is important because candidates can only list their party preference for such parties. Candidates wishing to identify with non-ballot qualified parties can instead indicate that they have no party preference, which is not accurate.

– Jessica Levinson, Prop. 14 faces more legal challenges: Is the party over?. Summary Judgment, The Loyola Law School, Los Angeles Faculty Blog, December 8, 2011.

Three California Political Parties File Lawsuit, Alleging that Top-Two Primary Law is Unconstitutional

Richard Winger’s monthly Ballot Access News and website are the most important sources of news about all kinds of ballot access issues.

This is the first lawsuit in California to allege that the essense of the top-two system is unconstitutional. There have been two lawsuits in California pending since 2010 that allege that two particular details of the California top-two primary system are unconstitutional. The two particular details attacked in those earlier lawsuits are the ban on counting write-in votes (even though the law says write-in space should be printed on the ballot), and the fact that some candidates may express their political views on the ballot but others may not. Those lawsuits are called Field v Bowen and Chamness v Bowen. The courts have not yet granted injunctive relief in either of those cases, although they are still pending.

New challenge to California’s “top two” primaries

The Sacramento Bee notices our first press conference on November 21, 2011:

Candidates and voters who belong to the Green, Libertarian and Peace and Freedom political parties are holding a news conference today to announce a new lawsuit challenging Proposition 14.

They don’t like last year’s initiative that created a new election system in which the top two vote-getters advance to a general election – regardless of party affiliation. The minor parties argue that the new system puts them at a disadvantage.

– Laurel Rosenthal, AM Alert: New challenge to California’s “top two” primaries, Sacramento Bee, November 21, 2011.