Press Release, November 21, 2011

Nov. 21, 2011 – For Immediate Release

Small Parties and Supporters File Suit to Block Prop. 14 Changes to California Electoral System

Greens, Libertarians, and Peace and Freedom charge that voter-approved “top-two” plan violates U.S. and California constitutions

Oakland, CA – Three of California’s six recognized political parties, along with eight registered voters and prospective candidates, will file suit on Tuesday, Nov. 22, to block state Secretary of State Debra Bowen from implementing the “top two” election system mandated by Proposition 14, a ballot measure approved by state voters in June 2010.

The suit contends that Proposition 14 violates fundamental constitutional rights of both parties and voters because it would effectively bar small-party candidates for most political offices from the general-election ballot. Under Proposition 14, the only candidates listed on general-election ballots would be the top two vote-getters in primary elections in which all voters, regardless of party preference, would chose from a single list of all candidates. In most districts, the likely result would be that the general-election ballot would include only a Democrat and a Republican, two Democrats, or two Republicans.

Plaintiffs in the case, which will be filed in Superior Court in Oakland, include the Green Party of Alameada County, the Libertarian Party of California, and the Peace and Freedom Party of California, as well as three members of Peace and Freedom, two Libertarians, two Greens, and a member of the Democratic Party. It will be filed by two prominent Oakland attorneys, Dan Siegel and Michael Siegel, a father-son team from the firm of Siegel & Yee.

Ralph Nader, the prominent consumer advocate and activist and a five-time candidate for President of the United States, is supporting the plaintiffs’ case. “Ballot access obstacles are not enough for the monetized minds of corporations. Better, they say, to abolish election day altogether for minor parties and independent candidates,” he said. “What’s next for the corporate supremacists, who misled and lied to the people to get their vote for Prop 14? When will the people awake and repeal it?”

The suit cites numerous court decisions that have required election officials to grant access to the general-election ballot to small political parties that have demonstrated a modicum of support. Prior to Proposition 14, any California party that had registration equal to at least one percent of the total electorate or that won at least two percent of the vote in any statewide race during the previous gubernatorial election was entitled to have its candidates listed on the general-election ballot.

The suit also charges that Proposition 14 violates the rights of parties by denying them the opportunity to identify the candidates they support on the ballot. Under the new rules parties are prohibited from nominating candidates in a primary election, and candidates can list a “preferred” party on the ballot, whether or not they actually have the support of that party.

The new lawsuit is the second to challenge Proposition 14. Chamness vs. Bowen, filed last February, focuses on the obstacles the new electoral scheme creates for candidates not affiliated with a ballot-qualified party, including write-in candidates.

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