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The Emergent Party "Solution": Keep Them Off the Ballot? Now with Post-Election Update!

twig's picture

I'm not sure if this is as bad as it looks, but I'm interested in seeing what other people think. In danps's post on emergent party laziness, I commented that Greens were irrelevant in California, because other than the presidential race, there are none on our ballot. Boy, was I wrong.

I completely forgot about the recently passed "top two" legislation, which is now spreading to other states -- where it is preventing third parties from even appearing on voters' ballots.

Here's "top two" in a nutshell:

Two years ago, California voters approved Proposition 14, which mandates that the top two vote-getters in a primary – regardless of party affiliation – face off in the general election. The new rules apply to Congressional and state legislative races.

Supposedly, the top two approach was designed to give Democrats a super-majority in the California legislature. It has been criticized for setting up D vs D or R v R races in some areas. But more importantly, it also keeps third or emergent party candidates pretty much off the ballot.

The top-two system also means third party candidates are effectively shut out at the state level. The ballot does not include any Green Party candidates below the presidential ticket.

[emphasis added]

Are people in the other states with top-two (Washington and Louisiana, for now) seeing similar results in terms of limited ballot choices? At the Stop Top Two website, there are five other states that appear to be considering top two legislation (Wyoming, Florida, Mississippi, Colorado, and Arizona), so it looks like this could become more widespread. I don't see how that could be good for those of us who have given up on the two-party system, but I'd really like to hear what other people think about it.

Update: Now that the election is over, it turns out the Top Two strategy did accomplish its stated goal of creating a Democratic supermajority in the state legislature, a move that could mean the end of Republican tyranny and obstructionism, at least in Ca.

Unfortunately, that came at the cost of shutting out emergent parties on the state ballot. Bug/feature? Definitely a feature for Ds and Rs, according to the Peace and Freedom party:

Top Two Elections: Bad for Democracy

In June of this year your ballot changed dramatically. Except for the Presidential primary (which hasn’t changed), you no longer vote in a primary election for candidates to represent your political party in November. Instead, you vote on which two candidates get to run again in the fall. The party labels that appear next to the candidates’ names have little meaning because political parties no longer control the use of their names.

But you aren’t seeing the real change until November, when you have only two choices. They might well both be Democrats or both be Republicans. “Top two” elections relegate small party and independent candidates to June when fewer people turn out to vote. Three Peace and Freedom candidates for the state legislature did make it to the November ballot this year because we took advantage of a one-time opportunity created when only one other candidate was on the ballot. The Republicans and Democrats will see to it that this doesn’t happen again.

Blame Prop. 14, passed in June 2010 as a result of several million dollars worth of advertising by big business friends of Arnold Schwarzenegger. They thought that by weakening political parties, both large and small, they could use their money more efficiently to influence elections. We think it’s unconstitutional and are joining with other plaintiffs to challenge it in court.

I'll see if I can find out more on the legal challenge and post that later.

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twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

so why not the elections, too? From the Peace and Freedom party website:

Blame Prop. 14, passed in June 2010 as a result of several million dollars worth of advertising by big business friends of Arnold Schwarzenegger. They thought that by weakening political parties, both large and small, they could use their money more efficiently to influence elections. We think it’s unconstitutional and are joining with other plaintiffs to challenge it in court.

I'll look into status of the court case shortly.

JoeInSF's picture
Submitted by JoeInSF on

When voting this morning, I was stunned to see only an R and a D for senate, congressional, and state legislative races. I had forgotten that this is due to the new Top 2 thing. So I was forced to vote for:

  • Nancy Pelosi, some Republican guy, or leave it blank.
  • Dianne Feinstein, some Republican guy. or leave it blank.

I voted for Blank.

There's been much hectoring from some that a 3rd party needs to build its down-ballot field if it's to be taken seriously. I hope that the "hectorers" invest the same energy into getting rid of Top Two as they did hectoring the Green Party.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

Any state doing that should at a minimum have a "none of the above" option for a disqualification of the two on the ballot. Then a runoff.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

and that's what the Ds and Rs like about it, it seems. The only emergent party candidates on our state ballot were three candidates from the Peace and Freedom party and that was only because of a fluke.

"...we took advantage of a one-time opportunity created when only one other candidate was on the ballot. The Republicans and Democrats will see to it that this doesn’t happen again.

Submitted by windy on

...but would it be possible to take advantage of that, if primaries generally have low turnout? Could a third party candidate potentially collect enough primary votes to push one of the establisment candidates off the ballot? that ought to wake them up, heh

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

Now that the Ds have a supermajority in the state legislature, they don't have the Rs to provide cover anymore. So we'll see how that works out.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

this topic. (It seems like I vaguely recall mention of Louisiana going this route, but I sure didn't know about California, etc.) I admit to being probably the 'least knowledgeable' person in this community when it comes to electoral processes, etc.

I have heard that some of the more corporatist organizations (DLC) are initiating "open primaries" in order to get their business-friendly buddies on ballot. They brag that it works very well. That's concerning, also.

I hope that this can be changed in California. Please keep us posted on this, as you hear more.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

the search box at ballot access site is not working right now, so I'll check back later.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

apparently Top Two is being challenged in court, so maybe something will happen on that front soon. They sold Top Two as "open primaries" that would benefit voters, but I think people are starting to see that that's not the whole truth. As usual.