Green Party on AB 2351 - Good Start, But More Needed to Fix Top Two

Friday, May 2, 2014
 
Honorable Richard Gordon
State Capitol, Room 5050, Sacramento, CA 95814
 
Subject: AB 2351 Primary Elections: Political Party Qualification
 
Dear Assemblymember Gordon,
 
The Green Party of California wishes to profusely thank you for your bill to address the negative effects of the Top Two system upon the state’s long-standing, smaller ballot qualified parties - effects which the voters were never asked about when Proposition 14 was presented, yet threaten these parties survival.
 
The Green Party of California unconditionally supports the proposed change in AB 2351, from the present threshold in the registration vote test in the California Elections Code, to the 1/3 of 1% of all registered voters.
 
At the same time, we do not support the proposed primary election vote test of 2%, for the reasons we've continuously stated since this was introduced into the bill’s discussions by the Secretary of State’s office in November 2013:
 
 (1) The radically increased cost and difficulty of getting on the statewide primary ballot under Two Top means far fewer candidates on the ballot to reach the vote test, meaning a mostly false vote test. 
 
Under Top Two, the number of signatures needed to be on the statewide primary ballot without paying an expensive filing fee, went up 66 times for candidates from smaller parties – and that’s only to be on the ballot through the June primary, compared to November under the previous system.
 
Under the prior system, the Greens, Libertarians, Peace and Freedom and American Independent parties ran a full or mostly full slate for all of the statewide constitutional offices every four years. In 2010, that meant 33 candidates on the primary election ballot. This year, the first under Top Two, there are only ten.*
 
At the same time, fees for a full candidate statement in the Voter Information Guide – for many voters, their primary way of learning about candidates - are now more than double the candidate filing fee, leading to 75% to 95% reductions in the number of words smaller party candidates can afford. With an essentially new and sizeable filing fee to get on the statewide ballot, candidates can no longer also afford to have their own candidates statements.
 
(2) A primary vote test under Top Two is a poor gauge of party strength/voter support for smaller parties, and is not analogous to the general election vote test in the previous system. 
 
Under Top Two, the ‘lesser-of-evil’ plays over two seats, with a multiplier effect, further disincentivizing sympathetic voters. At the same time, the narrow demographics of primary election voter turnout under Top Two misrepresents the state’s overall voters, and often understates support for smaller party candidates and viewpoints, compared to what they would receive under the previous system, on the general election ballot, where there was greater and more diverse voter turnout.
 
Despite our unresolved concerns with the primary vote test approach, the Green Party would be willing to support a primary vote test of 1% in exchange for (a) addressing the issues of filing fees/signatures-in-lieu/cost of ballot statement, (b) reinstating the practice of general election write-in voting, (c) leaving the existing 2% general election vote test in the elections code, and (d) establishing a new general election presidential vote test of 0.5%.
 
A past legislature placed Proposition 14 on the ballot without public notice or public hearing. The reality is that year’s legislature failed to exercise its due diligence, by not considering the multiple and complex implications of such a radical change to our electoral system. Today’s legislature should now fine-tune the Top Two process to ensure representative diversity in our democracy, and we believe AB 2351 should be expanded in order to do so.
 
Sincerely,
           
Sanda Everette                            Alex Shantz               Michael Feinstein
Co-coordinators, GPCA Coordinating Committee        GPCA Spokesperson
 
Hon. Paul Fong
Hon. Rob Bonta
Hon. Tim Donnelly
Hon. Isadore Hall, III
Hon. Dan Logue
Hon. Henry T. Perea
Hon. Freddie Rodriquez
 
Note: From 1992 to 2010, the Green, Libertarian, Peace and Freedom, and American Independent parties averaged 127 primary ballot candidates among them each election cycle. In 2012, in Top Two’s first year, they were only able to qualify 17 for state legislative and Congressional races, the least since 1966, when only Democrats and Republicans were on the ballot. This dropped to 13 in 2014, with ten others running for quadrennial statewide offices, down from 33 in 2010.
 

 

 
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