February 23, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Minor Party Protest Lawsuit Misses The Point: Elias:

There’s always reason for suspicion when political parties with dramatically disparate ideologies band together for anything.

So it was when the state Republican and Democratic parties partnered in a lawsuit that eventually got California’s old “blanket primary” election system thrown out in the late 1990s, thus returning the state to highly partisan primary elections for more than a decade.

It’s that way again with a minor-party lawsuit now in progress (first court hearing scheduled April 10 in Oakland) aiming to throw out the “top two” or “jungle primary” system adopted by frustrated voters in 2010 as they tried to force some moderation on state legislators and members of Congress.

The new system gets its first full-force outing in the June primary, with no party able to nominate its own candidates for the November runoff election. Rather, the top two vote-getters in each primary regardless of party will face off next November in all districts.

Both major parties opposed the initiative that created this system, even though it was heartily supported by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a nominal Republican. Minor parties like the Peace and Freedom, Libertarians and Greens also objected.

The big parties, dominated in past primaries respectively by ideologues of the right and left and with the same kind of extreme hard-liners controlling party machinery and finances, wanted to continue nominating candidates reflecting their inflexible views.

But the old system left both independents and members of whichever big party was in the minority in any district essentially without representation. The eventual winners in almost all districts emerged in party primaries, making those votes the “real” elections in districts drawn to assure domination by one party or the other.

In those elections, candidates of the minor parties were always assured a place on the November runoff election ballot, even when they – as usually happened – won far fewer primary votes than the losers in the major-party contests.

This allowed minor-party adherents and candidates in every election to maintain the illusion of influence and even possible victory right up until election returns came in and showed them once again getting nowhere. So 75 of them filed for congressional or legislative campaigns in 2010, compared with just 13 this year, according to the San Francisco-based newsletter Ballot Access News.

In reality, all the minor parties have usually accomplished is to air their ideas, even when those notions have languished because the vast majority of voters judge them essentially hopeless or worthless. Once in a long while, some outsider has tried to use a minor party candidate to influence the outcome of an election by drawing votes away from a major party figure. The last time this mattered much was in 1988, when supporters of the late Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston poured money into the campaign of a far-right American Independent Party candidate who siphoned more than 200,000 votes away from Cranston’s GOP opponent.

The minor parties want to keep all that alive, even though the only real influence they’ve had on elections has been to occasionally distort them. They realize the “top two” system will keep them off November ballots unless they suddenly develop unprecedented mass appeal. That’s why few of their adherents are bothering to run this year.

“By limiting access to the general election ballot,” says their lawsuit, “(top two) effectively bars small political parties, their candidates and their members from effective political association…”

Of course, if the small parties could develop ideas and/or candidates with mass appeal, they would have full access to the runoff ballot. All their candidates must do – like anyone else – is win enough votes to finish in the top two in the new non-partisan primaries. That could happen this spring in a new Ventura County congressional district where county Supervisor Linda Parks switched from Republican to independent before starting her run. She’s not a minor party candidate, but she’s not in either major one anymore, either.

The minor parties do have one seemingly legitimate complaint, however. They only keep their ballot slots if they have a candidate who wins 2 percent or more of the vote in a gubernatorial general election. This may not be possible under the “top two” arrangement, as their candidates will only rarely even be on the runoff ballot. So the open primary law, passed as Proposition 14, should be amended to keep the 2 percent threshold, but have it apply to a statewide primary, rather than a general election. A court might be able to order this.

But in most ways the minor party lawsuit essentially amounts to whining by small groups trying to maintain a runoff ballot position they have yet to earn by dint of the usual methods: developing good candidates with wide appeal and strong credibility.

in Opinion
Related Posts

S.M.a.r.t Column: Gelson’s Looms Large

February 22, 2024

February 22, 2024

Our guest column this week is by SMCLC (the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City). SMCLC is a well-established...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Top Toady Town

February 18, 2024

February 18, 2024

Throughout history, from the ancient Romans and Assyrians to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, siege warfare has served as an...

S.M.a.r.t Column: The Sunset of Home Ownership

February 11, 2024

February 11, 2024

We are watching the sunset of our historical and cultural American dream of home ownership as we now are crossing...

SMa.r.t. Column: B(U)Y RIGHT

February 4, 2024

February 4, 2024

“By Right” state housing laws that give developers, in certain projects, the ability to ignore codes ‘by right.’ Well, that...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Serf City

January 28, 2024

January 28, 2024

Homelessness is a problem in California, and nowhere is this more evident than in our fair city, where the unhoused...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Bond Fatigue

January 22, 2024

January 22, 2024

Last week’s SMart article,  described two critical problems faced by our Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD): the declining...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Peace on Earth

December 27, 2023

December 27, 2023

We are all, by now, saturated with jingles, holiday cards, “ho ho ho’s,” countless commercial advertisements, and exhortations to feel...

S.M.a.r.t Column: On the Clock with Mayor Brock

December 17, 2023

December 17, 2023

I became Santa Monica’s Mayor on Tuesday, December 12, 2023, following a simple “switch of the chairs” transition with outgoing...

S.M.a.r.t Column: SANTA MONICA CITY COUNCIL 2024

December 10, 2023

December 10, 2023

Position:Seeking Santa Monica City Council Candidate(s) Introduction:Exciting opportunity for the right candidate(s) to work with like-minded Council members committed to...

S.M.a.r.t Column: ARB (NOT Ready to Build!)

December 3, 2023

December 3, 2023

Santa Monica City’s Architectural Review Board (ARB), established in 1974, acts “…to preserve existing areas of natural beauty, cultural importance...

SMa.r.t. Column: We are thankful for….

November 27, 2023

November 27, 2023

SMa.r.t. would like to wish you all a great Thanksgiving with friends and family and also to thank its readers...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Make the City New Again

November 19, 2023

November 19, 2023

When the COVID crisis struck, it cut the city’s income in half, demolishing many businesses and causing widespread layoffs and...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Four Futures

October 29, 2023

October 29, 2023

As well described by Paul Krugman, all cities have a core competency: things they do well or better regionally or...

SMa.r.t column: Beautiful Quartz Countertops Are Hurting Workers and Should Be Banned

October 9, 2023

October 9, 2023

Quartz countertops are super popular because they’re tough and can handle stains, scratches, and heat. But there’s a big problem:...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Architect’s Son Reflects On Civic Auditorium

October 2, 2023

October 2, 2023

Welton (David) Becket (1902-1969), pictured above, backed by a picture of our Civic Auditorium, was the designer of that famed...