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Washington Post Op-Ed Contains Election Law Misinformation

Published on July 16, 2007, by in General.

The Washington Post of July 16 contains this op-ed about the electoral college. It says that Peter Camejo was not eligible to be an independent candidate for vice-president in 2004 in California because he was a registered member of the Green Party. This is not true.

California’s Secretary of State ruled in 1980, 1988, and 1992, that anyone may be an independent candidate for president or vice-president, regardless of how that person is or was registered. It is true that California law says no one may be an independent candidate of that person has been a member of a qualified party for the preceding year, but this law does not apply to candidates for president or vice-president. This is because the true candidates in a presidential election are the candidates for presidential elector. Presidential and vice-presidential candidate names appear on the ballot, not in their capacity as candidates, but as labels for competing slates of presidential elector who are pledged to them.

Independent candidates for president and vice-president who appeared on the California ballot even though they were or had recently been members of qualified parties include John Anderson in 1980, Liz Munoz in 1988 (she was a registered member of the Peace & Freedom Party and qualified as an independent candidate for vice-president, running with Lenora Fulani) and Admiral James Stockdale in 1992 (he was Ross Perot’s 1992 running mate; he was registered Republican in California until mid-May 1992).

16 Responses

  1. oxstu

    The op-ed says no such thing. It merely says “Ralph Nader’s running mate in 2004 was ineligible under California law and did not appear on the California ballot.” It ascribes no reason to why he was ineligible.

    One might assume that Camejo was ineligible for exactly the reason you state here. “No one” in legislative terms always includes the set “candidates for president or vice-president,” unless specifically so stated. Where does CA law state that, please?

  2. oxstu

    Also, your statement about slates is slightly incorrect. Forget about voting for electors for a moment. The reason presidential candidates have running mates listed with them is that the Constitution states that the candidate with the second highest number of electoral votes becomes VP. If there were no slates, John Kerry would be our current vice-president, preceded by Al Gore’s third term as VP.

    Now extend that to the Nader scenario. If Nader won CA, the people who voted for him (or his electors, if you want to quibble; most states have laws binding their electors to the popularly elected candidate) would have had no say in who became vice-president. Now assume that Nader wins the national election, but by carrying only a slim plurality of the electorate. Camejo would have had no votes from CA. If Kerry had won zero or only a handful of electors, you would have an instance where Bush became VP. Beyond that, a bizarre Constitutional anomaly would be invoked, as Cheney would have had the exact same number of electors. Now you have the defeated standing a heartbeat away from the office.

  3. Richard

    Oxstu’s 2nd comment describes the presidential election system as it was before the 12th amendment was passed in 1804, not our current constitution. Because of the 12th amendment, electors vote separately for president and vice-president.

    Furthermore, not every state even lists vice-presidential candidates on the November ballot. Arizona and North Dakota November ballots do not mention any candidate for vice-president.

  4. oxstu

    I stand corrected. Apologies.

  5. oxstu

    But on second thought, couldn’t the above scenario still exist? Camejo has no electors from CA, thus is 57 or so down from Nader’s total of 270. Busy/Cheney wins, say 250 electors, leaving Kerry/Edwards with 15. Isn’t the vote now thrown to the Senate, which in 2004 definitely elects Cheney?

    And how do AZ and ND apportion votes for the VP?

  6. Phil Sawyer

    In addition to Liz Munoz in 1988, Maureen Smith (a long time member of the Peace and Freedom Party of California) was also a candidate for vice president. She was Eugene J. McCarthy’s running mate. I know this for a fact because I was an official California Elector for that independent slate’s write-if effort. We qualified the ticket for the November General Election and received votes. (Since I can’t locate my file for that campaign at the moment, I do not have a total for the state but I do remember that we received eleven votes here in Sacramento County – including mine, of course).

    By the way, the reason that Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo were not on the ballot in Californnia (in 2004) is because we failed to obtain enough signatures for them. Furthermore, in an astounding abdication of responsibility to the voters of California, the Green Party of California; the Peace and Freedom Party of California; and the Natural Law Party of California; all refused to put the Nader-Camejo ticket on the ballot.

  7. mark

    The California Green Party fulfilled its obligation to put the nominee of the US Green Party on the ballot in 2004. David Cobb. Nader chose not to run for the nomination of the Green Party and ran as an independent knowing full well he therefore not have Green Party ballot lines and, thus, ended up in the mess he is in right now re Pennsylvania.

  8. mark

    The California Green Party fulfilled its obligation to put the nominee of the US Green Party on the ballot in 2004. David Cobb. Nader chose not to run for the nomination of the Green Party and ran as an independent knowing full well he therefore would not have Green Party ballot lines and, thus, ended up in the mess he is in right now re Pennsylvania.

  9. Parties abdicate their responsibility to the voters when they fail to nominate a candidate who actually supports their platform. The Peace and Freedom Party is a socialist party and Nader is not a socialist. In the case of Peace and Freedom, the abdication would have been to nominate him.

    I know a lot less about the (now defunct) Natural Law Party, but I doubt that Nader supported their platform either.

    Just my two cents.

  10. Phil Sawyer

    Ralph Nader should have run for the Green Party nomination, in my humble opinion. I do not think that he had a sufficient enough political base outside of the Green Party to be really effective. Nevertheless, the Green Party of California was under no obligation, legal or moral, to pass over the Nader-Camejo ticket in favor of David Cobb. Peter Camejo quite handily won the California Green Party primary election in June of 2004.

    By ignoring the will of the voters, the California Green Party left many of us without a good, independent choice. Consequently, I (along with many other California people) decided to vote for the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

  11. Eric Prindle

    The winner of the California Green primary was Peter Camejo for President, not Camejo for Vice President (or, by extension, Ralph Nader for President). When Camejo first decided to participate in the primary, his announced position was that a vote for him would be a vote for unpledged delegates. He later declined to submit a candidate statement to the California voters’ guide, which would have explained to every California Green voter why he was running. Only after the primary was he announced as Nader’s running mate, and only then did Nader’s supporters start retroactively interpreting votes for him in the California primary as votes for Nader.

    None of this has anything to do with the original post. I am inclined to interpret the Post’s assertion the way Richard did, because claiming Camejo was ineligible to be an independent candidate under California law was an active Democratic legal strategy in many states. California itself was not, however, one of those states, so Richard is correct that the Post’s assertion is inaccurate.

  12. Phil Sawyer

    Eric Prindle wrote:

    The winner of the California Green primary was Peter Camejo for President, not Camejo for Vice President (or, by extension, Ralph Nader for President). When Camejo first decided to participate in the primary, his announced position was that a vote for him would be a vote for unpledged delegates. He later declined to submit a candidate statement to the California voters’ guide, which would have explained to every California Green voter why he was running. Only after the primary was he announced as Nader’s running mate, and only then did Nader’s supporters start retroactively interpreting votes for him in the California primary as votes for Nader.

    Phil Sawyer responds:

    “And your point would be … ?”

  13. Eric Prindle

    You said the GPCA “ignor[ed] the will of the voters” by putting Cobb rather than Nader on the ballot. You offer as evidence the fact that Peter Camejo won the California Green presidential primary. The evidence does not support the assertion.

  14. Phil Sawyer

    Yes it does, actually. Peter Camejo handily defeated David Cobb in the primary election. Furthermore, Mr. Camejo ran as a favorite son candidate who went on to support Ralph Nader.

    It is reasonable to say that Mr. Nader had much more support among Green Party voters (as well as all voters) in the Golden State than did Mr. Cobb. To say otherwise would be to attempt to stretch logic in order to justify dictating to the Party Members (and all California voters) that they can not vote for who they really want to vote for.

    At the time that all that (the later stage) was going on, I was a member of the Natural Law Party in search of a new Party. Since the Green Party of California behaved in such a manner, I did not register into that Party until much later (the day after the 2006 California primary election, as a matter of fact). It took that long for me to integrate myself with that reality – and go forward (at least as the universe expands and entropy increases – it appears to us to be forward).

    Avanti! Will it be Elaine, Cynthia, or Ralph? So far, only Elaine (and some others) have actually announced.

  15. Hi all!

    Very interesting information! Thanks!

    G’night

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