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Three California Election Law Bills Advance

Published on March 15, 2011, by in General.

On March 15, the California Assembly Elections Committee passed AB 80 unanimously. It moves the presidential primary from February to June. Because the primary for office other than President is already in June, combining the presidential primary with the non-presidential primary to a single date will save almost $100,000,000.

Also on March 15, the California Senate Elections Committee passed SB 205 by a vote of 3-2. It outlaws paying anyone who goes out in public and asks voters to change their registration from one party to another, if the payment is based on a per-registration basis. The payment may not be on a per-registration basis “directly or indirectly”, which seems to say that if someone hires someone else to obtain voter registration changes, the payer can’t even give a bonus for high-performance workers. This bill will make it far more difficult for parties to maintain their place on the ballot, or to qualify for the ballot. The only procedure remaining in California for a party to be ballot-qualified is to have at least 103,004 registered members. The Libertarian Party needs another 11,000 registrants, and the Peace & Freedom Party needs another 45,000 registrants, although not until 2014. Making it illegal for these parties to hire “salespeople” to get them more registrants will hamper these registration drives, if the parties can’t pay the workers on a per-registrant basis.

Dave Kadlecek of the Peace & Freedom Party, and Richard Winger (the person writing this post) testified against the bill. Winger testified that the bill should be amended, to no longer define “political party” by how many registered voters it has. However, the bill’s sponsor, Senator Lou Correa, chair of the Committee, seemed uninterested in that proposal. The two Republicans on the Senate Elections Committee, Doug LaMalfa and Ted Gaines, expressed sympathy for minor parties and voted against the bill.

Finally, the California Senate Elections Committee passed SB 168 on a 3-2 vote, with the three Democrats voting in favor. This bill makes it illegal to pay petition circulators on a per-signature basis. However, Senator Ted Lieu stated that although he would vote for the bill in Committee, that he had serious doubts about the bill and that he likely would oppose it on the Senate floor.

14 Responses

  1. Demo Rep

    When will the forces of REAL Democracy get a correct CA const amdt petition going to –

    END the rule of the minority rule gerrymander party hack MONSTERS in the CA legislature — as corrupt a bunch of oligarchs as ever existed.

    1. Equal ballot access
    2. P.R. and App.V
    3. NO primaries are needed.

  2. Mark Seidenberg

    Richard Winger

    This mean I need to expect the highjackers Jim King and Don Grundmann are going to “war” (ala Don Grundmann) on
    the American Independent Party, because they are not going to try to get ballot access for the unquilified political body, viz., Constitution Party of California
    which had 157 registered electors in it as of February 10, 2011 and needs 103,004 electors to be qualified.

    What is the next event on AB 80?

    Sincerely, Mark Seidenberg, Vice Chairman, American Independent Party

  3. Cody Quirk

    You claim that Don Grundmann is obsessed with you, yet you’re overly obsessed with him too.

    BTW, thanks for not harassing the IAP leaders anymore, they were about to go to the legal authorities over your constant phone calls.

  4. Cody Quirk

    Looks like third parties are in trouble in Kalifornia.

    They don’t call it a ‘People’s Republic’ for nothing!

  5. Mark Seidenberg

    Cody Quirk

    What does the location of the Hansens have to do with anything? How would the Hansens in California change
    the outcome of King vs. Robinson? I am not obsessesed
    with the Grundmann’s. I just what Don Grundmann who is
    the claimed “Chairman” of the 157 strong Constitution
    Party of CAlifornia far away from meeting of the American Independent Party, since he claims he is in a state of “war” with the American Independent Party officers.

    Sincerely, Mark Seidenberg
    Vice Chairman, American Independent Party

  6. Cody Quirk

    What does the location of the Hansens have to do with anything? How would the Hansens in California change
    the outcome of King vs. Robinson

    = I’ll give you one day to figure out what I meant.

    I just what Don Grundmann who is
    the claimed “Chairman” of the 157 strong Constitution
    Party of CAlifornia far away from meeting of the American Independent Party,

    = ‘what Don Grundmann’? I don’t understand you here.

  7. Mark Seidenberg

    Cody Quirk

    The Don J. Grundmann that claims to be the Chariman of the
    Constitution Party of California with a total count of elector at 157 as of February 10, 2011 and who needs 103,004
    electors by September 5, 2011 to give a party preference of the Constitution Party of California on the June, 2012 primary.

    This is the same Don Grundmann who was a former officer of
    the American Independent Party until September 3, 2008 and was removed from the office of Area Director by former
    AIP Chairman Edward Noonan in early 2008.

    Sincerely, Mark Seidenbe, Vice Chairman, American Independent Party

  8. Mark Seidenberg

    Sorry two letters are missing above. It should say Seidenberg.

  9. Cody Quirk

    You need to type slower and use a spell checker, Mark.

  10. Mark Seidenberg

    Cody Quirk

    Thank you for the suggestions.

    During the hearing of King v. Robinson, on March 11, 2011, one of Jim King’s Brewtown lawyers informed the court why another one of Jim King’s Brewtown lawyers did not comply with the local rules of required notice to Markham Robinson’s attorney.

    That lawyer told the court that an other client was arrested in Pennsylvania. Do you know who that other
    client is that got arrested. Since the National Headquarter is in that state, I am concerned it might be someone we both know. Any ideas as to why King’s lawyer was so specific
    on the location of the other client to the court?

    Sincerely, Mark Seidenberg, Vice Chairman, American Independent Party

  11. Andy

    “Also on March 15, the California Senate Elections Committee passed SB 205 by a vote of 3-2. It outlaws paying anyone who goes out in public and asks voters to change their registration from one party to another, if the payment is based on a per-registration basis. The payment may not be on a per-registration basis “directly or indirectly”, which seems to say that if someone hires someone else to obtain voter registration changes, the payer can’t even give a bonus for high-performance workers.”

    This is a HORRIBLE bill. Not allowing payment for registrations on a per registration basis will make it far more difficult for political parties in California to increase their registration numbers. This is especially bad for minor parties who are trying to keep their place on the ballot and for any new political party that wants to try to gain ballot status in California.

  12. Mark Seidenberg

    Cody Quirk

    Golly! Does SB 205 make it harder for the National Constitution Party to assist Dr. Don Grundmann claimed
    “Chairman” of the 157 strong Constitution Party of California to get his needed additional 102,847 electors
    that could make a party preference as the Constitution
    Party of California by September 5, 2011?

    Sincerely, Mark Seidenberg, Vice Chairman, American Independent Party

  13. Jim Riley

    Why Candidates need not be registered with a qualified party to have their party preference appear on the ballot

    Pre-Proposition 14

    Before 2011, California used a system of partisan primaries to determine nominees for congressional, state, and legislative offices.

    A primary would be held for each qualified party, with the winner appearing on the general election ballot as the nominee of the party. A party first qualified by having a sufficient number of voters registered with the party.

    When a voter registered with a party they were literally declaring their intent to affiliate with that party at the ensuing primary election. So in effect, California would provide a primary for a party if there were enough voters who had indicated their intent to vote in the primary so as to warrant the expense of the primary and justify placement of its nominees on the general election ballot. A party would continue to be qualified by maintaining sufficient registrations or based on their performance in statewide elections.

    The nominee of a party did not necessarily have to be registered with the political party he was the nominee of. In 1948, Richard Nixon was elected to Congress as the nominee of the Republican and Democratic parties. In more recent times, a non-registrant had to secure nomination as a write-in candidate, so cross-nomination was more rare, but not impossible.

    Independent nominations could also be made, by which candidates could qualify for the general election ballot by securing a very great number of signatures on petitions. These were styled as “Independent” nominations not because the candidate was necessarily independent, but that the nomination was made independently of the party primaries, even though the petition signers may have been registered with qualified parties, and candidate was registered with a non-qualified party. In Libertarian Party v Eu, the California Supreme Court noted that it is “not inaccurate to describe candidates who qualify for the ballot by the independent nomination method as independents, for such candidates are independent of the qualified political parties”

    So before Proposition 14, the ballot label indicated who the nominators were and not who the nominee was.

    Voter Registration Before 2011

    Before Proposition 14, voters could declare which party they intended to affiliate with at the next primary (ie which primary they would vote in). Or they could Decline To State what their intent was.

    There was no distinction made as to whether the party was qualified or not. Registration cards might include lists of currently qualified parties, and might warn voters that if their chosen party did not have a primary, they might not be able to vote. But if a voter wrote-in the name of a non-qualified party, it was just as valid expression of their party affiliation as if they had selected a qualified party, and distinctly different from Declined To State voters.

    Voters are required to sign their affidavit of registration to certify that the information including party affiliation, is truthful and correct, subject to perjury prosecution, so there should be little concern that voters would write-in the name of a non-party when they register.

    Party affiliation in California may only be changed by the voter by completing a new voter registration affidavit. Otherwise it is permanent, until the registration lapses (for example if the voter dies or moves from California).

    Registration with a non-qualified party is necessary in order for the party to become qualified (the alternative of a petition with more than one million plus signatures is impractical). There is a procedure by which a non-qualified party may formally notify the Secretary of State that they intend to qualify. The Secretary of State then orders the county election officials to count the number of voters who have registered with the party to determine if the party has qualified. This has no effect on the voter affiliations, and they may have been made years before, or made when a party had previously been qualified. The affiliation relationship between the voter and the party remains the same regardless whether or not the party is qualified.

    In recent years, the Peace and Freedom, Reform, and Natural Law parties have become non-qualified, yet 10s of thousands of party affiliations with these parties remained valid. The Peace and Freedom Party successfully re-qualified using a combination of existing and new registrations. The Reform Party has attempted to re-qualify by adding new registrations, while the Natural Law Party appears to have given up political activity. Nonetheless, there are likely 1000s of California voters who still have declared their intent to participate in a 2012 Natural Law presidential primary, and if the Natural Law Party were to attempt to re-qualify, California election officials would count them.

    Voters Registered With Non-Qualified Parties Are Not “Independents”

    Some have suggested that voters who register with non-qualified parties are indistinguishable from Declined To State voters, but that is not true.

    When tabulating voters for its registration reports, California reports Declined To State voters and separately aggregates the number of voters affiliated with non-qualified parties under Miscellaneous Others.

    But the aggregation of non-qualified parties in a miscellaneous grouping is simply a matter of administrative convenience to avoid tabulating long lists of parties. If write-in votes for individual candidates are not tabulated at an election, it does not mean that they are not write-in votes, but just that it can not be determined from the totals who they were for. If we looked at the actual ballots we would know who the write-in vote was for, just as election officials can determine which party a voter has registered with in determining whether a party has qualified by looking at the voter’s registration affidavit.

    The instructions on the Federal voter registration card state: “California law allows voters who “decline to state” an affiliation with a qualified political party or who affiliate with a non-qualified political party to vote in the primary election of any qualified political party that files a notice with the Secretary of State allowing them to do so”.

    On March 9, 2010 the Secretary of State issued CC/ROV Memorandum #10086 emphasized the distinction between voters affiliated with unqualified parties and voters not affiliated (Declined to State) with any party, by noting that both classes of voters would be permitted to participate in the June 2010 Democratic and Republican parties, by virtue of the voters not being affiliated with one of the six qualified parties.

    Some of the voters were affiliated with a party other than one of the six qualified parties, and some were not affiliated with any party at all. Because about 97% of these voters are Declined To State voters, it sometimes erroneously assumed that they all are.

    The Intent Of Proposition 14

    In passing Proposition 14, the People of California adopted a number of findings which give guidance how the constitutional amendment and implementing statutes (SB 6) should be interpreted.

    These findings state that SB 6 was intended to implement Top Two Open Primary System. Therefore, any interpretation of SB 6 should presume that they were intended to fulfill the Open Primary, rather than frustrate it.

    It was the intent of Proposition 14 to guarantee voters “… the unrestricted right to vote for the candidate of their choice…” If a candidate is denied the opportunity to have his party preference on the ballot, then it restricts the right of voters to vote for the candidate of their choice, by making it more difficult to find a candidate who shares their political beliefs, or perhaps one who has beliefs inimical to theirs. Therefore, any ambiguity in SB 6 should be resolved in favor of permitting a candidate to have their party preference on the ballot.

    It was the intent of Proposition 14 that “… existing voter registrations, which specify a political party affiliation, shall be deemed to have disclosed that party as the voter’s political party preference …” Proposition 14 itself does not define “political party preference”, but the implementation in SB 6 makes it clear how it is to be interpreted.

    It was the intent of SB 6 that it “… conforms to the ruling of the United States Supreme Court in Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party…” While the Supreme Court ruling was based on facial challenge to the Washington Top 2 Open Primary, two justices rejected the notion that it was possible to implement such a system without confusing voters, while two others were deeply skeptical. If California were to restrict expressions of party affiliation to only those organizations that previously could nominate candidates, it could confuse voters as to the nature of the candidate’s preference. It could also give an impression that the State prefers those candidates.

    What SB 6 Actually Does

    SB 6 is the implementing legislation for Proposition 14.

    SB 6 added Elections Code 2151(d) which specifies how the transition of existing voter registrations is to be performed. Declined To State registrations were to be convert to No Party Preference. Other party affiliations were to be converted a party preference. A voter who had previously explicitly declared his intent to affiliate with a party, qualified or not, had certified it to be truthful and correct, subject to perjury prosecution, can in no sense be interpreted as having Declined To State a party preference.

    From the most recent voter registration report, it is clear that only Declined To State registrations were converted to No Party Preference, while registrations for non-qualified parties continue to be tabulated as Other Miscellaneous parties.

    SB 6 added Elections Code 300.5 which states ““Affiliated with a political party” as used in reference to a voter or to a candidate for a voter-nominated office means the party preference that the voter or candidate has disclosed on his or her affidavit of registration.”

    It is an absurd construction that when a voter writes-in the name of a non-qualified party in a space denoted “Political Party Preference” on his affidavit of registration that it is not a political party preference. Therefore, when the voter participates in an election for a voter-nominated he does so as an affiliate of the party disclosed on his affidavit of registration. California may make no distinction on that basis, including exclusion of candidate party preferences that are the same as that of some voters. Moreover, if the voter becomes a candidate his political affiliation and party preference does not change. If California were to make a distinction on the basis of party preference of a candidate it would be having regard for that party preference which would violate the California Constitution.

    SB 6 added Elections Code 8002.5 that states when a candidate files for a voter-nominated office, he or she “may indicate his or her party preference, or lack of party preference, as disclosed upon the candidate’s most recent [affidavit] of registration…” This of course is totally consistent with Section 300.5.

    Section 8002.5 also states that a candidate’s party preference is for the information of the voters. It is certainly non-informative and possibly mis-informative to provide information that the State of California knows is erroneous, and is contrary to information which the voter had certified as being truthful and correct on his signed affidavit of registration, and a candidate had designated on his sworn declaration of candidacy.

    SB 6 added Elections Code 9083.5 which specifies language to be included in the voter’s pamphlet that says a candidate’s party preference “is selected solely by the candidate”. A candidate who has a party preference, did not select to have No Party Preference.

    SB 6 amended Elections Code 13105 to specify the format of the ballot to include the party preference that the candidate designates in their declaration of candidacy, which must be that on the affidavit or registration (a candidate may also have a blank space appear on the ballot; this is similar to the occupation designation which a candidate may also omit).

    Before SB 6

    Those that argue that a candidate’s party preference is limited to a qualified party point to Elections Code Section 338, which defines “party” as a “party qualified to participate in any primary”. But they ignore Elections Code Section 4 which says that if the context requires an other interpretation, then the definition is overridden. They also note that SB 6 did not change Section 338. But if one examines the voter registration provisions of the Elections Code as it existed before SB 6, then it becomes clear that in context, “party” does not mean “qualified party”, and that “party affiliation” does not mean affiliation with a qualified party.

    They would then have to show that the space on the affidavit of registration space for a “political party affiliation” was only for the registrant to specify affiliation with a qualified party (Section 2151(d)); that when the registrant signed the affidavit to certify it was truthful and correct, and they had written “Coffee” on the affidavit, that the affidavit was not correct because the Coffee Party was not a qualified party. Fortunately no prosecution would occur because no mere voter could be expected to understand the voter registration form (Section 2151(10)(b)). If a vote registrar read “Coffee” on an affidavit, he would conclude that no party affiliation was shown, and presume that the voter has no party affiliation (Section 2154(b)). But how could any party qualify, if any voters who filled in a voter affidavit with the name of the party was said to have not shown a party affiliation, and it was presumed that they had no party affiliation?

    It simply introduces too many contradictions to limit a party affiliation by an individual voter to anything other than a public expression of that voter’s political beliefs.

    How Proposition 14 Changed Things

    Before Proposition 14 large groups of voters with the same political party affiliation could nominate candidates for the general election ballot. The candidates were in a sense objects of the party. It might be said that the parties were running the candidate (though they would be unlikely to use that phrasing in their commercials).

    Political parties could also provide financial and other support, door knocking, phone banking, posters, etc., but this type of support activity was in no way restricted to qualified political parties.

    Proposition 14 did not change the meaning of “party affiliation”, or as it has been recast, “party preference”, as a public declaration of an individual voter’s political beliefs. This can easily be seen by looking at the specific amendments made by SB 6 to the Elections Code with regard to voter registration.

    After Proposition 14, voters affiliated with political parties no longer nominate candidates for the general election ballot in state-organized partisan primaries. Instead, candidates run as individuals, On the ballot their name; occupation, profession, or office; and political party preference will appear.

    But simply because a candidate may express a preference for a political party, does not make the political party a “participant”, any more than if a child points at a cow and says that they like cows, the cow is a participant even if the cow turns its head and appears to look thoughtful as it continues to chew its cud.

    Political parties can continue to provide financial and other support, door knocking, phone banking, posters, etc., but this type of support activity is in no way restricted to qualified political parties.

    SB 6 does permit qualified parties to have candidate endorsements included with the sample ballot distributed with the voter’s pamphlet. This is the only special participation right afforded to qualified parties for voter-nominate office.

    Proposition 14 and SB 6 also continue to permit large groups of voters with the same party affiliation or party preference to have state-organized presidential preference primaries, and elections for party officers. The laws with regard to qualified parties still applies to these offices.

    Could California Require Parties To Be Formally Organized?

    Some have suggested that if a voter could simply declare some slogan or ideology on their voter registration, that they might indicate that they prefer Mickey Mouse, and if there were not an actual Mickey Mouse Party it could prove confusing.

    If there were some form of registration of parties, there could be consistency of spelling, including translations, some guarantee that the registered parties had characteristic aspects of parties, such as a set of bylaws, responsible officers, opportunity for voters registered with the party to fully participate in its governance, compliance with the VRA, responsible financial reporting, and some body of supporters.

    But almost certainly, California could not require some large membership base, numbered in the 10s of thousands. California simply has no rational interest in restricting candidacies of persons who have not demonstrated that their political views are widespread. The purpose of elections is to determine which candidates political views do have the most popular support. California can not make an issue of ballot crowding when any candidate for Congress can get on the ballot with 40 signatures and a modest filing fee. And they can not attempt to control the number of candidates by making presentation of a candidacy so negative or misleading that a candidate would decide not to run.

    So while California may set a high qualification standard for parties to have nominating primaries and nomination rights, they may not do so for qualifying as a target for a candidate’s party preference, and California had not done so.

    California has also apparently made the decision to register all political parties. Instead they have adopted a simple system of disclosure. When a voter registers, they may disclose a party preference on the affidavit of registration, and sign it to certify that it is truthful and correct. If the voter becomes a candidate, he may have that same party preference appear on the ballot. In addition, the Secretary of State will publish a 10-year history of party affiliation so voters can estimate the consistency and sincerity of the candidate’s party preference.

    So there are two options. One is focused more on regulation, the other more on disclosure. Both are legitimate policy choices. California has chosen the latter.

  14. “It outlaws paying anyone who goes out in public and asks voters to change their registration from one party to another, if the payment is based on a per-registration basis.”

    Thank you jesus. I can’t stand the way some of those people jump you as you exit a store and try to hardsell you.

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