December 27, 2013, is the first day in which 2014 candidates for Congress and state office may begin to start circulating a petition in lieu of filing fee. Statewide candidates need 10,000 signatures; U.S. House and State Senate candidates need 3,000; Assembly candidates need 1,500. No signature is wasted. The petitions need not be completed, and any valid signatures collected reduce the amount of the filing fee.
During 2013, California held special elections in these legislative districts: State Senate 4, 16, 26, 32, and 40; Assembly 45, 52, 54, 80. Out of those special elections in nine districts, only one minor party candidate filed for office, a Peace & Freedom candidate in the 16th State Senate district.
By comparison, during 2009, before the top-two system took effect, there were six minor party candidates even though 2009 only had special elections in five districts. The almost total absence of minor party candidates during 2013 suggests that there will also be a record low number of minor party candidates in 2014. The reason minor party candidates have virtually stopped filing for office are entirely because of the top-two system, which (1) increases the number of signatures needed for petitions in lieu of the filing fee; (2) makes it virtually certain that minor party candidates can’t run in the general election. The harm done to minor parties will increase after 2014, because the commonest method for them to stay on the ballot is to poll 2% for any statewide office in a midterm year, but they won’t be on the ballot to poll the 2%. It is likely that a bill to ease the definition of “party”, to ameliorate the third problem, will soon be introduced. But no legislator has been found yet to lower the number of signatures needed to avoid the filing fee.