Action Alert: Green Party opposes Assembly Constitutional Amendment 9 (ACA9)

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Green Party of California unconditionally opposes ACA9,  a proposed constitutional amendment that would in practice eliminate the opportunity to run succcessfuly as a write-in candidate in the primary election under California's new Top Two system and advance to the general election, even if only one other candidate is in the race.

The Green Party sent the following letter of opposition to the Assembly Elections Committee. Despite opposition from the Green Party, Libertarian Party, Peace & Freedom Party and the ACLU, the Assembly Elections Committee approved ACA9 by a 5-1 vote.

For ACA9 to appear on the 2014 ballot for a public vote, it will need a 2/3 vote of both houses of the State Legislature. It does not require the signature of the Governor. Please contact your state legislators and tell them to oppose ACA9.  


May 6, 2013

Dear Assembly Elections Committee

The Green Party of California unconditionally opposes ACA9, as a backwards step for democracy in California. 

The passage of Proposition 14 led to the fewest number of candidates on the ballot in 2012 from California's smaller parties than at any time since 1966, when only the Democrats and Republicans were on the ballot (http://www.ballot-access.org/2012/03/10/number-of-california-minor-party-candidates-slumps-to-lowest-level-since-1966/ , http://ivn.us/opinion/2013/03/12/making-proposition-14-fair-to-minor-parties-candidates/), The resultant lack of diversity from Proposition 14 robs voters of political choice and leaves important perspectives voiceless.

ACA9 would make that worse, by eliminating one of the only routes to the general election ballot still available to five of California's ballot qualified parties.

The argument that ACA is justified because it would carry-forward a prior 1% write-in primary threshold and therefore ACA9 would have 'limited impact' is fallacious.  The past 1% threshold was discriminatory against California's smaller parties whose membership was not large enough to practically reach the write-in requirement, and should have been modified to be a percentage of the registered party members in the electoral district in which a candidate was running (attachment #1). 

But at that time, these same parties still had guaranteed general election ballot via the primary election ballot, which it utilized 99% of the time. Now that Proposition 14 has effectively taken that away that route, the only route to the ballot is via the write-in option in place today. That means the practical effect of ACA9 is to suffocate the remaining gasps of diverse political voice in the state.

In your hearing materials, it states that the six candidates who made the 2012 general election ballot via the write-in route received 13% to 36% of the general election ballot, but under ACA9, would not have been on the ballot.  Does that mean that 13% to 36% of the voters don't matter? In most OECD countries with which the U.S. is compared, 13% to 36% of the vote would mean 13% to 36% of the seats in parliament. Here is doesn't mean any seats.  Should it also mean no voice?

Rather than further restricting voter choice, the GPCA is on record that Proposition 14 should be amended to restore write-in votes in general elections, a right we'd had pre-statehood, since the founding of the California Republic.  

Putting ACA9 on the ballot instead would give impression that Proposition 14 works, and only needs tinkering to further minimize political voice and give the impression that the false general majorities rendered by Proposition 14 are valid.

The Green Party believes Proposition 14 has already proved to be the failure that many predicted. Not only is it moving fast to eliminate California's smaller parties, but Proposition 14 has made elections more expensive, provided less overall voter choice (http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/24/opinion/la-oe-smith-california-top2-elections-20121024) and done little to make elections more representatives or competitive. At the same time, its crap-shoot nature (http://www.sacbee.com/2012/08/04/4691217/top-two-primary-hurt-competition.html) leads to widely unrepresentative results such as in CD31, a 49% Latino liberal, left-leaning district, where four Democrats split the vote, leading to two white male Republicans on the general election ballot. (http://www.sacbee.com/2012/11/16/4990045/california-electoral-reform-fails.html)

For the long run, the Green Party believes Proposition 14 should be overturned and instead of our current undemocratic and unrepresentative winner-take-all electoral system, that elections to the legislature and Congress be changed to a system of multi-seat districts proportional representation, where the diverse voices in our society all have a seat at the table, and after which we can operate by majority rule.

For all of these reasons, the Green Party of California unconditionally opposes ACA9 and urges you to oppose this ill-conceived deform of our electoral system.

Sincerely

Sanda Everette, Alex Shantz

Co-coordinators, state Coordinating Committee

Green Party of California www.cagreens.org/committees/coordinating



 
Attachment: Discriminatory nature to smaller parties of the prior 1% threshold
 
The Green Party did an analysis of the 2004 elections (attached) and found that it was mathematically impossible in 49 out of 80 State Assembly Districts for any Green to receive enough write-in votes to advance, even if 100% of the Greens voted in the primary, because there simply weren't enough party members in the district to meet the threshold.  In the other 31 districts, 15 would have required a Green turnout of 75%. Only nine were below 50%, and turnout in most primaries is 20% to 35%.  Had the previous threshold been fair, it would have been a proportion of the party's membership, not of the previous general election vote, as it involved a party's internal nomination, not a reflection of the general electorate.
 
Even in districts where there was a mathematical possibility and an extraordinary effort is made to turn out such a write-in vote, there is the issue of successfully executing write-ins, especially for voters who are doing this for the first-time. In the March 2004 Green Party primary, Green Congressional candidate Terry Baum needed 1,605 write-ins under this rule to make the General Election ballot. After a major Green organizing effort, she received over that number, but 229 of her write-ins were voided because the voter who wrote her in, did not also check the box next to the write-in line, demonstrating that voter's intent is not easily reflected in write-in voting and how difficult such a project is.
 
County: