Presentation/Advisory Vote:Update on Legal Cases against Proposition 14/SB6 and Whether the Green Party of California should join Rubin v Bowen

Presentation/Advisory Vote: Update on Legal Cases against Proposition 14/SB6 and Whether the Green Party of California should join Rubin v Bowen

Sponsor: Coordinating Committee

Background: Proposition 14 was passed in the June 2010 California primary and changed the way the state conducts its elections to a Top Two Primary system under which party primaries are eliminated and no longer does a candidate from every ballot qualified party appear on the General Election ballot.  Proposition 14 and its implementing status provide multiple threats to the Green Party and the state's pther smaller, ballot-qualified parties, which have been analyzed and presented here in this common statement between the Green, Libertarian and the Peace & Freedom Parties, and have led the parties to see legislative relief via these arguments.

Several legal challenges have been mounted to the Top Two Primary system, two tracks which are directly relevant to its status in California.

First, there have been challenges in Federal Court (see more below) going back to 2011, none of which has yet been successful, but the results of which suggest a strategy that may be successful, pending a candidate from a recognized, non-ballot status party making such a challenge. If that occurs for the June 2014 primary, it could be heard and potentially invalidate the Top Two Primary system in time for the 2016 elections.

Second, there have been challenges in State Court. A newer challenge to Proposition 14 - Rubin v Bowen, RG11-6053014, was filed on November 21, 2011  by the Green Party of Alameda County, the Libertarian and the Peace and Freedom Parties of California, and a number of individuals, including California Greens Michael Rubin and Kate Tanaka.

copy of the original complaint is here and an amended version on February 14th here. On June 7, 2013 the judge issued a tentative ruling on whether a trial is needed, but then ruled against it on September 5th. A copy of that decision is here.  The plaintiffs plan to appeal, but their appeal is unlikely to occur in time to affect the 2014 electoral cycle.

It has been stressed by several individuals involved with the case that it would be strengthend if the Green Party of California (GPCA) were to join it. What would be the process for this?

GPCA bylaws 8-1.10 state the Coordinating Committee may "Retain legal counsel on behalf of the GPCA and make decisions based upon that counsel consistent with the Coordinating Committee's duties under the other provisions of these bylaws." The Coordinating Committee is seeking General Assembly input and expects to make a decision in the near term, likely no later than the annual Coordinating Committee retreat at the end of January, if not beforehand.

Presentation:  Platintiff and Green Party member Michael Rubin, along with Richard Winger of Ballot Access News will be present to make an update on the status of these legal cases.

Proposal: The Coordinating Committee will present one or more advisory recommendations for General Assembly consideration.

Reference: At the April 30/May 1, 2011 General Assembly in Berkeley, the GPCA heard a summary of the legal arguments against the Top Two primary (Proposition 14 in California, Initiative 872 in Washington State), as well as Senate Bill 6 (SB6), Proposition 14's implementing statute in California. A video of that presentation is here, featuring Richard Winger of Ballot Access News and Gautum Dutta, attorney against SB6 (

Since then the case against Initiative 872 lost at the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take it upon appeal. At the same time, SB6 went to the Ninth Circuit Court and was heard February 13, 2013. An analysis of that hearing is here and a running update of that case can be found here on Dutta's website. On July 3rd, 2013 the Ninth Circuit upheld Denial of “Independent” Label on Ballots, but left open for another lawsuit, the issue of labels for members of unqualified parties.