Californians: Enjoy Your Third-Party Vote Today, Because You Can't Come November


"Go ahead! Throw your vote away!"

To any third-party voters in California who were planning to wait until November to vote for Libertarians, Greens, American Independents or anybody who isn't a D or an R: Drag yourself out to the polls today or you'll likely miss your chance.

Today's primary marks the implementation of Proposition 14, passed in 2010, which opens up state races to a "Top Two" runoff system. Candidates for U.S. Senate and Congress, State Senate and Assembly and all statewide constitutional offices are presented in an open slate. Primary voters can choose among the candidates regardless of their party. The top two candidates will face off in November, again, regardless of their party.

The change doesn't affect the presidential race, but anybody hoping to protest the tyranny of the two-party system in California needs to now do so in the primaries. Many third-party candidates are not going to make it to the November ballot.

Third-party candidates opposed the proposition in 2010, but it passed by a slight margin. We'll see how the Democrats and Republicans feel about it if vote-splitting results in absurd outcomes, like two Democrats facing off for Congress or Assembly in a primarily Republican district. It's possible from today's vote for Sen. Dianne Feinstein to end up facing another Democrat with no Republican or third-party alternatives come November.

Stop Top Two is an effort from the Free and Equal Elections Foundation to battle top two election programs. A push is on now to bring this same system to Arizona.

Brian Doherty covered the Prop. 14 battle in 2010. As he pointed out, it has effectively kept third-party candidates off the ballot in Washington State (which adopted the system in 2008) and made it easier for incumbents to keep their seats.

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  1. What is this, the Ralph Nader law?

  2. It’s almost as if the ruling elite hate democracy and want to make sure no one can challenge their power.

    Kodos: It’s true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about
    it? It’s a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us.
    Man1: He’s right, this is a two-party system.
    Man2: Well, I believe I’ll vote for a third-party candidate.
    Kang: Go ahead, throw your vote away.
    [Kang and Kodos laugh out loud]

    1. ok, didn’t notice the pic or alt-text; the info in the post is so infuriating.

    2. You could go to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy instead…

      “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”

      “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates the government they want.”

      “You mean they actually VOTE for the lizards?”

      “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

      “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

      “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Have you got any gin?”

      1. Hahaha, I love that book. My old geology professor would quote it all the time and I was always the only one who laughed.

        1. The other students were fools not to laugh just to humor him for a better grade.

        2. That series has some gems, but it’s wildly overrated IMO.

          1. That series has some gems, but it’s wildly overrated IMO.

            The series as a whole may be over rated but the first book is epic in its greatness.

            In fact the first book pretty much carries the water for any accolades the other books get.

    3. “We are merely exchanging long protein strings. If you can think of a simpler way, I’d like to hear it.”

      1. Why must you incessantly bring up your lovemaking sessions with Warty? It’s almost lunchtime out here on the west coast.

        1. Warty is not my sister.

          1. Sorry, I meant to say Epi.

  3. It’s possible from today’s vote for Sen. Dianne Feinstein to end up facing another Democrat with no Republican or third-party alternatives come November.

    RC’z Iron Law is strong with this statement.

    1. I thought RC’s iron law was that if you make fun of another party’s grammar or usage you will make a grammar or usage error yourself.

      1. joez law

        1. no joes iron law was if you call someone a name you will end up making grammar or spelling mistakes.

          1. asswhole

          2. I believe it was that when you correct someone else’s grammar/spelling the correction will include a grammar/spelling error.

            1. So what is RC’s Iron law?

      2. In this case: foreseeable consequences are not unintended consequences.

        1. Oh yeah that is RC’s Iron Law.

    2. I would have thought that that was a specifically intended consequence. And one of the better ones too. Feinstein will be reelected against a Republican. Another Dem might have a chance. More competitive general elections are a good thing. And might just encourage more dissent within the parties.

  4. Is this system really worse for third party candidates? I would think it would be better. As of now, a third party candidate has close to zero chance of winning in the general, although he can likely can on the ballot. In the Proposition 14 system, he can make a go of it in the first round, and maybe make it in the top two- although there’s still a small chance, you’d think his chances of getting into the top two are higher than being the outright winner. Once in the top two, then he has a chance face off against one other candidate without voters fearing that they’re throwing their votes away.

    1. I tend to agree with this line of reasoning. I voted this morning in California, and the Democrats had multiple candidates for every office. A strong third party candidate could have a chance, if the Democrats split the Democratic vote, and turnout is light, which it always is in the primaries. (I was the only voter at my precinct when I went at 8:15 AM. In the general election there’s a line at that time.)

    2. You never know. I think the reason minor parties oppose it is that they really have no hope of winning regardless, but are running “educational” campaigns, and figure the 1st round election (primary or whatever you call it) simply won’t get enough att’n.

    3. Instead of a libertarian facing one Democrat and one Republican, at most, he now faces half a dozen candidates. Vote totals for third parties will go down. If this were ranked voting it would not be so bad, but this is first two past the gate.

      Frankly this system is stupid. The whole purpose of the primaries is gone. Today’s election is essentially the first half of the general election, with the second half five months from now.

      Think about the major parties. Not everyone in a major party is a statist. Ron Paul for example. Or John Dennis running for Nancy Pelosi’s seat in San Francisco. He’s lucky in that he is the only Republican on that ballot today, going against half a dozen Democrats besides Pelosi. He’s probably going to get past the gate and be in the general. But what if he ran as a Libertarian? No way in hell. This new law will kill third parties as serious candidates will leave for the major parties.

      1. I don’t follow your logic. What difference does the party label make in the 1st round? They’re all in one race anyway. I think fewer voters will pay att’n to the party label at all under those circumstances.

      2. Yes, but there could be 5 Dems and 3 Reps splitting the major party vote. Runoff voting like this isn’t ideal or even as good as IRV, but it seems slightly better than the usual crap.

      3. “This new law will kill third parties as serious candidates will leave for the major parties.”

        How many serious third party candidates are there under the current system? I’m certainly not saying that the CA system in third-party paradise, but just that its a marginal improvement on a system that essentially guarantees third parties have no chance.

      4. Primaries tend to filter out people that only have a marginal interest in who wins a party nomination. This generally means that the party aparatus determines who is the nominee.

        Of course the Republican party is finding that a small, but dedicated, collection of hooligans can upset the apple cart.

        1. Also, third party voters are more likely to have an interest in voting in general, and are more likely to turn out at the primaries.

    4. Primaries are a complete waste of taxpayer money. Can’t the parties decide who they want to run without tying up public resources? Political parties are private entities and should use no public money for their decision-making processes.

      I’m fine with a “top two” system as long as the outcome is determined by a duel and not the silly voting-booth exercise.

      1. the libertarians are the worst. If I had registered as a libertarian, I would have voted in a meaningless primary, as Gary Johnson is already the libertarian nominee. and, since the libertarians are a closed primary, the state is running of special election ballots just for them.

        1. I mean really! The poll workers hadn’t even put the Libertarian ballots out on the table when I voted at 8am. They had to go find them in some box!

  5. I’ve had some arguments with other libertarians about this system. In states like Hawaii, where one party (here, the Democrats) control 90% of the legislature, such a system would mean that in most districts, instead of the labor unions controlling who gets elected in thinly attended primaries where labor voters turn out en masse, it means that you have a greater choice in the general election, since most districts would have two Democrats squaring off against each other, instead of a Democrat running unopposed or against a no-chance Republican.

    It also means that if you prefer an LP candidate, you can vote for them in the primary without having to take into account the lesser of two evils phenomenon, since that two evils choice gets postponed to the general election.

    1. It also lets registered Republican voters who are Ron Paul supporters to vote for Libertarians for other offices in the primaries, something we couldn’t do in 2008.

      1. I am not registered in any party but am now allowed to vote for all candidates in the primary. Previously if you were a “decline to state” affiliation you couldn’t vote for anything except the non-political votes and initiatives. So today I was able to vote a straight “L” ticket, although I will probably be the “so you are the guy who voted for her”.

    2. Exactly. In DC, the elections are essentially decided in the primaries because the electorate is something like 90% Democrat. The 10% who are Republican effectively get no vote (I suspect a lot of people register democrat just so that they can vote in a meaningful election- I did- but others don’t). Under the CA system, those 10% Republicans would get a say, which on the margin would probably lead to more moderate winners.

  6. This new process is mindboggling stupid, and actually removes choices even for the mainstream voters.

    Most districts in California lean strongly one way or the other. So if the lesser party in a district wants a prayer of getting a candidate on the November ballot, they have to pre-decide who will run from their party. It’s right back to smoke-filled rooms deciding candidates, totally eliminating the point of a primary.

    If the proponents of the runoff system think that party machines can do a better job than voters of selecting moderate and likable candidates for November — as they probably can — then they should just get rid of the primary and be done with it. At least third parties would then have a voice in November.

    1. In my mostly-Democratic district, the Republicans appeared to have figured that out and ran only one candidate for most offices. The Dems had 4 or 5 running for everything.

      There’s something undemocratic about the “top two” advancing if they combine for less than 50 percent of the vote though, which could happen in many races. It would mean the majority of the voters didn’t want either candidate, but we’re stuck with them.

      1. How is that worse than “top one”, which is what a general election is otherwise?

      2. Under the current system, you can, and often do in a competitive race, have a winner that receives less than 50% of the total votes. I really don’t see how that’s better.

      3. Perhaps they should add a rule that the candidates going on to the general must total at least 50% of the vote int eh primary. If two candidates don’t get enough votes, the top 3 go on to the next round.

      4. Louisiana has elections like that. If no candidate receives a simple majority, there is a runoff (or general election)between the top two. Since Bobby Jindal received more than 50% of the vote last October, he won a second term without having to go to a general election. He won against 4 democrats, 4 independents and 1 libertarian.

    2. So if the lesser party in a district wants a prayer of getting a candidate on the November ballot, they have to pre-decide who will run from their party.

      And getting a candidate that has no chance of winning on the November ballot helps the lesser party because…

      1. Because at least the lesser party has someone they can support, put up posters about, induce dialog and debate about, etc. — just like third parties that have no chance of winning on the November ballot.

        No one is paying any attention in June. When people start paying attention in October, those not on the ballot are not only disenfranchised, but effectively voiceless.

        1. Why do they need an election to have a discussion?

          1. Because the media ignores anyone who is not (a) in office or (b) on a ballot.

  7. Meh.

    Moar Snorg Girls!

  8. I anticipate that, given the way most districts in this state skew strongly one-sided (with 2 out of 3 skewing strongly one-sided for team blue), many districts will see two members of the same team running against eachother in the general.

    What will be interesting is to see if these candidates manage to differentiate themselves on policy at all or if it becomes one masturbatory popularity contest like a high school election. My head tells me it’s likely the latter, sadly enough.

  9. So, Californians, does that put your choices down to what… Democrat and… Democrat?

  10. It’s possible from today’s vote for Sen. Dianne Feinstein to end up facing another Democrat with no Republican or third-party alternatives come November.

    CA is not going to elect a republican for senate. So the old rules pretty much guarentee that Dianne gets re-elected. Under the current rules, Diane could possibly fall to a new democrat.

  11. Good alt-text, Rusty!

  12. Ok now for the good side of this.

    In washington state we have a similar law and have had it for at least 4 years.

    It is an anti-incumbent law. What happens is that in strong Democrat districts or in strong Republican districts what you get is 2 of the same party running against each other in the general election.

    It essentially weakens the parties making them obsolete. If you are a small l libertarian then pick the dominate party in your district and run against the incumbent.

    1. Is that really happening? I haven’t detected that.

      1. It happened to a commissioner in 2008 in my area. republican vs republican and the incumbent lost.

        The Irony is that she supported the very law that ended up removing her from power….the same thing is set to happen this year as well.

        This law is very good for tea party like insurgence. Incumbents essentially in what use to be safe districts have to make it past two elections…rather then simply winning the primary.

        1. Reading the other comments i should point out that Washington state has an open primary.

          I don’t know what California has. If it has a closed primary this law could be very bad.

          1. It’s open. The ballot is sectioned into “Party-Nominated Offices” on page 1, the Newspeak “Voter-Nominated Offices” on page 2, and “Nonpartisan Offices” on page 3. Page 1 is the one that differs by party, containing the presidential candidates of the party and central committee candidates of the party.

  13. Does anyone think that “top two” can break the strangle hold the parties have on elections, if well-funded, well-known candidates chose to run independent?

    1. Despite what JC says above, I don’t see it. It turns your city into Baltimor in The Wire. It just becomes a stranglehold of a dominant party. Believe you me, the power players will detect your small-l libertarian sensibilities and you’ll never get anywhere by just switching your affiliation to the dominant party.

      1. But Baltimore in the Wire happens under the conventional primary system. Under a system like this, there would still always be a Democrat elected, but there would at least be a choice in the general election for the people who would eat their children before voting Republican. Even if it didn’t destroy or weaken the two party system, it woudl force it to be more diverse.

      2. In Iowa, the Republican party is held captive by the Conservative Christian block which is only about 15% of the general population. But they work the party system like no other group. An open primary where anyone can vote for any candidate would probably break the hold of the SoCons on the Republican party.

      3. Right now, the Iowa Republican party has a lot of fake Republicans on its roles in order to support Ron Paul’s candidacy. They are tech-savy, and they show up. A “top two” system would negate the need to join the Republican party or start another party. You just have to organize a flash mob to show up at the primary to overwhelm the party regulars (on both sides).

        I loathe having to go to county party meetings and listen to the SoCons bitch and whine about the decaying moral principles of this country. But I we need to start electing our own Rand Pauls and Justin Amashes here in Iowa. And right now, the Republican Party is the only available vehicle to get there.

        1. How are they “fake Republicans”? I mean, if they’re supporting a Republican candidate… isn’t “the people that show up” by definition the basis of a party?

      4. Speaking of “The Wire” politicians i wish Aidan Gillen played his character in Game of Thrones more like he played his character in “The Wire”.

        Little Finger seems far to stiff for what he is.

        1. He’s a courtier. I don’t see how Petyr Baelish could behave like Tommy Carcetti and get away with it.

          1. He has private moments and moments before the king and his betters. Why be stiff when talking to Catlin? Or his prostitutes? Or the spider?

            Hell for some odd reason he is less stiff when he talks to the Queen about “power” and ends up almost getting killed.

            But yeah he is trapped in the writing of the books…still other characters are allowed a range. And i know as an actor he does have a range….he is either being stifled by direction, or simply made some terrible actor choices when developing the character.

      5. It just becomes a stranglehold of a dominant party.

        If someone to the left or right can challenge the party establishment’s choice in the general election then the party becomes a none issue.

        It is not as if republicans and democrats are all that far apart on most issues….and third parties never go anywhere anyway.

  14. I like this system, in principal anyway. I think that they should have it much closer to the general election, though (like a week or 2 before) andperhaps put more than 2 on the next ballot. The major drawback I see is that not many people vote in primaries.
    I like it because it gets rid of the automatic place on the ballot for the two major parties. There is no good reason why Democrats and Republicans should be entitled to automatic spots on every ballot. As others have pointed out, it is kind of absurd that in a place where 90% reliably vote for one party that the other party gets an automatic spot on the ballot.
    I guess I see the argument that this supports the two party system, but with a few tweaks, I think a system like this could do a lot to undermine the two party system. And even as it is, I think that having two candidates from the same party running in a general election could be good for promoting more of a diversity of opinions within the major parties.

    1. If this was operated as an honest-to-goodness runoff, all happening in a period of weeks around the general election, that would be one thing.

      But the state has coopted the party primaries to run a first round election when no one knows or cares who they want to vote for. That’s bad.

      1. Can’t the parties have meta primaries and decide who they want their one true candidate to be? You know, with some kind of voting?

        1. What a great idea. Of course, to promote the public interest and be certain that some hidden party machinery isn’t throwing away the ballots and picking the winner, it will have to be run and paid for by the state’s election apparatus.

          This meta primary will have to be a few months before the “Voter-Nominated” primary in June that determines the 2-candidate runoff in November. I hear February isn’t too busy.

  15. Here in Hawaii, we have the top two system for mayoral contests (but not legislative races). The upshot is that in the current mayoral race, you have three Democrats in contention, with two union-owned candidates being for the boondoggle rail system and one not-so-owned candidate being against the boondoggle. The likely outcome is that the anti-rail candidate advances to the general election.

    In a partisan primary, OTOH, the likely outcome is that union voters would turn out in droves and pick one of the union-owned pro-rail candidates, who would then beat the Republican patsy in the general election.

    So, this system makes it more likely we will have a significant choice in the general election that will make it possible to maybe shut down the rail union-makework-jobs program.

  16. California used to be quite friendly to third parties. The LP, Greens, American Independent (Constitution), and Peace and Freedom parties are all recognized by the state and typically get ballot access (or used to.)

    1. The perceived problem is no longer “not enough choice”, but rather “too much choice, not enough moderation”. These are all efforts towards a one-party state, because that will work so much better.

  17. Feinstein is a troll, she supports SOPA and PIPA and said on May 11, 1995 that (to paraphrase) “Freedom of Speech is not what this country is about.”. Here’s the source for that quote:…..950512.cw1

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