California State Senator Abel Maldonado, the author of the bill for a “top-two open primary”, is touring California, speaking to newspapers. The chief purpose of his travels around the state is to win newspaper support and publicity for his own bid to become California’s Lieutenant Governor. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has chosen Maldonado to fill the vacancy in that job. However, Maldonado cannot take the Lieutenant Governorship post unless both houses of the legislature vote to confirm him.
As Maldonado travels the state, the newspapers always mention that he is the author of the “top-two open primary” measure that the legislature put on the June 2010 ballot. For the first time, one of the newspaper stories about that measure has mentioned the charge that the measure injures minor parties. The San Luis Obispo Tribune, to its credit, asked Maldonado about this. See this story. It says, “Maldonado strongly denied that the two-tier election system he has proposed would undermine third parties like the Libertarian and Green Parties.”
It is quite possible that Senator Maldonado doesn’t even realize that his measure makes it substantially more difficult for a ballot-qualified party to remain on the ballot. No newspaper story has mentioned that aspect of the plan. Existing law says a ballot-qualified party is one that polled at least 2% of the vote for any of the 7 or 8 statewide races on the ballot in a midterm year (parties get a free ride in presidential election years). This is a fairly easy test. But under Maldonado’s proposal, no party would have nominees in midterm years. Therefore, the only way parties can remain on the ballot is by having registration of approximately 100,000 members, something that neither the Libertarian Party, nor the Peace and Freedom Party, now have.
It is also quite possible that Senator Maldonado doesn’t even know that his measure says that write-ins could never be counted, for Congress and state office, in November. The irony is that both the write-in restriction, and the increased difficulty for parties to remain ballot-qualified, were completely unnecessary for the “top-two” measure. Neither of these characteristics was in Prop. 62, the earlier “top-two” measure, that was defeated by the voters in November 2004.