California Secretary of State Posts Rules for Another Special Election, Sets One & One-Half Days to Collect Signatures in Lieu of Filing Fee

On the afternoon of December 22, the California Secretary of State posted the requirements for candidates to run in the special election for State Senate, 17th district, in northern Los Angeles County.  She says a candidate who does not wish to pay the filing fee may avoid the fee by collecting 3,000 signatures of registered voters on December 22 and December 23.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1974 that the U.S. Constitution requires an alternative to filing fees, at least for poor candidates.  And in 1974, the California Supreme Court ruled in Donovan v Brown that an alternative to the filing fee must be available to all candidates, rich or poor.  A petitioning period of one and one-half days obviously does not satisfy due process.  It is unparalleled in U.S. history for any state to require a candidate to collect 3,000 valid signatures in a single legislative district in just one and one-half days.

The vacancy was created when State Senator George Runner resigned on December 21.  The election is on February 15.


California Secretary of State Posts Rules for Another Special Election, Sets One & One-Half Days to Collect Signatures in Lieu of Filing Fee — 22 Comments

  1. California has held 21 special elections for the legislature or Congress since 2005. In 14 of those cases, the in lieu filing period has been extremely short.

    CD 5, 2005 (2 days from proclamation to deadline)
    AD 53, 2005 (16)
    CD 48, 2005 (2)
    AD 39, 2007 (1)
    CD 37, 2007 (4)
    CD 12, 2008 (-2)
    SD 12, 2008 (-9) (recall)
    CD 32, 2009 (12)
    AD 51, 2009 (20)
    CD 10, 2009 (2)
    AD 72, 2009 (-1)
    SD 15, 2010 (2)
    SD 28, 2011 (3)
    SD 17, 2011 (2)

    In a few cases, the in lieu petition period was slightly longer because the deadline fell on a weekend or holiday, and because the in lieu petition period may begin at the time of the vacancy.

    A lengthier period occurred in the other 7 special elections because their schedule was delayed in order to make a special election coincident with a statewide election. A consequence of that schedule is that voters were denied representation in the Legislature or the Congress for periods as long as 6 months.

    SD 35, 2006 (50) June primary for special general.
    CD 50, 2006 (50) June primary for special general.
    AD 55, 2008 (34) February primary for special general.
    SD 26. 2009 (46) Statewide special for special general.
    SD 37, 2010 (66) June primary for special general.
    AD 43, 2010 (30) June primary for special general.
    SD 1, 2011 (41) November general for special primary.

    All of these special elections have required either 3000 in lieu signatures (for Congress or the Senate) or 1500 (Assembly).

    I will be interested to hear your rationalization in the name of equal protection, why the signatures of some voters are worth more than others based on their expressed political beliefs. I thought the government was not supposed to favor political beliefs in the administration of elections.

    The real problem is that California takes much too long to fill legislative vacancies. Texas has already filled a legislative vacancy that occurred because of a death that occurred after the general election.

    The governor should be able to anticipate vacancies, when a candidate has issued an irrevocable resignation at a future date; or when a candidate dies prior to the beginning of their term.

    Special elections should be conducted as all mail ballots on the shortest possible schedule using IRV with ballots where a voter indicates their preferences using numerals next to each candidates name, as has been done in Ireland and Australia for approaching a century.

    The counties should use citizen-counters (selected in a manner similar to jurors) to count the votes. This method does not require special equipment. Mail ballots will be collected at central locations, and since there will only be a single race on the ballot there will be little likelihood of confusion.

    Instead of in lieu signatures, California should accept a declaration of penury. All candidates will still have to collect a substantial number of signatures in a short time period, so there is little chance of frivolous candidates.

    Alternatively, California should increase the value of in lieu signatures from the current $0.31 for senate elections, to a reasonable amount such as $5 (with adjustments for inflation).

    BTW, in Donovan v Brown the Supreme Court required that write-in candidates not be charged a filing fee. Write-in candidates for the February 15 special primaries in SD 17 and 28 will not be charged a filing fee.

  2. For anyone to understand the full reach of Donovan v Brown, one must also read Knoll v Davidson, a much longer 1974 decision which elaborates on Donovan v Brown.

  3. New Age due process — be aware of what the party hacks are doing each nanosecond — along with ALL laws, regulations and court cases 24/7. Yeah. Sure.

    The political / economic WARS continue in ALL States ALL the time.

    Candidate/Incumbent replacement rank order lists for legislative body vacancies = NO moronic / emergency special elections are needed — especially now with various lunatic killer gangs/individuals on Mother Earth.

    Again – How soon before ALL regimes BAN write-ins ???

  4. Richard,

    It looks like the work I did in the lawsuit circa 1972 – 1974 on opening up the electorial process has gone away. See Mr. Winger’s comments in post # 2 above.

    This issue got started over 38 years ago when I ran for
    House of Representives. In Donovan v. Brown it is the
    same Jerry Brown that now will be Governor.

    Sincerely, Mark Seidenberg, Vice Chairman, American
    Independent Party

  5. SD 17 includes portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Kern counties.

    The in lieu signature standard has not changed due to the Top 2 Open Primary. Had you been aware of the high number of signatures required in a short while for past special elections, I’m sure you would have mentioned it before.

    A critical omission from the SOS’s schedule for the two special senate elections is implementation of Elections Code 13302(b). “timely received” is a little vague. Since the sample ballots are separately prepared in each county, it could lead to inconsistent application of this law.

  6. The in lieu signature standard certainly has changed as a result of Prop. 14. The 150 signature provision, though unamended, has been deemed a dead law by the Secretary of State because it talks about party nominees, and Prop. 14 says parties no longer have nominees, except for president.

  7. #2 It would be fairer to say that Knoll v Davidson is an elaboration on the US Supreme Court’s decision in Lubin v Panish.

    After Lubin v Panish, the California legislature enacted the in lieu of signatures scheme that you now, 36 years later, find fault in. While the majority declined to rule on the constitutionality of this in lieu of signature scheme, both a concurring opinion and a dissent concluded that it made moot the issues raised by Knoll.

    Had the Supreme Court issued an injunction in your current case against the Top 2 Open Primary, wouldn’t your would-be intervenor be faced with:

    (1) Paying the filing fee, or collecting 3000 in lieu of signatures in a very short while (the same time period you now complain about), or some combination where each signature offset $0.31 of the filing fee.

    (2) Required collection of 500 signatures (any in lieu of signatures could be used against this limit).

    (3) Be required to run as an “Independent”, even though he had declared his intent to vote in the Coffee Party primary in 2012.

    Under the changes implemented by SB 6, the following requirements will be in effect:

    (1) Paying the filing fee, or collecting 3000 in lieu of signatures in a very short while (the same time period you now complain about), or some combination where each signature offset $0.31 of the filing fee. No change

    (2) Required collection of 40 signatures (any in lieu of signatures could be used against this limit). Number of signatures reduced by 92%

    (3) Be permitted to run using the party preference that he had established in his voter registration, “My Party Preference is the Coffee Party”. Alternatively, he could suppress this information, just as he is permitted to not use any occupational designation. More correct representation of his partisan affiliation.

    (4) Seek the endorsement of the 6 qualified political parties. Any such endorsement would be distributed to voters along with the sample ballot. New Provision

  8. It looks like the work I did in the lawsuit circa 1972 – 1974 on opening up the electorial process has gone away. See Mr. Winger’s comments in post # 2 above.

    = No kidding, looks like California is beyonding saving now.
    Thank God I don’t live there any more!

  9. #6 The 150 signature provision would not have applied in the case of Mr. Chaimness, who is not a member of a preferred class.

    The 150 signatures must be collected from a tiny fraction of the electorate, while the 3000 signatures may be collected from the entire electorate.

    The Secretary of State is applying the same standard that has been applied to all candidates in non-partisan races for the past 36 years. For example, a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction would have required 10,000 in lieu of signatures in order to avoid paying the filing fee, even though they only needed 60 signatures to qualify for the ballot. Ir would have applied to Ms. Knoll, who was seeking to be elected Alameda County Supervisor (and the offset for local offices is only $0.25 per signature). This has not changed since 1974, even though there has been a 4-fold trebling of the cost of living, and that the filing fee is based on the salary of the office, which would be generally expected to keep up with the cost of living.

  10. Jim Riley, in his hostility to third parties and fawning praise of “top two” deprecation of political organizations that have actual beliefs, omits the crucial issues in regard to signatures in lieu from posts #1, #5, #7 and #9.

    There are two separate, but real issues. One is that the Elections Code’s signature-gathering periods for most special elections are unrealistically short for the numbers of signatures required (except when the special elections are delayed to allow for consolidation). The other is that the numbers of signatures required are far too high, except for the no longer applicable special provisions for candidates for the nominations of small parties.

    Addressing the second issue first, the plaintiffs in Lubin v Panish were activists in the Peace and Freedom Party, and the main political purpose of the lawsuit (though not its stated legal purpose) was to make it possible for third parties to put candidates on the ballot without busting their meager budgets on filing fees. The California Legislature’s response was to make it possible, though not easy except in the case of statewide candidates, for third parties to qualify for the ballot without paying filing fees, but not for Democratic and Republican candidates who might challenge incumbents in the primaries.

    The in lieu signature requirements for Democrats and Republicans were always so high as to be impractical for candidates to use who couldn’t afford to pay filing fees (or didn’t want to spend more on the fee for a protest campaign than they’d be able to spend on the campaign itself). As far as I know, the only major party candidates who collected signatures in lieu could have easily paid the filing fees but chose to spend resources collecting signatures in order to build their ground organization and demonstrate the support they had.

    While I do think that it should be easier for Democrats, Republicans and non-partisan candidates to avoid paying filing fees than the current signature in lieu rules allow in California (and I think that Jim Riley’s suggestion of valuing signatures at $5 each toward filing fees is a reasonable one), that doesn’t mean it’s unfair to also have different requirements tailored to the needs of members of smaller parties. In partisan elections, including the new “voter-nominated” elections in which candidates’ party preferences will be listed on the ballot and for which party endorsements will be included in sample ballots, most voters will want to know what party a candidate is in before signing a petition, and most of them won’t sign petitions for candidates whose parties they don’t support. Thus even assuming the same level of resources to put into signature-gathering, it will be more difficult for candidates from parties with which one or two percent of voters are affiliated than for candidates from parties with which thirty or forty percent of voters are affiliated. Pretending otherwise is reminiscent of the famous quote from Anatole France, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread”.

    On the separate, though related, issue of abbreviated signature gathering periods for special elections, this has the especially pernicious effect of making it more difficult for outsiders to run in just those elections where they have a chance to actually be heard. Special elections, by definition, don’t have an incumbent running, and when they’re not consolidated with a bigger election, there are forums where all of the candidates are invited and both the frontrunners and the press actually show up.

    It’s clear that it is nearly impossible to gather 1,500 or 3,000 signatures in the extremely limited time periods allowed for most special elections, or even 150 from one’s own small party, except possibly with advanced planning and significant resources (not generally available to potential candidates in quickly called special elections). The current California rules effectively prevent potential candidates who can’t afford to pay filing fees from running in most special elections, even those who could meet the requirements to run in regularly scheduled elections.

    The public interest in abbreviating the election schedule (in order to reduce the length of time the office is vacant) conflicts with the public interest in allowing enough time for real election campaign in contested by a variety of candidates with differing views. There are a number of ways to address the problem, some of which have been mentioned in this thread (calling the election as soon as it’s known there will be a vacancy, using IRV instead of separate primary and general elections) and some of which haven’t (extending the in lieu signature gathering period further into the nomination period, reducing the number of signatures needed in proportion to the shortening of the gathering period). I think everyone here agrees that extremely short signature-gathering periods are unfair (and probably illegal).

    I’m a bit leery of the proposal for a “declaration of penury” as a replacement for signatures in lieu of filing fees, especially if “candidates will still have to collect a substantial number of signatures in a short time period” to minimize the “chance of frivolous candidates”. I could see challenges to the validity of such declarations as a means to throw candidates off the ballot, and it’s reminiscent of odious means tests for the use of public services. Further, the collection of “a substantial number of signatures in a short time period” is something that is much easier for a candidate with access to material resources than to one without, so if those signatures are more than those that would be reasonable to require in lieu of a filing fee, such a requirement would screen out poor as well as frivolous candidates.

  11. #10 For a voter-nominated statewide office, 65 signatures are required (the same as is required for the non-partisan Superintendent of Public Instruction), and was required of candidates for partisan nomination. For a legislative or congressional office, 40 signatures are required, the same as was required for partisan candidates in the past.

    These were the substantial number of signatures that I was referring to. Since a voter is limited to signing one candidate’s petition, and the signing period is fairly short, this should generally prevent frivolous candidates.

    Candidates for office are required to file a Statement of Economic Interests by the filing deadline. Which should be sufficient to establish the economic status of the candidate.

  12. #10 “Jim Riley, in his hostility to third parties and fawning praise of “top two” deprecation of political organizations that have actual beliefs,”

    Jim Riley believes that all candidates put their pants on one leg at a time, and should be treated equally. You apparently believe that some have reached a higher plane of consciousness and can think their pants on, even if they do sometimes end up on their head rather than their legs.

    You appear to be indifferent to the fact that independent and major party candidates in special elections for the past 36 years have had to collect an extraordinary large number of in lieu of signatures in a very short period of time, if they chosen not to pay the filing fee.

    You ignore the fact that candidates for nonpartisan office are also required to collect extraordinary numbers of in lieu of signature, or pay the filing fee, even though some of these candidates, including some that are actually elected, are members of the political organizations that you exalt.

    And you perhaps are indifferent to the number of signatures required of independent candidates, perhaps because they choose not to affiliate with “political organizations that have actual beliefs”.

    Is it OK with you that independent candidates for the senate or congress required over 10,000 signatures, and that the last independent candidate for statewide office was in 1978? After all their independence is evidence of their incapacity to join a thinking political organization.

  13. I am glad that Jim Riley thinks that all candidates should be treated equally. Jim, I hope you will express an opinion on Connecticut’s public funding law for candidates for state office.

    Also I hope you will express an opinion about the Texas ballot access laws for independent candidates for President. Texas’s deadline for independent presidential candidates is in mid-May, so that independents must have gathered all their signatures at a time months before the major parties formally choose their national tickets. Jim Riley is a Texas resident.

  14. Jim Riley and Richard Winger,

    We have gone full circle on the issue. When I started out on this issue early in 1972, the issue
    was applying a race for sheriff in Texas to relate
    it to California law. Now we are back to Texas.

    Sincerely, Mark Seidenberg, Vice Chairman, American
    Independent Party.

  15. To Richard Winger,

    Because of Prop. 11, both San Francisco and San Matio Counties have more population to have one Congresional District totally in each County. Therefore, that district for both counties need
    to start at their common border going North for
    San Francisco County and South for San Matio County.

    That would attach the Northern part to San Francisco to Marin County and Nothward to form a

    San Mateo County will also have to deal with the same issue at the border but going
    south to for a new CD.

    Next we will have one Equalization District in Los
    Angeles County and an other that should cover Orange, San Diego, Riverside, Imperial, and a small
    part of the remainder of Los Angeles. That will leave two other district going North from Los Angeles and Riverside going North to the Oregon border.

    Sincerely, Mark Seidenberg

  16. #13 I think there should be $NO public funding for all candidates in Connecticut.

    Did you actually understand all the cases, and sub-cases, and sub-sub-cases for the proposed SOS public funding law in California? It is precisely because of the partisan election system with multiple paths to the ballot that resulted in this complexity. Thankfully, the measure was defeated.

    Justice Rehnquist was right in Anderson v Celebrezze.

  17. Will the gerrymander party hacks in the CA gerrymander minority rule legislature make any effort to conform the mere CA laws with the CA Constitution, as amended by the top 2 Prop ???

    — or do the courts have to HAMMER flat the MORONS in the CA legislature and the election bureaucrats in the CA executive branch — to COMMAND/ORDER such conformity of such mere laws with the CA Constitution, as amended ???

    This stuff is TOTALLY New Age EVIL INSANE N-U-T-S.

    Public Funding — one more INSANITY.

    Lots of Pro/Anti Statist stuff find it totally INTOLERABLE that their tax monies are being given to Anti/Pro party hack candidates — to pay for a zillion negative TV/cable attack ads.

    Akin to having tax money being given to Pro/Anti religion candidates — totally intolerable.

    How many brain dead robot party hack extremists regarding world history for the last 6,000 plus years are in the various New Age legislative bodies ???

  18. correction –
    Lots of Pro/Anti Statist folks find it totally INTOLERABLE that their tax monies are being given to Anti/Pro Statist party hack candidates — to pay for a zillion negative TV/cable attack ads.

  19. Did ANY body file the required number of signatures ???

    Enough time to go to SCOTUS — so that SCOTUS can bring down a Bush v. Gore HAMMER on the State MORONS involved ???

  20. #11: If your “substantial number of signatures” just means those now required for nomination, they’re not a major obstacle to candidates without significant financial and/or organizational resources, even with the a signature gathering period as short as two weeks.

    However, in California filing fees (or signatures in lieu of filing fees, or a combination) must be paid before nomination papers can be taken out. The Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700) both is complicated enough that candidates may not be ready to file it as soon as they take out papers and provides insufficient information to determine whether or not a candidate is poor. It requires reporting of assets and income (including loans, gifts and expense reimbursements, not just what would be gross income for income tax), but with numerous exceptions, which makes it something that most people would need some time to complete. However, it doesn’t require reporting of exact amounts, just of broad categories (for income of less than $500, $500 to $1,000, $1,001 to $10,000, $10,001 to $100,000, and over $100,000). Thus even aside from issues of non-reportable income and assets, you really couldn’t tell whether or not someone could afford to pay a $1000 filing fee if all you knew was that his or her sole reportable income was between $10,001 and $100,000.

  21. #12: Of course candidates from third parties haven’t as such “reached a higher plane of consciousness”, and neither I nor most advocates of third parties claim they have. (The one exception may be the Natural Law Party, but they lost their California ballot status some years ago and haven’t been trying to regain it.)

    I agree that major party and independent candidates have faced an unreasonable requirement for signatures in lieu of filing fees over the past 36 years in California. If there had been a campaign to change that, I would have supported it, but as far as I know there wasn’t any such campaign. I didn’t start such a campaign because as an active supporter of a third party, I have other priorities.

    It’s disingenuous to cite signatures in lieu of provisions for non-partisan offices as being comparable, because for the overwhelming majority of such offices, filing fees are much lower than they are for partisan offices. Also, in many larger cities, the state provisions for signatures in lieu of filing fees are overridden by local ordinances or charter provisions.

    If elections are to be about more than personality (both in the sense of candidates’ charisma or lack thereof, and their positive life stories or the skeletons in their closets), then political organizations that have actual beliefs must play a major role. I make no apologies for believing that election laws ought to encourage a lively, multi-party system.

    Independent candidates ought to be able to run without jumping through unreasonable hoops, but they shouldn’t be so favored as to discourage political parties. The “top two” primary was intended to weaken political parties and to favor of candidates who are at most loosely attached to a party, and that’s the main reason it’s wrong.

    Some of its advocates were “centrists” (those who see themselves as in between Democrats on the left and Republicans on the right, generally pro-business and without any strong convictions on social issues) who sought to bias elections in favor of candidates with similar politics. Others were scam artists whose actual politics is unclear but who always seem to rake in money from their politics (I’m thinking particularly of the Fulani/Mangia/Newman axis in their New Alliance Party, Reform Party and IndependentVoting incarnations); their motive might just be that a confused, post-ideological political climate provides them with more financial opportunities.

  22. #21 If elections are to be about more than personality (both in the sense of candidates’ charisma or lack thereof, and their positive life stories or the skeletons in their closets), then political organizations that have actual beliefs must play a major role.

    While agreeing completely with Dave Kadlecek on this, I would add that the alternative to health political parties — and more than two of them — is not just personality-based politics. It’s also a politics even more dependent on the flow of money than we are used to. Without party organizations to pool the resources of like-minded people, elections are even more open to individuals with either personal fortunes or corporate backers. In my opinion, that’s the real purpose of Top Two.

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