Michael Chamness Asks 9th Circuit to Delay Ballot Printing in Special California Congressional Election

On March 28, Michael Chamness asked the 9th circuit to delay ballot printing, in the special election to fill the vacant 36th U.S. House seat, until the U.S. District Court in his case issues an order on whether he should have either “Independent” or “My party preference is the Coffee Party” on the ballot.

Chamness is one of the 18 candidates running in the May 17th election. His lawsuit, Chamness v Bowen, argues that it is unconstitutional for California to give candidates from qualified parties a choice of whether to have either their party preference, or their lack of party preference, printed on the ballot; while at the same time not giving members of unqualified parties any choice of label. They cannot have their party on the ballot; they can’t have “independent” on the ballot; they can only have “no party preference.”

The U.S. District Court held a hearing on March 21. U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright still hasn’t acted, even though he has been made aware that ballot-printing starts on March 30. Here is the filing in the 9th circuit, case no. 11-70882.


Michael Chamness Asks 9th Circuit to Delay Ballot Printing in Special California Congressional Election — 4 Comments

  1. A party of ONE person can get a party hack label on the Official public election ballots ???

  2. 24 states let a candidate who petitions onto the general election ballot choose any ballot label that does not mimic the name of a fully qualified party and that is not too long. They are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The Louisiana provision only applies to presidential candidates, not candidates for other office.

  3. How many zillion classifications are there now in election law ???

    especially the zillion separate are NOT equal classifications – old/new parties, big/small parties, independents, etc. ???

    More byzantine than the old byzantine regimes ???

    Keeps the party hack robots busy dreaming up new and unequal stuff ???

  4. Part III.A is false. Had the election been held before December 31, 2011, Michael Chamness could not appear on the ballot under any guise due to his recent affiliation with the Green Party. Even were he not banned for that reason he would have to secure 500 signatures on petitions in order to secure an independent nomination.

    Footnote 16 is not correct. The criteria for voters to be permitted to vote in partisan primaries (pre-2011) is that they not be affiliated with a party participating in the primary. See CC/ROV memorandum 10086 3/9/2010, where the distinction between those who had Declined To State an affiliation with any party, and those who had stated an intent to affiliate with a non-qualified party is made. See also the California instructions on the federal voter registration form. The reason for the
    CC/ROV memorandum was that some persons erroneously conflate the two classes of registered voters.

    Footnote 17 misstates the conclusion of Libertarian Party v Eu which was that it was not incorrect to classify those who were placed on the general election ballot by petition independent of any party, as being “Independent”. The voters who signed the petition might well be affiliated with many parties, and the litigants in the case were candidates affiliated with the Libertarian Party which did not want the title “Independent” foisted on them.

    In California, it is possible for a candidate to secure the nomination of several parties. In 1948, Richard Nixon was the nominee of both the Republican and Democratic parties. The party label designated who was making the nomination, rather than the party affiliation of the candidate.

    Nowhere other than Elections Code 325 is the term “independent status” used. Moreover, Elections Code 325 specifically refers to the voter’s indication of No Party Preference under Elections Code 2151 and 2154. When Michael Chamness filed his most recent affidavit of voter registration, he did not indicate that he had no affiliation or party preference, but rather that it was his intent to affiliate with the Coffee Party at the next primary (February 2012 presidential primary, though it may be changed to June 2012). If the Coffee Party qualifies to hold a primary, Chamness will be eligible to vote only in the Coffee Party primary.

    Elections Code 2151 and 2154 (referred to by 325) are the sections specifying how the voter registration form is constructed with regard to party preference. The use of “voter’s indication” means that it is the marks made personally by the voter on the affidavit of voter registration (and signed by the voter to certify that it truthful and correct, subject to perjury charges. 2151(b)(2) provides that the form include a “No Party Preference” box where the voter may indicate that he has “No Party Preference”.

    Prior to SB 6 there was no provision in law for a “Decline To State” option, but it was the practice of the State of California to provide such a box on the voter registration form so that the voter could affirmatively indicate his declination.

    Presumably, when Michael Chamness filled out his latest affidavit in 2010, he indicated his party affiliation by writing “Coffee” or “COFFEE” in the appropriate space and did not indicate that he Declined To State.

    Under terms of Election Code 2151(d), on January 1, 2011, since Michael Chamness had not Declined To State an affiliation, but had rather actively indicated his affiliation with the Coffee Party, this converted to a party preference for the Coffee Party. I’m sure that Dean Logan could easily determine whether Chamness’s registration is tabulated under No Party Preference or Other Miscellaneous on the Statement of Registration.

    Elections Code 2154 specifies how the voter registration form is to be interpreted if various items are omitted (not shown, no visible marks made), including (a) Middle Name or Initial; (b) A State of birth; (c) An Effective Date; or (d) A Party Preference.

    But there is no evidence that Michael Chamness omitted his party preference (or affiliation since Chamness completed his registration before 2011). In fact, since he was disaffiliating from the Green Party, he must have actively indicated his new affiliation.

    So even if Elections Code 325 led anywhere but a dead end, Michael Chamness has not indicated “No Party Preference”, but has indicated his Party Preference for the Coffee Party, and he therefore does not have “independent status”.

    IV.B.3 It is a bald faced LIE that Proposition 14 did not confer new rights on all voters to voter for any candidate in a primary election for a voter-nominated office.

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