California Special Election Results, U.S. House, 36th District

On May 17, California held an election to fill the vacant seat in the 36th U.S. House district. All candidates appeared on a single ballot and all voters received that ballot. The ballot listed sixteen candidates: 6 Republicans, 5 Democrats, 3 independents, one Libertarian, and one Peace & Freedom Party candidate.

UPDATED May 19 with final unofficial results — for the five Democrats: Hahn 24.62%, Bowen 21.05%, Winograd 9.30%, Adler .56%, Goodwin .50%. For the six Republicans: Huey 22.24%, Gin 7.86%, Webb 6.14%, Bobko 3.61%, Eisele 1.23%, Newberry .36%. The Libertarian, Steve Collett, received 1.41%. The Peace & Freedom Party candidate, Maria Montano, received .51%.

The three independents placed at the bottom: Matthew Roozee .25%, Katherine Pilot .20%, Michael Chamness .17%. This result tends to support the arguments made in the pending lawsuits Field v Bowen and Chamness v Bowen. Those two cases, one in state court and one in U.S. District Court, argue that independent candidates, and members of unqualified parties, are injured by being forced to have “no party preference” on the ballot next to their names. The term suggests that they have no political convictions.

Before Proposition 14 was in effect, independent candidates, and members of unqualified parties, were permitted to have the word “independent” on the ballot next to their names. “Independent” is a much more appealing label. The last time “independent” was on the ballot in a California special election was in 2010, when the independent candidate for State Senate, 15th district, Jim Fitzgerald, received 5.89% in the first round and 4.99% in the second round. Also in the November 2010 regularly-scheduled election, California had three U.S. House candidates with the “independent” label. They received 7.7% in the 47th district, 8.4% in the 37th district, and 2.9% in the 23rd district.

The next round in the 36th district special election will be on July 12.


California Special Election Results, U.S. House, 36th District — 15 Comments

  1. I believe that “no party preference” and “independent” are equally damaging to candidates forced to be identified by them. (Neither is damaging to candidates who would chose them voluntarily.) I might be able to understand the distinction from a tactical/strategic point of view — “independent” might be winnable in court while real party labels might not be winnable. But I cannot understand the distinction politically.

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  3. An independent might self-identify as someone who is not a member of any party, but that doesn’t mean that the individual thinks all parties are equal unappealing. An independent is still quite likely to prefer the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, or vice versa.

  4. #3, in my opinion, the significance of labels (including the absence of a label) on the ballot is whatever voters read into them. When voters see “independent” on the ballot, they don’t think in the terms you are describing. In the context of the voting booth the terms “independent” and “no party preference” as essentially synonymous in the voter’s mind. The distinction you are making is pretty much academic. Again, that’s just my opinion.

    It is precisely the fact that Prop. 14 and SB 6 make party labels refer to the candidate’s preference for a party, and not a party’s preference for the candidate, that makes it unconstitutional to prevent candidates from telling the truth about themselves on the ballot.

    I believe that a statute requiring candidates in Chamness’s situation to say “Prefers a party that is not ballot qualified” might be constitutional. But neither “independent” nor “no party preference” is constitutional under any reasonable legal theory unless the candidate actually identifies with one of those labels.

  5. That is why I would want two boxes on the ballot. The candidate’s optional label, whatever is legal, and another box indicating the party’s endorsement. The idea is to give the voter as much information at the time of their selection.

    If the Justice Dept. has not precleared Prop. 14, how does the voting take place?

  6. #5, only four California counties are under section 5 of the voting rights act. They are Kings, Merced, Yuba and Monterey. No special elections have occurred in any of those counties this year.

  7. ALL voters are legally aware of what the labels mean.

    i.e. ignorance of the law is NO excuse stuff.

    P.R. and App.V = NO primaries.

    Replacement lists for vacancies = NO special elections.

  8. Perhaps repeat the 2010 general election gerrymander election stats in such gerrymander district.

    If there are 2 Donkeys then what will the poor suffering Elephants and all others do ??? Stay home for the special general election ???

  9. #6, if not approved, what happens to Prop. 14? I have been in contact with them through a FOIA and trying to find out when and if they will approve.

  10. In the last 41 special elections (14 congressional, 11 senate, and 16 assembly) prior to institution of the Open Primary, there were a total of 4 “independent” candidates (0.097 per election).

    In the 4 special elections (1 congressional, 2 senate, and 1 assembly) since institution of the Open Primary there have been a total of 5 candidates that were not affiliated with a qualified party (1.25 per election). This is a 1181% increase in the frequency of such candidates.

    The likely cause of that increase is the reduction in the barrier to get on the ballot from 500 signatures to 40 signatures (a 92% reduction). It is possible that weaker candidates will be attracted to running.

    But looking at the last 6 special elections where there have been candidates not affiliated with a qualified party, what is clearly evident is that such candidates do better when there are fewer choices. The candidates may have higher visibility, and they may attract some of NOTA vote.

    CD 15, 1995; in a 3-candidate race, the independent received 5.32% of the vote.

    CD 5, 2005; in a 12-candidate race, the independent received 1.11% of the vote.

    CD 50, 2006; in a 18-candidate race, the independent received 0.81% of the vote in the special primary, and in a 4-candidate special general 3.81%.

    CD 15, 2010; in 4-candidate race, the independent received 5.89% of the vote in the special primary, and in a 4-candidate special general 4.99%. Jim Fitzgerald, the independent, had received 37.0% of the vote in the 2008 general election when there was no Democratic nominee. Moreover this district has a number of smaller cities (Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and Santa Cruz ) where a special election for a single district would not be on Page C37, like it might in Los Angeles.

    SD 28, 2011; in an 8-candidate race, the two No Party Preference candidates had 3.42% and 0.55%.

    Summarizing by size of field and the non-partisan vote:

    3 5.32%
    4 3.81%
    4 4.99%
    4 5.89%
    8 3.97%
    12 1.11%
    16 0.62%
    18 0.81%

    If we take 1/Number_of_Candidates, and the percentage support, we find a correlation of 0.89.

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  12. Voters had more choices in the less significant primary but will only have two choices in the more important general election. The general election is where someone gets elected and voters will only have two candidates to choose from. It will either be a Democrat and a Republican or two Democrats. No Libertanian or Peace and Freedom Party candidates to choose from. Proportional Representation would solve the vacancy problem by having vacancies filled from the list of candidates not elected in a regular general election.

  13. #12 It is a single process, with two stages, to choose one Representative.

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