California Assembly Unanimously Passes Bill Easing Definition of “Political Party”

On May 15, the California Assembly unanimously passed AB 2351, which eases the definition of “political party.” The bill alters the vote test (that a group must poll 2% in each midterm year for at least one statewide office) by moving the test from the general election to the primary. The bill changes the alternate registration test by lowering it from 1% of the last gubernatorial vote (which will probably be approximately 110,000 registrations for 2016), to .33% of the total number of registered voters (which will probably be approximately 65,000 for 2016).

Assuming this bill is signed into law, North Carolina will require support from more voters than any other state, to get a newly-qualifying party on the ballot. The North Carolina legislature only came into session on May 14, so there is time for the North Carolina legislature to take up the pending ballot access bill, although there has been no indication so far this year North Carolina legislative leaders are inclined to do that.

The last time the California legislature eased the requirements for a newly-qualifying party to get on the ballot was 1929. The 1929 bill passed unanimously, and created the 1% (of the last gubernatorial vote) registration method, and lowered the petition for newly-qualifying parties from 3% to 1%. However, in 1937, the California legislature increased the petition alternative from 1% to 10%, mostly in reaction to the Communist Party having qualified in 1934. Thanks to Bob Richard for the news about AB 2351.


California Assembly Unanimously Passes Bill Easing Definition of “Political Party” — 3 Comments

  1. A voter or candidate’s party preference is an expression of personal political belief, and is protected by the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution and also the California Constitution.

    By preventing candidate who prefer a small party from having his party preference appear on the ballot is California banning certain speech because it is not popular enough.

  2. More than 3 candidates on the general ballot can cause vote splitting unless an alternative voting method is used.

    I suggest we put all the minor party candidates on an open primary with the major party primary candidates and independent candidates, and let all voters vote together in the joint primary. Some states already have a top 2 system. No party should have a right to place a candidate on the general ballot; they should earn it through the common primary.

    To appease the freedom of association folk, we should let political party leadership hold private conventions to name which candidates they endorse for their party and label them on the open primary. Maybe they can also charge convention applicants a non-refundable fee, awarded to their winner, but still let their losers run in the open primary for independent voters to vote on.

    Minor parties and independents should push for open primaries, not general ballot access.

  3. The main opposition faced by independent voters wanting primary access, as well as second largest parties wanting mixed primaries, is that the largest party typically does not want that change. It also has the power to make laws and count ballots. In most states, the mixed primary is proposed by the second largest party, but only after it has little chance of winning a general election or having enough vote counters.

    In Portland, Oregon, a poll prior to the vote indicated the voters were 1/3 for, 1/3 against, and 1/3 undecided. Once the votes were counted, a surprising 2/3 were counted against. The arguments for were specific, and the arguments against were vague. A similar law was placed on the ballot in that city or another at least 3 times and rejected by an alleged 2/3 vote each time, ruling out random chance.

    Election law change might not be needed. Independent voters often can infiltrate a major party, if they don’t mind wearing the name. Second largest parties also have the option of nominating a centrist, who does not match their platform. They also have minor party nominees to choose from. Whether party leadership can get their voters to do so is another issue.

    I’m still trying to research why California, Washington, and Louisiana succeeded, what affect the new laws had on legislature compositions, and what the typical lifespan is for mixed primary formats when they appear around the country.

    Activists planning initiatives should research the details and effects of other initiatives across the nation before spinning their wheels.

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