U.S. District Court Judge Keeps Paul Merritt’s Case, Concerning Censorship of Voters Pamphlet, Alive

In 2016, independent U.S. Senate candidate Paul Merritt sued the California Secretary of State for censoring his paid statement in the California Voters’ Handbook. The case, Merritt v Padilla, c.d., 8:16cv-606, is still in U.S. District Court. On January 10, the U.S. District Court called for a status conference on April 9, which seems to indicate that the Judge is not now ready to rule, and want further proceedings.

Merritt was an independent candidate and he said so in his statement, but the Secretary of State deleted his reference to being an independent candidate from the heading of his statement, and did not even tell him. The candidate only learned what had happened when his county election officials notified him. Still pending is the issue of whether his due process rights were violated.


U.S. District Court Judge Keeps Paul Merritt’s Case, Concerning Censorship of Voters Pamphlet, Alive — 1 Comment

  1. Merritt included that he was an independent as part of his statement. The SOS interpreted this as part of the heading, where he was listed as having No Party Preference. This was not an act of censorship, but simple standardizing the format to match the ballot. I really don’t believe that Merritt’s candidacy was harmed by the editing. Anyone would have identified him as a fringe candidate from the text that did appear.

    California should:

    (1) Switch presidential elections to Top 2 by congressional district (plus one from pairs of SBOE district). An elector candidate would have his party preference on the ballot, as well as his presidential preference (with permission of the presidential candidate). This would free up use of “independent” for the party designation of No Party Preference candidates. They might be able to choose from among, “Independent”, “Nonpartisan”, or “No Party Preference. All candidates should have the right to choose to have no party designation, just as they may choose to have no office/occupation/profession designation.

    (2) The threshold for party recognition should be reduced to 100 registered voters. The write-in option would be eliminated from party registration forms. New parties could qualify with a petition of 100 or more voters saying they are forming the party, and agree to change their party registration. Existing “Independent” registrants would be given the opportunity to choose a different party affiliation or to become No Party Preference voters. Candidates with a party preference would have a choice of expressing that party preference on the ballot or having nothing. Such candidates would not be permitted to have “Independent” on their ballot, as Merritt’s lawyer has argued in other cases.

    (3) Filing for state, federal, and legislative offices should be with the Secretary of State. This would also include submissions for the voter’s pamphlet. The form for submissions should be in a form that the candidate would comprehend would be part of a standardized header. A candidate should be able to proof his submission. Ideally, online submissions should be possible, which would permit the candidate to immediately see what their handiwork will look like when formatting is standardized.

    (4) Party endorsements should be handled by the SOS rather than counties, so that they would be available online in addition to printing in the Voter’s Pamphlet.

    (5) California should make it harder to appear on the statewide ballot. 34 candidates is too many (20 received less than 1% of the vote). The number of signatures should be increased, with the option of paying a higher filing fee. Alternatively, an extended filing period could be established if there are more than 13 candidates. The 13 candidates who submit the most signatures on a supplementary petition would qualify for the ballot. Any others would automatically become write-in candidates.

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