Scholarly Study Boosts IRV

Chris Jerdonek has published “Ranked Choice Voting and Voter Turnout in San Francisco’s 2005 Election”, a scholarly article that shows that ranked choice voting (also called Instant-Runoff Voting) more than doubled turnout in San Francisco’s citywide election for Assessor-Recorder in 2005. Without Ranked Choice Voting, the election would have been decided with a run-off in December. Past data for San Francisco December run-offs (for relatively unimportant office) supports the author’s conclusion. See the article on the webpage of www.fairvote.org.

Alaska Ballot Access Victory

On February 9, a lower state court issued an injunction, prohibiting the state from removing the Green Party from the ballot until after July 2006. This almost certainly means that the same court will eventually rule that the definition of “political party” is unconstitutionally severe. Green Party of Alaska v State, 3AN-05-10787.

The existing law requires a party to either have registration membership equal to 3% of the last vote cast, or to have polled 3% for Governor in the last election, if the last election was a gubernatorial election. If the last election was a presidential election, then (if it doesn’t have the needed registrations) it must have polled 3% for U.S. Senator. Ironically, however, if it polled 3% for U.S. Senator in a gubernatorial election year, that doesn’t count.

The existing law is also somewhat irrational for basing the registration alternative on the percentage of the vote cast. Since there is always a much larger turnout in presidential years than in gubernatorial years, this means a party needs about 9,000 registrants in the two years following a presidential election, but only about 7,000 registrants in the two years following a gubernatorial election.

Cal. Supreme Court to Hear Prop. 60 Case

The California Supreme Court will hear the Proposition 60 case on March 8. Californians for an Open Primary v McPherson, S126780. This is the lawsuit over whether Prop. 60 is really part of the California Constitution. The voters passed it 3-1 in November 2004. However, its opponents claim it should be cancelled, because they feel the legislature had no right to put it on the ballot.

Prop. 60 says “A political party that participated in the partisan election shall not be denied the ability to place on the general election ballot the candidate who received, at the primary election, the highest vote among that party’s candidates.” Prop. 60 enhances the ability of California’s qualified minor parties to nominate anyone they wish for public office. Currently, no one can have his or her name placed on a primary ballot if that person has been a member of another party during the 23 months before a general election. This prevents minor parties from recruiting desirable candidates, in many cases. Individuals such as Cindy Sheehan who might want to run in a minor party primary are disqualified because they have been major party members in the past period. However, a loophole exists for write-in candidates in a partisan primary. Anyone, regardless of past or even present party membership, can be a write-in candidate in a partisan primary.

However, this loophole for minor parties has been blocked by another law that requires a write-in candidate in a partisan primary to receive about 100,000 write-ins for statewide office, or 2,000 for U.S. House. Qualified minor parties seldom have enough members to meet these thresholds. But under Prop. 60, by the literal language, a party that desires a lower threshold ought to be able to demand one. Assuming the California Supreme Court rules that Prop. 60 is indeed part of the California Constitution, the Libertarian and Peace & Freedom Parties are likely to sue to exercise their ability to adopt their own lower primary threshold.

The California Supreme Court must issue its opinion no more than 90 days after the hearing, so a decision is likely in May or early June.

9th Circuit Hearing in Washington State Primary Case Goes Well

On February 6, the 9th circuit heard arguments in Washington State’s appeal of the “top two” lawsuit. Last year, a US District Court had ruled that “top two” violates the First Amendment rights of association of political parties. The state appealed. However, two of the three judges seemed skeptical of the state’s case. They seemed to feel that if Washington wants to hold a “top two” primary, the state needs to convert to non-partisan elections, and keep party labels entirely off the ballot.

Secretary of State Relents, Peace & Freedom Party Back on Calif. Ballot

The Peace and Freedom Party was added back to the June primary ballot today, two days after the Secretary of State Bruce McPhersoner ruled the party didn’t have enough registered voters to qualify.

McPherson had stunned observers when he invented a new interpretation of the rule regarding ballot access.

Oakland attorney Bob Evans, the party central committee’s recording secretary credited Richard Winger with providing McPherson historical information on the law’s application.

Posted by Eric Garris

Secretary of State Relents, Peace & Freedom Party Back on Calif. Ballot

The Peace and Freedom Party was added back to the June primary ballot today, two days after the Secretary of State Bruce McPhersoner ruled the party didn’t have enough registered voters to qualify.

McPherson had stunned observers when he invented a new interpretation of the rule regarding ballot access.

Oakland attorney Bob Evans, the party central committee’s recording secretary credited Richard Winger with providing McPherson historical information on the law’s application.

Posted by Eric Garris