On March 8, the California Supreme Court heard arguments in Californians for an Open Primary v McPherson. The issue is whether Prop. 60 (passed overwhelmingly by the voters in November 2004) is validly part of the California Constitution. The legislature put it on the ballot. It says that political parties have a right to have the person who receives the most votes in their primary, placed on the November ballot. The problem is that the legislature put it on the ballot with an unrelated subject, providing that if the state sells surplus property, the proceeds should be used to reduce state debt. Before the November 2004 election, the State Court of Appeals cut the proposal into two ballot questions, one on political party rights, and one on the sale of surplus property.
The attorney for foes of Prop. 60 asked the Court to invalidate it. The State Constitution does not require that legislative constitutional amendments only deal with a single subject. But the Constitution does require the legislature to write a separate ballot measure for every section of the Constitution that is being amended, a provision that has been ignored for decades.
At the hearing, most members of the California Supreme Court seemed inclined to disagree with the State Court of Appeals. However, it is far from clear that the California Supreme Court will invalidate Prop. 60, even if the Supreme Court finds that it was a mistake to have put it on the ballot in the first place.
Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, the only member of Congress who has been willing to introduce legislation outlawing restrictive ballot access laws in the past 10 years, was easily re-nominated in the Republican primary on March 7. He polled 77.7% of the vote; his opponent, Cynthia Sinatra (daughter-in-law of the famous singer) got 22.3%. Sinatra based her campaign on support for President Bush’s Iraq policy, which Paul opposes. Paul is 70 and was the Libertarian Party nominee for president in 1988.
Bob Kiss, Progressive Party nominee for Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, was elected on March 7. The election is partisan. The outgoing Mayor was a Democrat, but he didn’t run for re-election. Kiss is now a Progressive Party state legislator. The election was conducted using Instant-Runoff Voting. The first choice votes were Kiss 39%, Democrat 31%, Republican 26%, two independents together, 4%. After factoring in the 2nd choice votes from the voters who had made the Republican and one of the independents their first choices, the final tally was Kiss 54%, the Democrat 46%. This was the first partisan election conducted in the U.S. with Instant-Runoff Voting since the 1970’s.
The Labor Party now expects to submit its petition for party status in South Carolina by mid-April. The petition needs 10,000 valid signatures. The party had originally expected to be done by the end of January, but the process is taking longer than anticipated.
California will hold a special congressional election on April 11, in the 50th district, to fill the seat left vacant when Congressman Randy Cunningham resigned. Eighteen candidates are running: 14 Republicans, 2 Democrats, 1 Libertarian (Paul King) and one independent (William Griffith). If no one gets 50% on April 11, there will be a run-off between the leading Democrat, the leading Republican, the Libertarian and the independent on June 6.
The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled Igartua v U.S. for its conference of March 17 (05-650). The issue is whether U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico have a constitutional right to vote for president. The case highlights an important contradiction in the U.S. Constitution and federal and state laws concerning presidential elections. On the one hand, Article One plainly says that the states choose presidential electors. Therefore, no citizen of the U.S. is voting for president in November of presidential election years. State legislatures in all 50 states have granted the voters the right to choose that state’s presidential electors. With this understanding of our presidential election system, plainly U.S. citizens living in U.S. territories have no claim on a right to vote for president.
On the other hand, federal campaign laws, and various state ballot access laws, all presume that the voters are voting for president in November. There are no federal or state campaign finance laws relating to candidates for presidential elector. In theory then, anyone running for presidential elector is free to raise and spend as much money as he or she wishes, and anyone is free to donate an unlimited amount of money.
Some states have ballot access laws that purport to outlaw anyone running in a major party presidential primary and then appearing on a November ballot as an independent presidential candidate. Yet if the true election in November is for presidential elector, these laws make no sense. These laws purport to ban “sore losers”, yet the candidates for presidential electors didn’t run in any presidential primary earlier, and therefore they aren’t “sore losers”.
There is some indication that the U.S. Supreme Court is interested in these contradictions, and might just decide to hear the case. Conference results won’t be released to the public until March 20 at the earliest.