California’s top-two election system –by its very design– excludes third parties from the general election ballot. But, as the law makes its debut in statewide races, minor parties say it’s undermining their ability to even field candidates for the June primary ballot. “I had planned to run for Secretary of State, but I did not because I could not afford the filing fee,” said C. T. Weber, a member of the Peace and Freedom Party of California’s State Executive Committee. “As a result of Top Two and its implementing legislation, I could no longer get the signatures in lieu of filing fees.” This year, the Peace and Freedom Party only has the resources to get a few candidates on the ballot. They aren’t alone in their struggle. All of California’s “third parties” are battling new ballot qualification procedures established with the Top Two primary, and they say that it’s a fight for their very survival.
Approved by voters four years ago, Proposition 14 ditched the traditional party primary system, where the winner of each party primary appears on the general election ballot. Under Top Two, all candidates appear on a single primary ballot. Then, only the top two vote-getters advance to the November general election, regardless of party.
According to the official ballot title and summary, Proposition 14 was written to “encourage increased participation in elections” and “give voters increased options in the primary.” The measure has had the opposite effect, making it harder and more expensive for minor party candidates to qualify for the primary election ballot. That’s because, under the new system, minor party candidates must collect a substantially higher number of signatures or pay a sizable filing fee.