Padilla, Yee looking at 3rd party ballot access issues
Two Democrat state Senators, who are running for Secretary of State on the promise of free and fair elections, are looking into the new ballot qualification rules that are keeping third parties off the June ballot.
Under new election rules established with the state’s Top Two primary, it would take the Green Party of California more than 16 years to raise enough money to pay the filing fee for all of its candidates in the June primary.
State Senator Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who serves on the State Senate Elections Committee, was the first state legislator to express concerns about those ballot access challenges, and his office says it’s looking into legislative solutions.
“Our democracy works best when everyone participates,” Padilla writes on his campaign website. “As the state’s chief elections officer, the Secretary of State has the opportunity and the responsibility to encourage maximum participation of eligible voters.”
Yee: Opposed Top Two Primary from Start
Not to be outdone, fellow Democrat State Senator, member of the Senate Elections Committee and Secretary of State candidate Leland Yee of San Francisco also expressed his concerns about an elections system that stifles small parties.
“When the realities of the budget forced the top two primary proposal onto the ballot, I opposed it for a number of reasons, one of which was that it would unfairly impact smaller parties and make our elections less inclusive,” Yee told CalNewsroom.com. “Unfortunately, those concerns are proving to be true.”
In 2009, Yee was one of two Senate Democrats to oppose Senate Bill 6, a bill that included some of the implementing language for California’s Top Two primary. The bill was part of a controversial legislative package proposed by then-State Senator Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, who traded his support for a tax increase in exchange for putting the Top Two primary on the ballot.
Green Party: Welcomes Legislative Solution
“We hope this can be remedied in this year’s legislative session,” Feinstein said. “The Green Party would warmly welcome any bill addressing the relationship under the Top Two between fair ballot access, high filing fees and signatures-in-lieu thresholds.”
Friday, February 21 is the last day for bills to be introduced, a deadline that concerns small parties. Feinstein said, “At this point, we are less concerned with the initial contents, as simply getting something introduced by Friday, so that needed dialogue can occur.”
Yee and Padilla’s interest in the issue increases pressure on State Senator Norma Torres, D-Pomona, who chairs the Senate Elections Committee. Torres, who recently launched her own campaign for Congress, refuses to comment on the ballot access problems facing third party candidates.
Signature Threshold: From 150 to 10,000
Last week, CalNewsroom.com first brought you the story of how new ballot qualification rules under the Top Two primary are excluding third party candidates from the June 2014 ballot.
Under the old system, statewide candidates could submit 150 signatures from registered party members in-lieu of a filing fee. Now, the signature-in lieu threshold for small parties has jumped from 150 party members to 10,000 signatures from all voters, a 66-fold increase.
Minor party candidates, who couldn’t afford the filing fee, now are unable to pursue the signature in-lieu route, leading to fewer candidates and, in turn, fewer choices for voters.
Yee, Padilla’s Campaign Promises of Fair Elections
“I will be a Secretary of State committed to fair elections and expanding access to our democracy,” Yee writes on his website, where he also promises front and center on his campaign website, “Committed to fair elections and expanding access to our democracy.”
“Free and fair elections are fundamental to American democracy,” Padilla writes on his campaign website. “Uncertainty about the fairness of elections discourages potential voters from being engaged and going to the polls.”