California Greens: Vote NO on Prop 14

In the California primary elections on Tuesday 8 June, voters will decide the fate of Proposition 14, a ballot measure to establish a “Top Two” primary system. If passed, Prop 14 would virtually wipe out Green and independent politics in the state of California.

Green Change has an article on “The Top Five Reasons for Californians to Reject Top Two Primaries” and allows you to quickly write and send a letter to the editor opposing Proposition 14 to your local newspaper.

Green Party US steering committee member Mike Feinstein has an article in the LA Times about “The Prop 14 Bait-and-Switch”.

Laura Wells, candidate for the Green gubernatorial nomination, blogged about her reasons for opposing Prop 14:

Prop 14 is one of those propositions that may sound good, but is terrible!

www.stoptoptwo.org/ gives you a lot more information, but in summary….

Prop 14 pretends to be “open primary,” but more accurately should be called “top two,” or party-killer! Only two candidates would be left in November, when Prop 14 would exclude all the independent, alternative political parties like the Green Party, Peace and Freedom, and Libertarian. Prop 14 would favor only Democrats and Republicans that are incumbents or highly funded. Even the Democratic and Republican Parties don’t like it because it would reduce voter choice within the parties. Mega-corporations, like insurance companies, with their huge campaign contributions – bribes actually – are the chief proponents.

Please vote NO on Prop 14, and spread the word as widely as possible to your California contacts, NORTHERN and SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.

Human Rights Examiner reports on CA Green state representative candidate Linda Piera-Avila’s view that Prop 14 will bring “corporatocracy through discrimination, repression and disenfranchisement.”

Recent polls have indicated general support for Prop 14, showing that the misleading advertising campaign by the alliance of political insiders and corporate interests behind Prop 14 has been effective. If California Greens want their party to survive, it’s crucial that they not only vote against Prop 14, but spread the word as far and wide as possible.

Dave Schwab


  1. That law violates one person one vote by denying the rights of Greens to vote for their candidates in general elections. If the judges weren’t nominated and confirmed by Republicans and Democrats, it would have no chance of surviving a constitutional challenge.

  2. Prop 14 would not “wipe out” the Green Party of California. Prop 14 could in fact save a Green Party that is being strangled by the current partisan primary process.

    Since 2004, the Green Party’s voter registration base in California has declined over 28% and now stands at just over 112,000 voters (during this same period, Decline to State voters grew 38% to over 3.4 million voters). This year, out of 80 Assembly district races, the Green Party will only run one candidate. Out of the 53 Congressional races, the Green Party will manage to compete in only 5 races. 2008 saw a similar picture for Green Party candidates.

    Why are voters leaving the Green Party? Let’s take a look at what it is like to be a Green Party voter. In the primary, most Green Party voters will see zero candidates for state office, because the Greens don’t run anyone. And these voters do not have the option to participate in any other party’s primary. In the general election with gerrymandered election districts, there is no incentive for the majority party to care about their votes.

    Thus to be a Green Party voter is to be locked in a perpetual cycle of “protest”. Unfortunately since the Greens don’t really run any candidates and with the way the major parties have gamed the system, it’s a completely powerless protest. Add in the fact that once the Republican and Democratic Party nominees have been anointed in the partisan primary, those nominees then use their leverage against the debate sponsoring organizations to exclude third party candidates, and the voice of third parties is relegated to being all but irrelevant under the current system.

    Now imagine Prop 14 passes. The Green Party can still run it’s handful of candidates in the first round of elections. Given there will be no Republican or Democratic “party” nominees to blockade third party candidates from debates, minor party candidates will very likely find their way into them (as they did in the 2003 Recall Election). Where the party either runs no one (as is mostly the case), or their candidate does not advance to the second round, the local party can then do something incredible. It can use the leverage of its voter registration base with the “top two” and negotiate around the parties core issues.

    Imagine the Green Party of Oakland saying this to the “top two” in a Congressional Race between two Democrats, “Look, we’ve got XXXX number of voters in this district. Here are our issues. You can no longer take us for granted, because now you need our votes to win this thing. So start telling us where you are on OUR issues, because we’re going to be making an endorsement and turning out our vote.”

    Suddenly it would make sense to register Green, because it would represent collective bargaining power in the elections process to implement Green values. The Green party’s power, rather than simply being locked into running a handful of candidates as a protest vote that has no power, would be based in its voter registration base. The party would have an incentive to grow that base to maximize that leverage and would become a real political player.

    When politicians have to compete for our votes, we win.

  3. Jason – first, the CA Greens have 5 candidates for assembly, not 1. They also have 8 candidates for statewide office, including a contested race for the gubernatorial nomination.

    Second, as ballot access expert Richard Winger has pointed out, parties remain qualified in CA “either by polling 2 percent of the vote for any statewide race in a midterm year (all parties get a free ride in presidential years) or by maintaining registration equal to 1 percent of the last gubernatorial vote.” So if none of the Greens’ statewide candidates get past the primary, they won’t be able to meet the first test, meaning the party will have a tenuous hold on existence.

    Third, Greens already can run in the primary and petition to get into non-partisan debates. Prop 14 doesn’t give Greens anything they don’t already have. What it does do is eliminate the party’s right to have a candidate in the general election, when far more people are paying attention. Restricting choices to two, often from the same party, 5 months before the election is most certainly not going to broaden the debate.

    Finally, your argument amounts to saying that GPCA can soldier on – but not as an independent political party; rather as a “progressive Democrats”-type pressure group. The Green Party has a strategy and platform distinct from progressive Democrats. We may disagree with them on some things, but we don’t try to pass laws that will squeeze them or other groups out of existence. It would be nice if others showed us the same courtesy.

    There are many good electoral reforms that deserve support; top two is not one of them, as voters’ rights and electoral reform organizations ranging from the NAACP to FairVote have declared. If you want more voices and more choices in elections, support real reforms like instant runoff voting, proportional representation, public campaign financing, and free and equal airtime for qualified candidates. Don’t take a poison pill just because political insiders and corporate interests slap a “reform” label on it.

  4. Dave,

    First, thank you for taking the time to respond. If I was incorrect in the number of Greens running for Assembly, I apologize. I cited one candidate, you corrected me by citing five are running. And, my larger point is that out of 80 total races, the Greens are hardly running anyone. Whether it be one or five out of 80, that’s a tiny number of candidates.

    As an independent, leading an organization of independent voters reforming the political process, I cannot sit by and allow 3.4 million independents to have their voting rights be subject to the whims of party bosses (even third party ones). I cannot do that particularly when those third parties who are opposing this reform the loudest (and being used, in my opinion, by the major parties) are hardly running any candidates in those races. What is particularly hard to stomach is that at no point have the Greens, Peace and Freedom, or Libertarians ever opened their primaries to independent voters.

    If it were the case that the third parties were running candidates in most races, and opening their primaries to independents as a vehicle to promote democratic reforms, I may feel differently about supporting Prop 14. But that would be a very different reality than we find ourselves in. (This is a dialogue I have had many times with Richard Winger, and I’m sure I’ll have it again).

    In terms of ballot access, I, and our organization, have every intention of pushing for a change in the requirements should Prop 14 pass. We are not anti-third party, we simply think the third parties have gotten Prop 14 totally wrong. But we should understand that ballot access itself will mean something very different under Prop 14. Any candidate will be able to run for any state office and get on the ballot with less than 100 signatures, and they can list their party affiliation. Ballot access for parties will primarily be for the Presidential Race.

    Finally, my argument isn’t simply that the GPCA can simply “soldier on”. My argument is that right now, the GPCA is dying. That has nothing to do with Prop 14. If the current voter trends continue (where the GPCA has lost nearly 30% of its voter registration base over the last 6 years while there are 1.2 million more registered voters and independent – DTS – registration has grown 38% to 3.4 million) the GPCA will no longer be a ballot status party in a couple of election cycles. The same goes for the Peace and Freedom Party.

    I would ask you to consider why voters are abandoning the Greens en masse. (I’m not trying to publicly humiliate you or the Green Party, but I would strongly urge you to consider that your current tactics are not building towards your goals and to reconsider them).

    Prop 14, if used tactically as the New York City Independence Party uses it’s power, could result in the actual implementation of Green ideas. This would not be “democrat lite”, which is simply voting for the lesser of two evils. This is using your voter base as leverage, much the way unions do, to negotiate with the political players to implement your agenda. Right now given the partisan system, this power doesn’t exist to the Green Party because nearly 100% of races in Legislative and Congressional Districts are so uncompetitive that the majority party doesn’t even need to consider the votes of anyone outside its own party.

    Finally, as someone who hails from the left, I would ask this question: How can the Green Party stand by while the voting rights of any group – African Americans, women, or independents who refuse to swear a loyalty oath to a party – are decided on at the whim of party insiders?

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