All-out assault on democracy in California

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Christina Tobin, Founder and Chair
Phone: 312-320-4101

All-out assault on democracy in California

Two new bills in the California legislature would make it harder to register voters, and harder to circulate petitions for iniative, referendum and recalls. SB205 would make it illegal to pay people to register voters on a per-registrant basis. SB168 would do the same for people who circulate petitions for recall elections, or to put initiatives or referendums on the ballot.

In California, a political party can be officially recognized, and allowed to appear on the ballot, if it has enough registered voters. According to election law expert Richard Winger, “no party has used this method for getting on the ballot in the last 50 years without paying canvassers to get out on the street and persuade voters to change their registration.”

Ironically, Proposition 14, also known as the Top Two Primary, narrowly passed after a huge investment of corporate money. Prop 14 eliminated the easiest way for small political parties to get on the ballot — getting at least 2% of the vote for a statewide office in a general election. Prop 14 requires all candidates to compete in a single primary, with only the top two voter getters proceeding to the general election. Since the top two for statewide office are always Democrats and Republicans, this cuts third parties out of the process.

“After closing off one avenue for participation by passing legislation to put Prop 14 on the ballot, now the California legislature is conducting an all-out assault on democracy, trying to shut out third parties every way possible,” said Free & Equal President Christina Tobin. “Should disenfranchised voters turn to initiative or referendum as an alternative, the legislature would close the ballot to that avenue as well.”

The California legislature has passed similar bills twice before, in 2006 and 2009, which were vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Free & Equal is a nonpartisan, non-profit public-policy advocacy organization dedicated to election reform and improving ballot access laws in the United States.