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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Open Primary" Vote Sparks Suit vs. Voting Rights Act

At this posting, there are 15 comments on this article.

"... consider the astonishing fact that states like Georgia and Mississippi are covered based on evidence and election data that are more than 40 years old! When Section 5 was passed in 1965, coverage was triggered by data showing voter registration and turnout of less than 50 percent in the 1964 elections..."


by Hans A. von Spakovsky and Roger Clegg

Attorney General Eric Holder has undergone so much criticism in recent months that some in Washington are wondering how long he’ll keep his job. From the unexplained dismissal of the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party (and the stonewalling of requests for information from the U.S. Civil Rights Commission) to the mishandling of the Christmas bomber and KSM terrorism cases, Holder has made multiple, repeated mistakes that could have damaging legal and national security consequences.

But one group that has been unwavering in its support of Holder has been the liberal civil rights organizations that heralded his appointment. Now, however, even those organizations may come to regret Holder’s appointment, because his inept handling of a voting case could lead to the overturning of a part of the Voting Rights Act.

When the Supreme Court heard a constitutional challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act last year in a case brought by a Texas municipal utility district, the justices were able to avoid deciding that issue by ruling instead for the district on statutory grounds. But a new lawsuit filed on April 7, arising out of a bizarre Justice Department decision in the small town of Kinston, North Carolina, is almost certain to bring the constitutional issue back to the Supreme Court. This time the Court may very well find the statute unconstitutional.

The Voting Rights Act is a complex law that causes a great deal of confusion. Parts of it are permanent – nationwide prohibitions against racial discrimination in voting. Their constitutionality is not being challenged in this case. But what the citizens of Kinston are questioning is the constitutionality of Section 5, which covers only nine states in their entirety and parts of seven other states.

Section 5 was passed in 1965 as an emergency, “temporary” measure that was supposed to expire in five years. But Congress has kept renewing it, most recently in 2006, when it was extended until 2031. Section 5 essentially puts covered states in federal receivership: They cannot implement any changes, no matter how small, in their voting-related procedures until they are approved by the Department of Justice or a federal court in Washington. Also, state and local officials have the burden of proving that the changes do not have the “purpose” or “effect” of reducing the ability of racial minorities to vote.

Section 5 was an unprecedented and extraordinary intrusion into the sovereignty of local governments, but there is no question that something like it was needed in 1965. As Chief Justice Roberts said in the Texas case, discrimination was “rampant” in the South, where local officials engaged in systematic, widespread actions to prevent black Americans from registering and voting. Although this was illegal, many jurisdictions would simply pass new laws or switch to new discriminatory procedures if they lost a lawsuit. Section 5’s preapproval process was intended to prevent that widespread evasion of the law and court-ordered remedies.

Of course, as anyone with any common sense (but apparently not a majority of Congress) knows, we are a much different nation today. No one claims that discrimination has completely disappeared -- but there is no longer the systematic, intentional discrimination by state and local governments in large parts of the country. “Things have changed in the South,” the Court said in the Texas case. “Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal [court] decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.”

No one can rationally argue that local governments in Virginia and Arizona, for example, which are covered by Section 5, are so different from local governments in, say, Arkansas and New Mexico, which are not covered, that they should be singled out and... Read more>>>>


Click here for a column from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Click here for an editorial from The Washington Times.

Click here for an Associated Press article on the lawsuit.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Louisiana Senate Committee Passes "Open Primary"

Ballot Access News says:

"On April 28, the Louisiana Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee passed HB 292. It moves congressional elections back to the pattern used between 1998 and 2006. There are no congressional elections until November. All voters use the same ballot, and that ballot lists all candidates. If anyone gets 50% or more in November, that person is elected. Otherwise the top two finishers face off in December."

In presidential election years, of course, the presidential nominees would also be on the ballot on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The only December runoffs that would be held, if necessary, would be for Congress.

The Louisiana House of Representatives passed HB 292 on April 14.

The only state now using this type of system to elect its congressional delegation is Washington, which calls it the "top two." That state has the first round in August and the runoff in November. Louisiana and Washington are the only states that use this process to elect all of their state officials.

California's June 8 ballots will include Proposition 14, which would impose a "top two open primary" for the Golden State's congressional and state officials. The first round would be in June and the runoff in November.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Supremes to Decide on Mississippi Case

Ballot Access News reports:

"The U. S. Supreme Court has set a conference date of May 13 to decide whether to hear the Mississippi ballot access case, Moore v. Hosemann, 09-982. The case originated in 2008 when the Secretary of State kept Brian Moore off the November ballot because his presidential elector paperwork was turned in at 5:10 p.m. instead of by 5 p.m. Moore was the Socialist Party’s presidential candidate."

Since the Socialist Party is not ballot-qualified in Mississippi, Moore, a Floridian, sought and received the nomination-- by conference call-- of the Natural Law Party.[1] This was easier than his other option of qualifying for the Magnolia State's ballot as an independent.

The Mississippi legislature has recently clarified 5:00 p. m. on the last day as the deadline for submitting presidential elector paperwork.


[1] Mississippi and Michigan are the only states in which the Natural Law Party is still ballot-qualified. In 2008, the Michigan NLP nominated Ralph Nader for president.

NY Libertarians Back Redlich for Governor

On April 24, the New York Libertarian Party nominated Warren Redlich for governor.

Kristin Davis, the madam who provided prostitutes to former [Democratic] Gov. Eliot Spitzer, was expected to battle... for the nomination. But the Manhattanite did not show up at the convention...

Redlich also would like to run for governor as a Republican, saying Saturday he hopes to use his influence among some Tea Party activists to launch a challenge to GOP frontrunner Rick Lazio.

New York is one of the states that allows fusion, meaning that more than one party may nominate the same candidate.

Davis says that she will be listed on the November ballot under "Personal Freedom Party." She would likely take votes away from Redlich.

Lazio, a former U. S. representative, was the 2000 Republican nominee for U. S. senator. He lost to now-U. S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

New York's two U. S. senators will also be on the November ballot. Chuck Schumer is seeking his third term, while appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is running for the remaining two years on the term to which Hillary Clinton was elected. Both Schumer and Gillibrand are Democrats.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

School Boards Elected With a Minority of the Vote

Some of Mississippi's public school boards are appointed and some are elected. The members of Jackson's school board, for example, are nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the city council (in my view, all school boards should be elected, since they have the power to raise taxes, but I digress). When a school board member is elected, it's a nonpartisan contest, in which all candidates run in the same election-- popularly called an "open primary."

In 2009, the Mississippi legislature enacted HB 877, which applies to county school boards and certain municipal school boards which embrace entire counties. HB 877 requires that, if no candidate gets 50-plus percent in the first round, there will be a runoff three weeks later.

Mississippi is one of the jurisdictions covered under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act. Anytime the state-- or a political party herein-- proposes to change anything related to our voting procedures, the change must be precleared by the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia.[1]

Last year the state attorney general's office submitted a request for preclearance to the DOJ, which finally objected to the implementation of HB 877, asserting that the state has not provided the information necessary for the DOJ to perform its duty. Edward Still, who posted the DOJ's March 24, 2010 letter, comments, "The letter should be used as a case study in how a State can fail to carry its burden of proof in a Section 5 preclearance request."

The DOJ's letter notes that the state may either ask for reconsideration from the DOJ or file suit in the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Unless and until HB 877 is approved, the covered school board elections will have to be one-round, first-past-the-post contests, in which it will be possible for someone to be elected with less than 50 percent of the vote.

The DOJ's letter refers to a 1971 ruling by a three-judge federal panel. In 1970, the Mississippi legislature-- for the second of five times-- had enacted nonpartisan elections ("open primaries") for our state, county, and municipal officials. The DOJ had failed to approve or disapprove the law, and the judges did not have the authority to order its implementation. Notably, all three of those judges-- Charles Clark, Dan Russell, and Walter Nixon-- opined that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional (Evers v. State Board of Election Commissioners, 327 F.Supp. 640 [S. D. Miss. 1971]).


[1] Last year the U. S. Supreme Court, in a Texas case against Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, ducked the issue but left the door open for a future challenge. A new federal lawsuit was brought in North Carolina on April 7 against Section 5, and I will soon be blogging here about that case.

"Georgia Voter ID Law Upheld Again"

by The Associated Press | April 20, 2010

Georgia's oft-challenged law that requires voters to show photo identification before they cast their ballots has survived another legal battle.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Tom Campbell on Tuesday ruled that the law does not violate Georgia's constitution.

Critics have long tried to block the law, claiming it places an undue burden on poor, disabled people and minorities.

But supporters say it's needed to combat voter fraud. Secretary of State Brian Kemp says in a statement Tuesday that the ruling "is a victory for the integrity of the state's elections process."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Louisiana House Passes "Open Primary" For Congress

On April 14, the Louisiana House of Representatives approved what is popularly called the "open primary" for the state's congressional elections. The vote for HB 292 was 72-26, with a higher number of Republicans backing it than Democrats. If enacted, the change would take place with the 2012 elections. All candidates would be on the ballot on the first Tuesday in November; any necessary runoff would be held in December.

The Bayou State has used "open primaries" for its state and local elections since 1975. It also used this system for its congressional elections from 1978 to 2006, with the November/December schedule starting in 1998. The state restored party primaries for Congress in 2008, but the "open primary" proponents say that HB 292 will save the state some $6.6 million in every federal election cycle.

Jeffrey Sadow, associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, says that the legislators voted on the bill based on misinformation: "... on three occasions [state Rep. Hunter] Greene asserted that '19 or 20' states had an 'open' primary..."

This was evidently a reference to the party primary system that Mississippi and 20 other states currently use. The parties hold separate primaries, and each voter picks a party on primary day.

The reason this matters is that a representative or senator who is not elected until December will presumably not have as good a choice of committee assignments as one who is elected in November. In reality, Georgia is now the only state in which it's possible to have a runoff for Congress in December (U. S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss [R] won such a runoff in December 2008). Georgia is also the only state that has party primaries AND runoff general elections.

The only state now using a system similar to the one passed by the Louisiana House for its congressional elections is Washington. That state-- which calls it the "top two"-- has the first round in August and the runoff on the first Tuesday in November[1] (Washington always has a runoff, even if one candidate gets 50-plus percent in the first round). As Professor Sadow notes, the Washington system, which the state first used in 2008, is facing ongoing litigation, including a trial in U. S. district court in October 2010 (Washington State Republican Party v. Washington State and Washington State Grange).

It will be interesting to see how HB 292 fares in the Louisiana Senate.


[1] California will have Proposition 14, a measure for a "top two open primary" for state and congressional elections, on its June 8 ballots. Like the Washington state "top two," Prop. 14 would limit the November ballot to only two candidates per office. As applied to congressional elections, this is almost certainly unconstitutional.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The United States Senate

A commenter at Ballot Access News says, "The... U.S.A. Senate is one of the most ANTI-Democracy legislative bodies in the so-called free world..."

"Democracy” was a cussword to the Founding Fathers, who established a republic. Having a Senate comprised of two members from each state was part of the compromise that enabled the Constitution to be adopted. The small states wanted this provision in order to prevent the large states from running roughshod over them.

James Madison, often called the "Father of the Constitution," wanted the Senate, like the House of Representatives, to be based on population, but he obviously lost out on that.

Once the founders decided that they wanted one-third of the Senate to be elected every two years, they had to determine whether they wanted the Senate terms to be six years or nine years. They finally concluded that nine years was too long, and they settled on six years.

While the House has always been popularly elected, senators were originally elected by the state legislatures. The founders implemented this as the state governments' main check on the federal government; senators were considered to be "ambassadors" from the state governments to the national government. Effective on May 31, 1913, however, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution established direct election of senators.

For years, a single senator could stop a measure from becoming law, and the federal government remained quite small. But the cloture rule was adopted in 1917[1], and the Welfare State has developed in the years since.

That a##hole Woodrow Wilson, of course, was president when both the 17th Amendment and the cloture rule took effect.


[1] Starting in 1917, a filibuster could be ended by invoking cloture with a two-thirds vote of the Senate. In 1974, during the Watergate scandal, the two-thirds requirement was lowered to three-fifths.

Selecting Versus Electing

Here's still another of my exchanges with Jim Riley of Texas. It begins with a reference to a U. S. district court's ruling on Washington state's Louisiana-style "top two" election system.[1] Jim's remarks are italicized.


“… because [Judge Thomas Zilly's] decision was based solely on the facial political association issues, he never addressed the ballot access or trademark claims, nor did the 9th Circuit or Supreme Court.”

Correct… and the Supreme Court, in a footnote (#11, I believe), listed the as-applied grounds on which the Washington state “top two” could be challenged in the future.

“Are you saying that primary, secondary, and even tertiary elections are not all integral parts of the election process?”

I’m saying that party primaries are for the purpose of selecting the parties’ candidates for the general election, just as are conventions, caucuses, and other less democratic methods of nomination. For 30-plus years now, the federal courts have been moving in the direction of greater autonomy for political parties. The Supreme Court struck down the state-mandated blanket primary[2] in California Democratic Party v. Jones, and I’m convinced, based on the reasoning in that case, that the justices will also strike down the state-mandated open (or pick-a-party) primary[3] when such a case reaches them.

In Jones, Justice Scalia, quoting from an earlier ruling, said that political parties have “the freedom to identify the people who constitute the association, and to limit the association to those people only.”

Also in Jones, Justice Scalia said, “… [S]electing the candidate of a group to which one does not belong… has been described… as a ‘desire’– and rejected as a basis for disregarding the First Amendment…”

You make it sound as though the election process is merely a matter of citizens continuing to cast ballots until only one candidate is left standing.


[1] All candidates, including independents, are listed on a single ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the runoff.

[2] All candidates of all parties are listed on a single primary ballot. There is no second primary, and the top vote-getter from each party moves on to the general election, where any independent candidates are also listed.

[3] This is the primary system now used by Mississippi and 20 other states. The parties hold separate primaries, and each voter picks a party on primary day.

Hawkeye Primaries

21 states, including Mississippi, have classic open primaries, in which each voter picks a party on primary day.

Iowa is the only one of the 21 states that registers voters by party.

Even if you are not registered with one of the political parties, you can register at the polling place on the day of the primary and vote in that particular party’s election. It’s that easy.

The article fails to mention that a registered Democrat who wants to vote in the Republican primary may do so by changing his registration at the polling place on primary day. The same, to be sure, is true of a registered Republican who wants to vote in the Democratic primary (a voter, of course, can only participate in one party's primary).

It's my understanding that the system is the same for Iowa's quadrennial, first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. A voter who is registered with the opposing party simply goes to the site of the party's caucus in which he wishes to participate, where he changes his registration.

Other states have same-day registration for voters not already registered, but Iowa is the only state that permits a voter to switch parties at the polling place (or caucus site) and vote in the primary or caucus of his new party.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Give-and-Take on the "Open Primary"

This is my latest exchange with Jim Riley of Texas on issues related to Proposition 14,[1] which will be on California's June 8 ballots. Jim's remarks are italicized.


“There were no formal nominations [before there were government-printed ballots]…”

The parties in many places held conventions or caucuses to choose their candidates. In 1842, when the convention system became unwieldy for the Democrats of Crawford County, Pennsylvania, the party began using “primary meetings.” This featured secret balloting by party members and was the beginning of the direct primary election.

“After introduction of the Australian [state-printed, secret] ballot, beginning in 1888 and being universal by about 1920…”

Louisville, Kentucky was first to use the Australian ballot in 1880. By 1892, it was required by 3/4 of the states containing 72% of the people. By 1896, after its adoption by New York, the Australian ballot was used by 9/10 of the states with 92% of the people.

“… since the 1944 Smith v. Allwright decision [party primaries] have been recognized as being an integral part of the election process.”

The U. S. Supreme Court recognized that fact in 1941 in U. S. v. Classic. This ruling was prompted by a vote fraud case in the Democratic primary in a New Orleans U. S. House district (the Democratic primary was then tantamount to election). Hale Boggs, father of ABC's Cokie Roberts, was running against the Long machine.

Louisiana’s “top two” (“open primary”), incidentally, is part of the residue of that old one-party (truly NO-PARTY) system, in which elections were decided in the Democratic primary, with a Democratic runoff if necessary.

“… it is quite lawful for states to hold preliminary elections before November, so long as the final choice is made in November.”

From circa 1998 until 2006, Louisiana held the first round of its “open primary” for Congress on the first Tuesday in November, with the runoff in December if necessary. A series of federal court rulings has effectively said that that November ballot for Congress cannot be limited to just two candidates.

Thus the Washington state “top two” and California’s Prop. 14 (“top two open primary”), as applied to congressional elections, are almost certainly unconstitutional.


[1] This measure would abolish compulsory party primaries and put all candidates, including independents, on a single ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, would proceed to the runoff.

"Repeal and Replace!"

Here's the YouTube of Rush Limbaugh quoting from the column below.


by Doctor Zero | April 3, 2010

The early battle cry of “Repeal and Replace!” has become stuck in a few Republican throats. The thinking among “top Republicans” is that outright repeal of ObamaCare might be impossible, leading to frustration among an energized base that demands nothing less. There is also some apprehension that an uncompromising push for repeal will alienate moderate and independent voters in otherwise winnable states. Declaring repeal to be “impossible” is a self-fulfilling prophecy of American decline. A slapdash pile of graft and fraudulent cost projections, passed by a fantastically corrupt Congress that claims it couldn’t hear the muffled screams of the outraged electorate through the thick doors of their smoke-filled rooms, instantly becomes an eternal component of our lives? That will only be true if we make it true… and even then, it won’t be true for long.

One way or another, ObamaCare won’t last far beyond the point where your kids go bankrupt trying to pay for it. The American entitlement state is the world’s tallest, shakiest house of cards. We can find the strength and self-respect to repeal this garbage now, or weep in shame and confusion when it implodes, after years of increasing poverty and decreasing public health. I encourage wobbly Republican politicians to take a long look at their preschool-age children, grandchildren, nephews, or nieces during the Easter holiday. Make peace with ObamaCare now, and you give life to a system that has already declared war on those kids… and will utterly defeat them before they graduate high school.

It’s true that the GOP cannot completely dedicate itself to the repeal of one piece of legislation for the next three years. Instead, they should dedicate themselves to slaying the blasphemous, rotting leviathan that gave birth to ObamaCare, and whose tentacles are visibly squeezing the life out of the American economy. Big Government is a parasite that is more than willing to kill its host. Ordinary people are beginning to see it for what it is. They understand that something is terribly wrong with their government. Now is the time to explain the origins of this leviathan, and put ObamaCare in its proper context… as the final, absurd contortions of a philosophy that acts in complete ignorance, and sometimes outright contempt, for what free people can achieve. Behold the toxic wonder of a bill that forces people to buy a product that it will also cause a shortage of.

In its final years, the Left can only communicate with the thundering stallions of American prosperity using curses and whips. It will answer every problem caused by the taxes and regulations of ObamaCare with more taxes and regulations, until the stallions of progress die beneath the lash, with the last impotent curses of angry and frightened liberals ringing in their ears.

Republicans, you know how this story ends. You’ve seen its miserable ending all over the world, from... Read more>>>>

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Louisiana "Open Primary" Bill

At this posting, there are 24 comments on this piece.


From Ballot Access News:

On April 7, the Louisiana House and Governmental Affairs Committee passed HB 292 unanimously. It would convert Congressional elections from a semi-closed system, to [an "open primary"] system.[1] The first round would be in November. If no one got a majority [50-plus percent] in November, the state would hold a run-off in December. The author of HB 292 is Rep. Hunter Greene (R-Baton Rouge).

The Committee also considered HB 1157, by Rep. Cameron Henry. It would have retained [party primaries] for Congress, but abolished run-off [or second] party primaries. Both bills would have saved money. The Committee chair said the Speaker had told him to advance only one of these two bills, so HB 1157 did not pass. However, it could be revived if HB 292 does not get enacted into law. For more detail, see this story (scroll down).

Louisiana has used the "open primary" for its state and local elections since 1975. The state also used this system for its congressional elections from 1978 to 2006 but restored party primaries for Congress in 2008. The Democrats invited registered independents to vote in their congressional primary, but the Republicans did not. If HB 292 is enacted, it won't take effect before 2012, so the state will again conduct party primaries for Congress this year.

The Bayou State's adoption of the "open primary" relates to Mississippi's efforts to impose that system here. Five times between 1966 and 1979, the Mississippi legislature passed the "open primary" for our state and local elections, but its implementation was blocked each time. Meanwhile, Louisiana copied the concept from the Magnolia State and succeeded in putting it into effect over there.

Currently, Washington state-- which calls it the "top two"-- is the only other state that uses this type of system to elect all of its state officials. Washington alone now uses it for its congressional elections. As mentioned elsewhere on this site, the Washington "top two" is facing more federal litigation (Washington State Republican Party v. Washington State and Washington State Grange).

California's June 8 ballots will feature Proposition 14, a measure for a Louisiana-style "top two" ("open primary") for the Golden State's congressional and state elections.


[1} This is the popular name in Louisiana and Mississippi for nonpartisan elections, in which all candidates, including independents, are listed on a single ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the runoff.

Obey the (Natural) Law

by Sheldon Richman | April 9, 2010

Tax Day approaches, and I’ve been thinking of all the ways government bullies us, demanding we do – and not do – things — or else.

You can get into big trouble for not sending in a bunch of forms to the IRS by April 15 disclosing how much money you made last year. You can get into bigger trouble for not giving the government the cut to which it believes it’s entitled.

You can also get into trouble – admittedly lesser – if you don’t fill out and return that census form sent you without your consent.

You can get into trouble for hiring someone who doesn’t have the government’s permission to be within the politically defined borders of the United States. Even some people who claim to be for limited government like this idea — they favor tough employer sanctions and raids by armed government agents to break up such commercial relations between consenting adults.

You can get into trouble if you ingest a disapproved intoxicant or narcotic. Heck, you can get in trouble for ingesting some approved ones without permission.

You can get into trouble if you refuse to sell your land to the government at any price when politicians decide they want it for a public or private use.

You can get into trouble for putting a shop in an area zoned exclusively residential or vice versa.

You can get into trouble for doing some jobs without a government license, even if your customers are perfectly happy.

And, oh yes, soon you’ll get into trouble for not buying a health-insurance policy.

You can get into trouble for doing a long list... Read more>>>>

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Parties' National Conventions

From Ballot Access News:

"Both major parties recently set the dates for their 2012 national conventions. The 2012 general election is on November 6.

"The Republicans will meet August 27-30, and the Democrats will meet September 3-6. Both major parties will be able to comply with state certification deadlines, which in some states are 60 days before the election. Sixty days before the 2012 general election works out to September 7.

"The locations for these conventions will be determined in the next six months."

For some years now, it has been traditional for the party of the incumbent president to hold its convention last. Hence the Democrats in 2012 will convene four days after the Republican convention has ended.

According to Michael Holt’s book, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War, the Antimasons, a regional party, held the first such convention in September 1831. They nominated their 1832 presidential candidate, William Wirt, and only 13 states were represented.

The National Republicans– most of whom joined the Whig Party when it was later founded– met in December 1831 and nominated Henry Clay for the 1832 election.

The first convention of what is today called the Democratic Party met in Baltimore and renominated President Andrew Jackson in May 1832.

The Democrats held their convention for 1836 in May 1835 and nominated Martin Van Buren. They did not convene again until May 1840, when they renominated President Van Buren.

The Whigs held their first convention in December 1839 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They nominated William Henry Harrison for the 1840 election.

Today's Republican Party was founded in the summer of 1854. That party nominated John C. Fremont for president in 1856, and he lost to the Democrat James Buchanan.

The Republicans convened in May 1860 and nominated Abraham Lincoln on the third ballot.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Debate on the "Open Primary"

On June 8, Californians will vote on Proposition 14, a ballot measure for a Louisiana-style "top two open primary." This has fueled another round in my perpetual debate with Jim Riley of Texas on this issue. Below is an excerpt from our latest exchange; Jim's comments are italicized. Prop. 14 was triggered by state Senator Abel Maldonado, a nominal Republican who more recently has been nominated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to fill the vacant lieutenant governorship.


“Under Proposition 14 candidates from all parties and independents will appear on the June primary (sic) ballot where all voters… will be able to vote for the person they believe will best represent them.”

Yes, and since this is just a preliminary election, a voter will hope that his favorite candidate survives and makes it to the November ballot. If not, he then can only vote for the “lesser of the evils,” both of whom may be from the same party.

“… for these statewide offices, Congress, and the legislature, there will always be a runoff, even if one candidate happens to receive a majority in June.”

Right. So a candidate could get 100% of the vote in June and then be defeated in November– which is ridiculous. As I’ve said before, I’m convinced that if Washington state is permitted to continue using the “top two,” it will ultimately have to hold the first round for Congress on the first Tuesday in November; if the state wants to have a runoff for Congress, it will have to be at a later date.

“Parties will be free to support candidates in both the primary (sic) and general election, just like they do now.”

And what will happen when the two final candidates are from the same major party? Will the other major party endorse the “lesser of the evils”? And what will the small parties do in such a situation? For that matter, what will the small parties do when the final choice is one Democrat and one Republican?

“… [a candidate will] be able to take his case for election to all the voters.”

This will give an advantage to the big-money candidates, especially in a large state like California, in which paid media is already so crucial in campaigns. In order to have a chance to advance to the November election, a party-affiliated candidate will have to communicate with ALL the voters– instead of just his party’s voters.[1]

The top two vote-getters will thus have to finance and conduct TWO general election campaigns, which, again, will give an even greater advantage to the candidates with the most money. This will discourage people without big bucks from even running.

“The basic idea is to have an election open to all voters and candidates that then reduces the field…”

Propostion 14 (“Maldonado’s Folly”) would reduce the field all right– to just two candidates, both of whom may be from the same party. Why should the voters be limted to just two choices in the final, deciding election?

You say you wouldn’t mind it if more than two candidates could move on to the November ballot. But the reality is that you’re stuck with the California proposal, which would only permit the top two finishers to advance.


[1] In California's current system of party primaries, registered independents are eligible to vote in either the Democratic or the Republican primary for state and congressional offices; thus independents have more options than registered party members. Also, a voter may change his registration up until 15 days before the primaries.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

New York Libertarian Contest for Governor

From the April 1 Ballot Access News hard copy:

"The New York Libertarian Party has never been ballot-qualified, and it nominates by convention. This year, there is a vigorous contest between Warren Redlich, an attorney who is also running in the Republican primary, and Kristin Davis, who has the backing of Roger Stone, a long-time political consultant who was once a Republican but who no longer feels loyalty to the Republican Party. ... . A group whose gubernatorial nominee polls 50,000 votes attains (or retains) qualified party status. There is no other way to get that status [in New York]. The [Libertarian] convention is on Saturday, April 24, in Albany."

New York is one of the states that permits fusion, which means that more than one party can nominate the same candidate. In 2006, William Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, ran an abortive campaign for governor of New York. He accepted the Libertarians' nomination with the promise that he would stay in the race even if he failed to also win the Republican nomination. After making little headway with the Republicans, Weld reneged on his pledge to the Libertarians and dropped out of the race.

Kristin Davis was the madam who procured call girls for then-Governor Eliot Spitzer. She says that her ballot label will be "Personal Freedom Party."

If memory serves, Roger Stone was a consultant for at least one of Ronald Reagan's presidential campaigns.

Washington "Top Two" Lawsuit

From the April 1 Ballot Access News hard copy:

"Washington state started using a "top two" system[1] in 2008 [following a U. S. Supreme Court ruling]. A lawsuit is currently pending in U. S. District Court over whether the system violates the associational rights of political parties as applied, and also whether the system violates the U. S. Supreme Court's ballot access precedents, and finally whether the system violates the trademark of political parties that have trademarked their names. The case is Washington State Republican Party v. Washington State and Washington State Grange.

"On March 9, Judge John C. Coughenour [coon-our] rejected an attempt by the state and the Grange to eliminate the ballot access and trademark issues from the case. ... ."

This case is facing a trial in the U. S. district court in October on the associational rights question. The next court to hear the ballot access and trademark issues will be the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The fact that this litigation has not been settled could affect the voters' decision on Proposition 14, which will be on California's ballots on June 8. Prop. 14 would impose a "top two open primary" for the Golden State's congressional and state elections.


[1] All candidates, including independents, are listed on a single ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, proceed to the runoff.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Meg Whitman Opposes "Open Primary" Measure

The putative Democratic nominee for California governor is attorney general Jerry Brown, who served as governor from 1975 to 1983. Brown also sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976, 1980, and 1992. His father, Governor Pat Brown, was unseated in 1966 by a first-time candidate named Ronald Reagan. Jerry Brown is firmly straddling the fence on the issue of the "top two open primary."


From Ballot Access News:

On April 1, Meg Whitman, leading in the polls for the California Republican gubernatorial nomination, said that she opposes Proposition 14, the “top-two” ballot measure.[1] She said that she is favorably disposed toward some sort of open primary, but she opposes Proposition 14 because it would lead to so few choices on the November ballot. She specifically criticized Proposition 14 because in some legislative or congressional districts there would be November elections in which no Republican appears on the ballot.

Whitman made this statement in Chico, at one of her public campaign events. Her comments were in response to a question from the audience.

Click here for a seven-minute video of a debate on Proposition 14.


[1] In this Louisiana-style election system, all candidates, including independents, run in the same election. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, move on to the runoff. Louisiana and Washington are now the only two states that use this system to elect all of their state officials, and Washington alone uses it for its congressional elections. The California proposal is for state and congressional elections.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Pro-Life Measure Makes Mississippi Ballot

At this posting, there are 123 comments on this article. Since the implementation of Mississippi's initiative process in 1993, only two initiatives have previously qualified for the ballot. Both-- in 1995 and 1999-- pertained to term limits, and both were defeated. ~~ SR


by Elizabeth Crisp

Abortion foes have secured enough signatures on a petition to get an initiative on the 2011 ballot to define life as beginning at the point of conception.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann announced today that petitioners gathered 106,325 signatures— well over the 89,285 needed to get the initiative on the general election ballot.

Voters will decide whether a “person” should be defined as any life “from the point of fertilization, cloning or equivalent thereof.”

“We are trying to define — in the law — where life begins,” said Les Riley, a Pontotoc resident who spearheaded the petition efforts.[1] “A person is a person, no matter how small.”

The personhood petition is the second voter-led effort that has secured enough signatures to appear on the November 2011 ballot. The other seeks to require voters to show identification at the polls in Mississippi.


[1] Riley was the Constitution Party's 2007 nominee for state commissioner of agriculture.