Court Upholds Prop 14 Bans on Write-In Votes, Unqualified Parties

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 21, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A California appeals court has refused to enjoin Prop 14, the open primary law that California voters approved in June 2010. Prop 14 critics claim that the court's decision signals the end of independent-candidate viability in California elections by demonstrating a preference for qualified party candidates.

Last year, California voters tossed traditional party primaries in favor of one open primary for a number of state and federal elected positions, referred to in the measure and legislation as "voter-nominated" offices. Among the now-voter-nominated offices? Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, United States Senators, and Members of the United States House of Representatives.

Opponents claimed that a Prop 14 requirement that candidates either state a party preference for a qualified party or forfeit party identification - effectively prohibiting "Independent" self-identification - is unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Under the provision, candidates not associated with one of California's six "qualified parties" will be identified on the ballot as having "No Party Preference."

The appeals court found that Libertarian Party of California v. March Fong Eu controlled the Prop 14 opponents' party-identification claim, and ruled that maintaining the integrity of California ballots outweighed an individual candidate's right to identify as independent or as a member of a non-qualified party.

Prop 14 opponents further argued that the proposition's prohibition against counting write-in votes on the run-off ballot contradicts the California Election Code, which explicitly provides for write-in votes.

The court disagreed. Relying on Edelstein v. Fado, which reasoned that voters' right to write in candidates is protected if they are permitted to write in candidates in at least one of two rounds of voting in a single election, the court found that the allowance of write-in votes in a primary election satisfies the California write-in requirement.

Do you agree with the court's decision, or do you think that Prop 14 compromises voting rights unnecessarily?

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