Guest Editorial: California’s War on Third Parties

by Chris Kavanagh on February 10, 2014

Is California the most anti-democratic state of all the 50 US states?

I ask this question because—unbelievably—California’s traditional “third” (or minor) political party candidates have effectively been disenfranchised from gaining access to the statewide California ballot in 2014.

Since 2010, unlike almost every US state and the vast majority of nations around the world, California has imposed unreasonable—-and brazenly unconstitutional—-barriers that prevent third parties from fielding candidates for State and Federal offices during the election season.

This situation has resulted in an unprecedented drop in third party candidates attaining ballot status, including the Green Party, Peace and Freedom Party and Libertarian Party among others.

In 2010, a total of 74 third party candidates appeared on the California ballot for Governor, US House, State Assembly and State Senate among other State and Federal offices. In 2012—-shockingly—only 13 third party candidates managed to attain ballot status.

What has been the cause of this dramatic collapse in third party ballot access? One reason is cost: in 2010, a statewide third party candidate could attain ballot status by submitting a $150 filing fee. Today, that fee has increased by 2000 percent—-to $3000 per statewide candidate.

For the Green Party of California to field four statewide candidates would cost $12,000 total. For a party that rejects corporate money, this amount is an onerous hardship. In lieu of paying $12,000 in ballot fees, the Green Party must collect 40,000 valid signatures (60,000 as insurance) to place four statewide candidates on the ballot—an even more onerous hardship.

Meanwhile, the wealthy and corporate-funded state Democratic and Republican parties can write $3000 checks for each of their statewide candidates without flinching. This amount is chump change for the the two corporate-backed major parties.

Even Russia allows qualified political parties to field candidates without obstructing their access to the ballot. This situation is both shameful and brazenly anti-democratic.

But the two party monopoly that controls California’s government and political system have remained silent and complicit. In fact, the two major parties have enabled this situation

The above anti-democratic barriers imposed upon third parties are the result of Proposition 14—placed on the 2010 ballot by both Democratic and Republican party members of the State Legislature.

Outrageously, the original language of Proposition 14 omitted any mention of a $3000 candidate fee or having to collect 10,000 signatures to qualify a statewide candidate for the ballot. California’s voters were effectively hoodwinked when they passed Proposition 14 without knowing the facts.

The Green Party, Peace and Freedom Party and Libertarian Party have joined forces in a pending law suit seeking to overturn Proposition 14 as unconstitutional and undemocratic.

Meanwhile, the Green Party has launched a campaign to collect the 40,000 signatures necessary to place four statewide candidates on the June, 2014 election ballot. Any registered California voter can provide a signature. The deadline to submit signatures is February 20.

For information on this campaign or to submit a signature, visit

Christopher Kavanagh is a member of the Green Party of Alameda County and former party Alameda County Central Council member, 1996-2000

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