California Senate Elections Committee Passes Bill to Remove Write-in Space on General Election Ballots for Congress and State Office
Source: Ballot Access News

On January 10, the California Senate Elections Committee unanimously passed AB 1413, which makes several changes to the “top-two” system. The worst change is that write-in space will no longer be printed on general election ballots for Congress and partisan state office.

California will almost certainly join Louisiana as one of only two states that has ever had write-in space on general election ballots, but then eliminated them, and now doesn’t permit them. Assuming the bill passes, there will be six states that ban write-ins in the general election. Four of them, Nevada, Hawaii, South Dakota and Oklahoma, have never permitted write-ins.

The Ohio legislature banned write-ins in 1947, but in 1968 a 3-judge U.S. District Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution protects write-ins, and restored them in Ohio. The Florida legislature banned write-ins in 1977, but in 1979 the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the State Constitution protects them, and restored them.

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2) Comment by Bev Harris:

By the way, did you know that California has just passed a bill banning write-ins? That’s important, because in 2004, a California mayoral candidate, Donna Frye, won by garnering over 170,000 write in votes. The win was then stripped from her on a technicality, which clearly violated voter intent. And of course, in Alaska a write in candidate, Lisa Murkowski, won a U.S. Senate seat. Some contend that by removing write-in capability, California is violating its Constitution.

California Constitution says: “All registered voters otherwise qualified to vote shall be guaranteed the unrestricted right to vote for the candidate of their choice in all state and congressional elections.”

They hooked their write-in ban to their new way of doing a primary, the top-two system, which apparently precludes write ins. But then they go ahead and get rid of write-ins on the general election ballot as well.

This has another bad effect: Theoretically it would be possible to mount a write-in campaign that circumvents voting machines altogether, in locations with paper ballots. Now, in California, that’s out.


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