California Doesn’t Allow Write-In Candidates: We’re Fighting Back

California Doesn’t Allow Write-In Candidates: We’re Fighting Back

As an independent candidate who received 1% of votes for a California Congressional seat, I am fighting the state over its top-two primary system

As an independent candidate who received 1% of votes for a California Congressional seat, I am fighting the state over its top-two primary system.

I am Marvin “Knife” Sotelo, a minister of the Sinagogue of Satan and write-in candidate in the crowded primary race for California’s 40th Congressional District. Being a ‘write-in’ means I applied to replace Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D) after missing the deadline to appear on the ballot.

In many ways, I’m a typical candidate for elected office in California. A former Computer Integrated Systems Designer, I’m looking to reform public schools, reduce the state’s mass incarceration rates, cut politician pay in half and create more jobs.

Yet a few things set my ballot apart. Being a Democrat candidate is not unusual, but being an avowed LaVeyan Satanist and Satanic Temple member is somewhat exceptional (and probably makes me the only candidate in the country to embrace both atheism and the tenets of modern-day Satanism).

You won’t be seeing ‘Sotelo’ or my colleague Steve Hill (who intended to run for a senate seat) on a Californian ballot anytime soon. In fact, no third-party or independent candidate will appear anywhere in the California general election.

All were eliminated by the ‘Top Two’ rule, a new electoral system ushered in by Proposition 14 in 2010. It excludes all but the top-two candidates in the primary election, creating a two-party race which ignores more diverse political groups and write-in candidates: a right Californians had enjoyed since 1850.

In short, a valid write-in candidate like myself can only move on to the general election proper if they/I are one of the two most popular primary candidates. a candidate must file a written statement declaring him or herself to be an official write-in candidate for a particular election. Write-in votes cast for someone who has not filed as an official write-in candidate will not be counted.

Theo Milonopoulos (a PhD student at Columbia University who ran for California’s 33rd District) filed a lawsuit against the Californian Secretary of State and the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder, arguing that this provision infringes upon his right to run for office, as well as the state’s citizens’ rights to vote for their preferred candidate.

“If I don’t like the top two candidates who emerge from the top-two primary, I have no choices,” said Milonopoulos in an interview with The Washington Post.

Although the provision was meant to keep major parties from packing an election with extra write-in candidates (who wouldn’t make it past the primaries), the prohibition on write-ins can present problems in certain situations, including the death of a candidate.

Finishing third in the Californian primaries with 1% of all votes (according to data from the California secretary of state’s office), I will not be on November’s Californian ballot. Only Roman Gabriel Gonzalez and incumbent Lucille Roybal-Allard (D) will be available for voters to choose from in California’s 40th District U.S. House seat: a narrowing down of electoral choice which needs to change in one of America’s largest states.

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