California's top two open primary system is facing a legal challenge from an Independent activist affiliated with the Coffee Party movement. On February 17th, former State Senate candidate Michael Chamness filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking an injunction against the implementation of the top two open primary in the upcoming special election to replace Congresswoman Jane Harman in California’s 36th Congressional District. Harman announced her retirement from the office on Monday, triggering a special election to fill the seat.
A non-profit consultant and Coffee Party activist, Chamness was a candidate in the special primary election for State Senate District 28 last month, one of the first elections to be held under the top-two system in California. Because Chamness is not affiliated with a ballot-qualified party, the legal scaffolding for the top two open primary system – namely SB 6 – prohibited him from stating his party preference on the ballot, nor was he permitted to identify himself as an Independent, as would have been the case under the old primary system. Instead, he was listed on the ballot as having “No Party Preference.” . . .
As he intends to run in the primary race for CD 36, the lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of SB 6 in that election on the grounds that Chamness has already been forced “to lie to voters about his political views” and would be made to do so again if he must state on the ballot that he has “no party preference.” . . .
The suit names California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk of Los Angeles Dean Logan as defendants. Coincidentally, Chamness and Bowen will also face off in the primary election for CD 36. Bowen has already officially declared her candidacy for the House seat being vacated by Jane Harman. As the complaint points out, Bowen will seemingly benefit from what some view as a double standard established in SB 6: while she will be allowed to state her particular party preference on the ballot, Chamness will be prohibited from doing so [Emphasis added.] . . .Read the whole thing.