SB 6 Grants the State Authority to Not Count Certain Votes
A funny thing happened when I filed a lawsuit to stop thousands of voters from being disenfranchised.
This is exactly why many Americans hate politics. Rather than engage in discussion and debate, many politicians find it easier to demonize their opponents, rather than debate the issues.
Let’s take the lawsuit I recently filed on behalf of four voters and two candidates. The issue is simple. If a newly passed California law (SB 6) is allowed to kick in, thousands of voters will be disenfranchised. Why? Because with SB 6, if you cast a vote for a write-in candidate in a general election, your vote will not be counted.
Here’s why our lawsuit really matters. If SB 6 kicks in, California will switch to a radical version of “Top Two” elections. In the primary (first round) election, all state and federal candidates will face off, regardless of the party they belong to. The top two vote-getters then advance to the general election.
Here’s what could happen if SB 6 also covered Presidential elections. Let’s assume Barack Obama and John McCain had been the “top two” candidates to qualify for the November 2008 ballot.
What if McCain had suddenly suffered a stroke and become paralyzed a few weeks before the election? Under SB 6’s rules, Republican voters would have faced a double bind. First, SB 6 would have banned the GOP from replacing McCain. Even worse, if voters had written in the name of another Republican, SB 6 would have thrown away their votes.
Throwing away votes is not only bad policy, but it violates our rights under the United States and California Constitutions. But how could the California Legislature have passed such an appalling bill? Simple. To pass last year’s budget, it needed the vote of then-State Senator Abel Maldonado. His price: Senate Bill 6 (SB 6), which was passed in order to implement Proposition 14.
Why do Messrs. Schwarzenegger and Maldonado want to throw away the votes of thousands of Californians? All we can tell you is that they aren’t too keen to tell us. Perhaps you might have more luck if you called Schwarzenegger or Maldonado.
Calling people you disagree with “girlie men” or “special interests” will not solve any of our State’s problems. But reaching out to them would be a start.
At a time when we’re facing a battered economy and yet another budget crisis, it’s never too late for our leaders to actually lead.
A Yale and Georgetown-educated lawyer, Gautam Dutta specializes in corporate, securities, regulatory/public entity, election, and voting rights law.