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We Filed Suit to Prevent Mass Confusion at the California Primary

By       Message Bill Simpich       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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If you are an Independent voter in California, voting is very confusing.

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Consider this. Most Californians vote by mail. There's the rub.

Elections Code 3006 makes it mandatory for any government form that is an application to vote by mail to explain that Independent voters have the right to request a Democratic, American Independent or Libertarian presidential primary ballot -- a "crossover ballot." Sounds good.

But ... not all of these applications provide this mandatory notice. Not even here in the supposedly enlightened Bay Area. Look at all these counties that got it wrong.

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You can see we're not talking about just one or two -- such as the websites for the Department of Elections of the City and County of San Francisco and the Registrar of Voters for Alameda County, which are the focus of the suit. We're talking more like 10 or 20 counties.

You also see the voter instructions for Los Angeles County saying things like voter registration closes on April 18 -- when the deadline is actually May 23!

Here's another problem: It's mandatory for these applications to let Independents know that they have the "legal right" to personally deliver their applications to vote by mail back to their county of board of elections by May 31. This notice often isn't given either.

Why not? The elections people may not want muddy boots on their nice carpets. Or they may simply want fewer Independents to vote. After all, once people have traipsed downtown to pick up their ballot, and see voting machines sitting there unused, they'll probably just wind up voting right there!

Many of the Independents (also known as "no party preference," or NPP) don't know they can ask for a Democratic ballot and vote for Bernie (or Hillary, for that matter).

It's so confusing that I changed to Democrat for this election so I'd be sure I could vote for Bernie.

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When you see this level of nonsense, you have to do something. I threw up my hands and did something that I could do. I got together with my friends. We filed a voting rights suit in federal court today on behalf of our left-leaning voting rights group for Bernie, the right-leaning American Independence Party of California, an Independent voter for Bernie, and a Democratic voter for Bernie.

Our Democratic voter plaintiff would like to have the option to be an Independent and vote for Bernie, but she doesn't want to take the chance given this situation. Some Independents are so nervous that (like me) they are re-registering as Democrats before the Monday registration deadline!

One article about this case, "Clinton's California Dreaming of Election Stealing," is not the message I want to send, but it typifies an understandable reaction to a situation that results in serious disenfranchisement. The two major parties toy with the Independent voters of this country. They run the boards of elections and they make up the rules as they please as they go along. The result is that every county is a fiefdom, run by each county election official in a different way. This does not inspire confidence in the integrity of the vote.

I'm not suggesting that crossover voting is the cure to the nation's ills. Our problems are a lot deeper than that. I understand why many parties ban crossover voting -- Rush Limbaugh used to delight in egging on his dittohead fan base to "knock off" the strongest liberal opponents in the opposition primaries.

Why do the Democrats allow crossovers? The Democratic Party apparently believes its own rhetoric and wants to attract Independents back to their party, given that the Republicans can no longer overtly sabotage their primary. Given that the Independents are not being treated with respect, this strategy is not going to work. Reasonable people throughout the political spectrum can agree that it's wrong to tamper with the right to vote in any way, shape or form.

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Bill Simpich is a civil rights attorney and an antiwar activist in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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