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The San Diego Democracy for America Meetup Group Message Board › Writing off the write-in option

Writing off the write-in option

A former member
Post #: 1
Voice of San Diego has an article today about an item on Monday's City Council agenda that would eliminate the write-in option for the mayor's office in future general elections. My councilman, Brian Maienscheim, voted (in comittee) in favor of eliminating this important option. The framing is that it reconciles the charter with municipal code. What it really does is make it harder for less moneyed candidates and for voters preferring someone other than the presented candidates to participate in the process. This is a local issue that motivates. Here's my letter to Mr. Maienscheim. Following that is the article as well as the link.

Dear Mr. Maienschein:
This is my first letter to you, and it regards the issue of write-in candidates. My understanding from today's article in the Voice of San Diego is that you voted to remove the write-in option from future mayoral ballots, while leaving it there in the primary elections. Would you please reconsider your position on this very important aspect of our local democracy. Would you please instead push to change the city's charter to conform to the needs of our local democracy as compared to the needs of the established politicians at City Hall. While subtle, I think write-in slots on any ballot are an extremely important part of the democratic political process and outweighs any inconvenient confusion felt by those who care less about democracy than about their political fortunes. Again, please reconsider your stand on this issue.


Here's the link:

Here's the article:
On C. St.: No more write-ins, V&E's delayed, the long-awaited NTC inquiry
Published April 1, 2005
Write-off. The type of write-in candidacy that sprung a populist upheaval in San Diego last fall and sent City Councilwoman Donna Frye into the national spotlight would be outlawed under a proposal to go before the City Council on Monday.

Supporters of crossing-out the write-in option say the move reconciles differences between the city's two governing documents, the city charter and the municipal code, that led to confusion surrounding the legalities of Frye's last-second candidacy. Frye abhors the idea, saying it would strip voters of the right to vote for the candidate of their choice just because her candidacy was unsettling to some.

"When someone who is not as well-funded challenges the status quo, it's always going to create a certain level of uproar. That's the nature of democracy," she said.

A write-in campaign of the sort run by Frye is allowed in elections for all offices in the cities and counties of San Francisco and Los Angeles, for example. It is also accepted in the United States presidential election and in San Diego County Board of Supervisor elections. Several congressmen and at least one U.S. Senator in the history of the country have been elected through write-in campaigns. One such fellow would be Frye's ideological opposite, the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, who won his first Senate term by write-in in 1956.

But, instead of reconciling the differences in law to accommodate write-ins in the general election like many other state and national jurisdictions, a council committee in February voted 4-to-0 last month to eliminate the write-in option from the general election, while preserving the option in the primary elections.

Frye entered the race between Murphy and County Supervisor Ron Roberts only five weeks before the November general election. Murphy was declared the winner after more than 5,000 write-in votes cast for Frye were discarded because the corresponding oval wasn't properly shaded. A lawsuit by Frye supporters hoping to count these 5,000 votes currently rests in an Orange County appeals court.

The proposed change would insure that only two candidates appear on the ballot. Frye said many citizens told her they wouldn't have voted if not for her campaign. Councilmen Michael Zucchet, Brian Maienschein and Jim Madaffer voted with the mayor to erase the write-in slot on further ballots. When the legality of the campaign became an issue, supporters of Murphy and Roberts -- the same two Republicans who had battled each other in the 2000 mayoral election -- argued that a write-in candidacy renders the primaries irrelevant.

"It was a bit of an embarrassment," Murphy said during a February hearing, referring to the legal questions that arose following the election. As is often the case nowadays when journalists come calling, Murphy couldn't be reached for comment.

"If there is an inconsistency, then fine, let the voters decide whether or not they want the ability to vote for a write-in candidate," Frye said.

The item scheduled for discussion Monday gives little hint that it would significantly alter the make-up of general elections in the city of San Diego. "Reconciling the city charter and San Diego Municipal Code regarding write-in candidates," it states, without further explanation. The City Council meets Monday at 2 p.m. at 202 C St.
A former member
Post #: 11
Thanks for your courage and your effort. I am totally in agreement with you.

Don Hess
A former member
Post #: 2
Round One: Back to Committee
This was encouraging to hear over KLSD this morning. Here is today's Tribune article on it:

S.D. council delays vote on write-in candidates

By Jennifer Vigil
April 5, 2005

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously yesterday to set aside an attempt to end the conflict between the city charter and municipal code over write-in candidates.

In the aftermath of the November election and Councilwoman Donna Frye's write-in mayoral candidacy, it was discovered that the charter limits runoff elections to the two top vote-getters in the primary, while the code allows write-in entries in all races.

Mayor Dick Murphy, after hearing from about a dozen speakers concerned about the change, said it was unnecessary for the council to decide the issue quickly.

"This is not something we need to rush through the city," he said. "It's not like we have a crisis before us."

The issue will be referred back to a council committee for more study, which will include examining other options for voters, such as instant runoff elections.

That would allow voters to rank their candidates on one ballot, eliminating the need for a runoff should one candidate not garner a majority.

Frye, who called the effort to reconcile the charter and code "a bit of an overreaction," said she was happy to have the issue kicked back.

The charter conflict was the basis of one of the legal challenges to Frye's write-in campaign in November's runoff election between Murphy and county Supervisor Ron Roberts, the two top vote-getters in the spring primary.

Murphy defeated Frye by 2,108 votes, after 5,551 ballots cast for her were tossed out because the voters had not filled in the bubble beside the line for write-in candidates.

The conflict also embarrassed the City Attorney's Office and City Clerk's Office, where officials offered contradictory accounts of how they cleared Frye to enter the race.

Clerk Chuck Abdelnour said staff members of former City Attorney Casey Gwinn told his office that Frye could participate in the runoff. Gwinn, who left office in December, said he was never asked to present a formal opinion.

The council's Rules, Finance and Intergovernmental Relations Committee approved the code change two months ago, allowing write-ins in primary and recall elections, but barring them from general elections and runoffs.

At yesterday's meeting, residents urged the council to reconsider the committee's decision, saying the fall election was an unusual circumstance that was unlikely to be repeated. Others favored a charter change, which voters must approve, rather than altering the municipal code.

Several speakers referred to the fall's topsy-turvy race, but Councilman Scott Peters urged them to look ahead.

"This is not about Frye, Murphy and Roberts," he said. "It's about making the law clear for everyone."
A former member
Post #: 3
I want to thank M.K. George for bringing up this topic for our consideration.
The reasons I gave when I spoke to the San Diego City Council in opposition to the ban on write-in candidates in a general or runoff election, item 150 on their agenda, yesterday, were as follows:
1. because write-in candidates have been a major part
of the history of citizen democracy in this country
from local to state to national elections for a long
2. because allowing write-in candidacies serves as
a barometer of public opinion and provides an
opportunity, when needed, for citizens to challenge
entrenched ower, just as happened in the S.D.
Mayoral election of 11/02/04;
3. because of the exceptional economic difficulty in
which our city, and our city government, finds itself,
and about which many of our citizens, as well as our
public employees, are seriously concerned;
4. because of the background of secrecy and less than
open government that our city had experienced over
time, and up until the 11/02/04 election;
5. because of the need to improve our electoral
processes, opening them up to even greater citizen
participation, particularly after the tremendous
amount of election irregularities in the 11/02/04 S.D.
mayoral election, including the 5,551 votes that went
uncounted in that election.
Therefore, it is my firm belief that, rather than
amending our municipal code to deny write-in candidates
the right to run in the general and run-off elections,
instead, we need to be encouraging increased
opportunities for write-in candidates to run for office in
the general and runoff elections by amending our City
Charter and by bringing such a measure up before a
vote of the people of this city.

Now, I believe, we must gather our forces to keep pressure on
the City Council by writing, phoning and seeing individual councilpersons
with our views on this subject and by sending letters on this matter to the
editor of papers like the S.D. Union Tribune. The latter, incidentally, came
out on the side of openness on both of the non-agenda item measures
before the Council, yesterday.
A former member
Post #: 3
Thanks for starting this thread. I saw the story on the local news and read the article in Voice of San Diego Diego. Writing to local officials is a good way to let them know that there actions are being watched by citizens. I will use your letter as a blueprint for one of my own.

The movers in shakers in this town were sufficiently scared by Donna Frye. They are taking an extraordinary measure to eliminate another close call. In the past, they allowed write-ins to continue. One might argue that their rationale was simply to give the disenfranchised the illusion that their voice mattered.

Write those letters folks.

Pete Hepburn
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