Editorial: Fix the law that allows Vince Fong to run for Congress and the Assembly at the same time

It’s common sense: political candidates should not be allowed to run for two (or more) offices at the same time. But that didn’t stop California Assemblyman Vince Fong from putting his name on the March primary ballot twice: first for re-election to the Assembly and then for the congressional seat recently vacated by the former House speaker. , Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield).

Last week, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled that, despite common sense, Fong can remain in both races because the state law prohibiting candidates from running for “more than one office in the same election” is outdated.

Although California Secretary of State Shirley Weber has said her office will appeal the decision, the next logical move is for the Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom to update state law and make it very clear for future elections that candidates can run for a single charge at a time.

For good reason. Allowing people to seek multiple offices at once can confuse voters and undermine confidence in the electoral system. One person can hold one office at a time, so if a candidate wins in more than one race, the community will be left without representation until a special election can be scheduled to fill the vacant seat. And special elections are expensive for taxpayers and tend to have very low electoral turnoutwhich is not ideal for a healthy democracy.

A candidate running for office seemed to be established law in California. However, in 2010, California voters changed the state’s primary system, eliminating party nominations in favor of a top-two system in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, compete in the second round. return of November.

The state did not update election code language to reflect the change. Judge Shelleyanne WL Chang said the law prohibiting people from running for more than one office applies only to the old primary system and therefore Fong is free to appear twice on the March 5 ballot.

Still, Chang wrote, the ruling “may cause voter confusion and disenfranchise voters if Fong is ultimately elected to both offices but does not retain one.” She went on to say that “it somewhat defies common sense to find that the law allows a candidate to run for two offices during the same election,” but she said she was forced to interpret the law as it was written by the Legislature. .

Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) said she intends to introduce a bill to clear up this mess. There may be special circumstances in which a candidate may be allowed to make a last-minute change to the office they are running for, but no candidate should be allowed to run for two seats at once, Ella Carrillo said. in a sentence. This should be a simple bipartisan solution to the election code, and the sooner lawmakers clarify the rule, the better.

Of course, this could have been avoided if McCarthy had not announced his resignation so late. The former president, who was removed from the leadership position he coveted after just nine months in office, announced in early December that he would leave office at the end of the month. That left little time for candidates to make the decision to apply for the now open position.

Fong, who once worked as McCarthy’s district director, initially declined to enter the race and instead filed to run for re-election to his seat in the 32nd Assembly District. Days later, after another front-runner, state Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), dropped out, Fong changed his mind and filed paperwork to run for McCarthy’s 20th Congressional District seat. At that time, the deadline to withdraw from the Assembly race had passed; Fong is the only candidate on the ballot for that seat, meaning he is guaranteed re-election.

Weber, the state’s top elections official, decided that Fong was ineligible for the congressional race because he was already running for the Assembly. While state GOP leaders condemned Fong’s removal as a matter of policy, Weber’s decision was reasonable. California has little to gain by allowing a free-for-all system that allows candidates to run for as many offices as they want. Voters deserve common sense election laws.

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