While we wait for the carrier pigeons from 58 counties to carry nomination papers to the Secretary of State today for the assembling of an official list by March 27, we know that several legislative and congressional candidates are running unopposed on June 3. This appears to include the entire Assembly delegation in San Diego County, as well as in AD60 (Corona) and AD67 (Temecula). Can these candidates put their feet up?

Of course, with that lead-in, you’re probably correctly guessing that the answer is “no.”

Top-two changes the game for write-in candidates. Under the old primary system, parties were focused on getting candidates for every office on the primary ballot to ensure that their party spot would be occupied in November. However, since that is no longer guaranteed as only the top two–regardless of party–make it to November, a full field appears to be deemphasized.

Top-two eliminated write-in candidates from the November “runoff” election, something that was unsuccessfully challenged in court. However, a write-in candidacy is now much more attractive in situations where only one candidate files for the primary.

Instead of paying a $952.91 filing fee or collecting 1,500 in-lieu signatures to run a long-shot campaign for State Assembly, a potential candidate can wait to see if a favorite has nobody file to run against her. Then, between April 7 and May 20 (this cycle), a write-in candidate can make a simple filing, pay no fee, and collect only 40 valid signatures to be eligible to receive votes on June 3. Then, only one vote is needed (ostensibly, by the candidate herself) to gain a spot on the November ballot equal to that of the currently unchallenged favorite.

While I don’t recall any attention paid to it, we had six such races in 2012–CD37, SD03, SD09, SD33, AD15, and AD31. In no cases did the write-in candidate win. In SD33, Lee Chauser received 3 write-in votes (0.3%) and thus earned the right to have equal ballot placement next to Ricardo Lara in November (when Chauser received 38,671 votes, or 19.6%). In other words, Chauser obtained 37 more valid signatures on his write-in legitimacy papers than he did write-in votes in the primary election.

Perhaps there should be a minimum threshhold for such candidates to earn a position on the November ballot. After all, if something happens to the candidate earing the top spot in the primary (winning the lottery, getting run over by a bus, getting convicted/sentenced to a felony), should a candidate who received 3 votes really earn the office, or should it be opened to a special election?

Anyway, the point is that when the “official” candidate list comes out next Thursday, don’t take it as final, as in the solo candidate districts, it will be easy for a write-in to appear as an equal candidate come November.

Cross-posted in the Nooner.