California doesn’t allow write-in candidates in its general election, so a write-in candidate is suing

An independent candidate who received a single vote for a U.S. House seat in California is suing the state over it’s top-two primary system, which allows write-in candidates in the primary but not the general election.

Theo Milonopoulos, a PhD student at Columbia University, filed to run as a write-in candidate in the crowded primary race to replace the retiring Rep. Henry Waxman (D), after missing the deadline to appear on the ballot.

Under California’s election law, the top two candidates with the highest number of votes in a primary election move onto the general election, regardless of party, and any write-in votes in the general election are not counted.

Milonopoulos filed a lawsuit against California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan on Wednesday in a U.S. District Court, arguing the provision severely burdens his rights to run for office, as well as citizens’ rights to vote for candidates they prefer.

“If I don’t like the top two candidates who emerge from the top-two primary, I have no choices,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Although meant to keep major parties from running a write-in candidate who didn’t make it past the primary, Milonopoulos said, the prohibition on write-ins can present problems in certain situations, including the death of a candidate.

Milonopoulos finished last in the 19-way race, with one vote, according to data from the California secretary of state’s office. The vote was not from him, though, because he was arrested the day of the election. Milonopoulos said he was arrested after he went to the UCLA chancellor’s office about a man harassing people and protesting against gay people on campus.

According the UCLA, Milonopoulous was arrested on a felony charge of resisting an executive officer after he made threats to the chancellor’s office staff and refused to leave.

Milonopoulos said he plans to file a lawsuit against the University of California system about his arrest.

Elan Carr (R), a deputy district attorney, will face off against Ted Lieu (D), a state senator, in the general election for California’s 33rd District U.S. House seat in November.

Hunter Schwarz covers state and local politics and policy across the country for the Washington Post.
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