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A member of the "Coffee Party" has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to block the state from using the rules for the new top-two primary system in the upcoming 36th Congressional District special election.

Michael Chamness, who plans to run to replace departing Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, argues the new rules are unfair and unconstitutional because they will force him to state he has "no party preference" on the ballot.

Senate Bill 6, the law that outlines the rules for the new primary system approved by voters in June 2010, allows candidates to list that they prefer a state-recognized political party or put "no party preference" on the ballot. Under the previous system, candidates who identified with minor parties not qualified for the ballot could run as an "Independent."

"It's unjust to discriminate against a candidate like myself just because I'm not a Democrat or Republican," Chamness said in a statement. "SB 6 does a grave disservice to voters because it forces false information to be printed on the ballot."

Chamness, a candidate in last week's 28th Senate District special election, hasn't been shy about his opposition to the new system. He dubbed his election night gathering last Tuesday "The Prop. 14 Really Sucks Victory Party."

He had previously sought to join a legal challenge against Proposition 14 based on the same argument working its way through the state appeals court. The courts did not grant his motion to intervene, Gautam Dutta, attorney for both cases, confirmed.

The race to replace Harman will be the state's first congressional election conducted under Proposition 14, which replaced party primaries with a system in which two candidates who win the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, advance to a run-off election.

The lawsuit and injunction request were filed late last week in U.S. District Court. A hearing has been set for March 21 in Los Angeles. Dutta said plaintiffs held off on their announcement to give fair notice to 36th Congressional District candidate Debra Bowen, who is named in the suit because she will oversee the election and Proposition 14 implementation in her capacity as state elections chief.

A PDF of the full complaint is below. See the injunction request after the jump.



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