|This issue was originally printed on white paper.|
On January 31, the Wyoming House of Representatives passed HB 179, by Rep. Mike Massie (D-Laramie). It cuts the number of signatures needed for a new party from 8,000 signatures, to 5,000. It also sets the deadline at June 1 (existing law is May 1) and says the petition can start to circulate 14 months before it is due (instead of 12 months under current law). The vote was 40-19.
Traditionally, the Wyoming Senate has been friendlier to minor parties than the Wyoming House, so the bill is expected to pass the Senate also. Since Wyoming only has 240,000 registered voters, completion of the party petition of 8,000 signatures has always been a major problem for any group attempting it, so HB 179 represents a major advance.
Although many Wyoming residents worked on the bill, Sydney Spiegel and Derrick Parkhurst of the Labor Party, and Bill Strickland of the Reform Party, worked especially hard, and the bill wouldn't exist without their efforts.
The Utah Elections Director, Kelleen Potter, wrote SB 78 and managed to get it passed by the Utah Senate State & Local Affairs Committee on January 28. It increases the petition requirement for a new party from 500 signatures to 5,000. It also makes it more difficult for a party to remain on the ballot, and changes the petition deadline from March 1 to February 15. Potter did not consult with any of the political parties which are affected by the bill. Her original version called for 15,000 signatures, but the Senate committee lowered it to 5,000.
On February 7, on a voice vote, the Senate defeated a motion to lower the number of signatures to 2,000. The bill is virtually certain to pass the Senate on Monday, February 10.
The bill does not change the number of votes needed for a party to remain on the ballot, which is 2% of the total vote cast in the state for U.S. House of Representatives. However, existing law permits a party to aggregate the vote for all of its candidates for the U.S. House, or all of the vote for its State Senate, or State House candidates, toward the goal of 2% of the statewide congressional vote. The bill changes the law so that only a single candidate's vote could count, toward the 2% vote.
Although it is true that 500 signatures is comparatively very easy, there are flaws in the existing law which partially offset the low requirement. Utah law requires that the petition state that the signers "are or desire to become members" of the party circulating the petition. Similar language has been held unconstitutional in Kentucky, New Mexico, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia. No one has ever bothered to sue Utah over this wording, since the number of signatures has been so low. In the future, Utah may face problems with the petition wording, unless the bill is amended to change the wording.
Also, the petition deadline is already very early, and the new February 15 deadline may face constitutional challenges in the future.
Activists hope to raise these, and other, points, when SB 78 has a hearing in the House.
On January 23, HB 1168 passed the House State Affairs Committee; on February 7 it passed the House Appropriations Committee. It provides that a group with at least 1,000 registered members, or which submits 10,000 signatures, would be a qualified party, entitled to nominate by convention for all partisan office.
On January 17, the Virginia Senate passed SB 667, which would authorize write-in votes for president. The vote was 40-0. The sponsor is Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke).
Virginia has been one of three states which permits write-in votes generally, yet not for president. Previous bills to authorize write-ins for president have failed in the Virginia legislature. The difference this time is probably that Ralph Nader failed to get on the ballot in Virginia, and the fact that his supporters were barred from even casting a write-in vote, gathered some media attention.
Other Virginia election law bills have been defeated. SB 693, which would have provided that party labels be placed on Virginia general election ballots, was defeated on January 31 in the Senate, 14-26. HB 2010, which would have lowered the vote test for parties from 10% to 3%, and HB 2003, which would have lowered the number of signatures for third party and independent candidates, failed in the House Elections Committee.
On February 6, a hearing was held in the North Dakota Senate Government Committee on SB 2368, which eases the requirement for a party to remain on the ballot. No one criticized the bill, which expands the definition of "party" from one which polled 5% for Governor, to one which polled 5% for President or Governor. The bill also abolishes the law which says that the Democratic and Republican Parties are automatically qualified, no matter how few votes they poll. If the bill passes, the Reform Party will be "qualified", since Ross Perot polled 12% for president.
HB 1020, which would have outlawed fusion in South Dakota, passed the House on January 22, but was defeated in the Senate State Affairs Committee on January 29, after Libertarian Jim Christen noticed the bill and rallied opposition to it.
On January 17, Illinois Governor Jim Edgar signed HB 444, which abolishes the device (sometimes called a "party circle" or "party lever") which makes it possible for voters to vote for all candidates of one party, with a single mark on the ballot. The bill was actually passed by the outgoing legislature on its last day. Republicans sought the change.
The change will probably benefit minor party candidates for offices near the bottom of the ballot (such as legislature and county office), since voters will now need to look at each portion of the ballot, and are therefore more likely to notice such candidates.
On February 6, Montana Governor Marc Racicot signed HB 26, which revises access for presidential candidates to the presidential primary. The new law requires a candidate either to have qualified for matching funds, or to submit 500 signatures. The old law had required either 2,000 signatures, or that the candidate be "recognized" by major news media.
(See also this update.)
The Oregon Director of Elections has asked the legislature to pass HB 2203, which increases the requirements for a party to remain on the ballot somewhat. Current law requires a party to both: (1) poll 1% of the vote for any statewide office; and (2) maintain registration membership of at least .05%. SB 2203 would increase the registration test to one-tenth of 1% of the last gubernatorial vote. If the bill passes, the registration requirement would rise from 947 members, to 1,219. The rationale for the bill is that it will be easier for a party to know in advance, what the specific requirement will be.
(See also this update.)
A New Hampshire House Committee heard testimony on HB 417 on February 4. A vote is expected in a few days. It would alter the definition of "political party" from one which polled 3% for Governor, to one which polled 3% for any statewide office. If the bill were to pass, the Libertarian and Reform Parties would be "qualified".
Secretary of State Bill Gardiner testified against the bill; all other testimony was favorable. Gardiner tried to persuade the committee that New Hampshire is already very tolerant. He ignored the fact that New Hampshire is one of only eleven states with no qualified third party.
1. Alabama: Rep. Warren Minnifield (D-Fairfield) expects to introduce a bill to lower the vote test for a party to remain qualified, from 20%, to 10%.
2. Arizona: Rep. Carmine Cardamone (D-Tucson) expects to introduce a bill to ease the independent candidate procedure. Ever since a 1993 change, which requires independent candidates to submit a petition signed by 3% of the number of registered independent voters (and provides that no one but independents can sign), no independent candidates have managed to qualify for statewide or congressional office in Arizona. The bill will provide that any registered voter can sign; change the number of signatures to one-half of 1% of the last vote cast; and change the deadline from June to August.
3. Hawaii: (See also this update.) The Elections Director has proposed SB 1064 and HB 1400 (introduced by Senator Norman Mizuguchi and Rep. Joseph Souki), identical bills which would somewhat ease the requirements for a party to remain qualified. If the bills pass, the Green Party will be on the ballot automatically for the years 1998 through 2008. Unfortunately, the bills also provide that Social Security numbers must be shown on new party petitions, even though this would violate the Federal Privacy Act.
4. Iowa: Senator Mary Lundby (R-Marion) and Representative Rebecca Reynolds-Knight (D-Fairfield) will introduce bills which would provide a blank line on the Iowa voter registration form, in the "political party" section. Currently, Iowa voters must register Democratic, Republican, Reform, or "no party". The bills would let voters write in the name of an unqualified party.
5. Maryland: Senator Paul Pinsky has again introduced his ballot access improvement bill, SB 293. Senator David Craig has introduced SB 468, which would also improve the existing law, but not as much; Craig's bill merely lowers the petition requirement for statewide candidates (other than president) from 3% of the number of registered voters, to 1%.
6. New York: Senator Serphin Maltese has introduced SB 1443, which would prohibit blank spaces on the ballot between candidates. Currently, all New York voters vote on mechanical voting machines, with the names of candidates arranged by party column or party row. Sometimes, when there are only two candidates for a particular office, there may be five or six blank spaces separating the two candidates, so that the candidate of the less important party is positioned so that voters don't even notice his or her name on the ballot.
Another New York bill, AB 2366, would set up a commission to study ballot access for presidential primary candidates. Also, SB 561 and AB 1083 would provide for ballot access by payment of a bond, to be forfeited if the candidate fails to poll a certain share of the vote.
7. North Carolina: (See also this correction.) Senator Wib Gulley (D-Durham) has introduced SB 2, which changes the petition date for new parties from May to July, and eliminates wording which implies that petition signers are "organizing" the new party.
8. South Carolina: Rep. James Cromer (Indp-Columbia) has introduced HB 3009, to legalize write-ins for president. South Carolina is one of only three states which permits write-ins, yet doesn't permit them for president.
1. California: (See also this update.) There will be a trial in California Democratic Party v Jones, civ-5-96-2038, in July. The case, filed in federal court in Sacramento, challenges the new blanket primary law. The Republican Party of California recently joined the lawsuit, and other parties may join as well.
California (2): Both the Democratic and Republican Parties recently filed lawsuits in federal court in Sacramento against the campaign finance initiative which passed in November 1996. The new law limits the amount of money political parties can spend on campaigns, limits the amount of money that individuals may donate to political parties, bans independent expenditures by parties, and declares that the national, state and local parties are all one entity, for purposes of the act. Calif. Dem. Party v FPPC, civ-s-97-0156, and Schroeder v FPPC, civ-s-97-0154.
California (3): Briefs are being filed in the 9th circuit in NAACP v Jones, 96-56455, over whether the system by which judges raise money for their re-election campaigns, violates the U.S. Constitution. The lower court had said plaintiffs lack standing.
2. Florida: On January 14, U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore refused to strike down a Florida law which requires unqualified political parties to post a $10,000 bond, just to register their names. Socialist Workers Party v Leahy, 92-1451, federal court, Miami. Moore relied on promises by the state that it will not enforce the law, even though last year, the state did try to enforce it. The Socialist Workers and Green Parties may appeal.
3. Georgia: The ACLU decided not to appeal Duke v Cleland to the U.S. Supreme Court. This is disappointing, since it's a very interesting case, which might well have been accepted by the court. The question is whether a political party can keep candidates out of its primary, based on the candidate's political views. The 11th circuit ruled that it may. The issue arose in 1992 when David Duke sought to run in Republican presidential primaries.
Georgia (2): (See also this update.) Last month, the Libertarian Party filed its brief in Amendola v Miller, 96-cv-2103 (U.S. District Court, Atlanta), over the law which requires the party to submit petitions signed by 5% of the registered voters, to run for U.S. House of Representatives, state legislature & county office, even though it is qualified for statewide office.
4. Hawaii: on December 16, U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra ruled that Hawaii cannot keep the list of registered voters private. Donrey Media Group v Ikeda, cv96-713. The lawsuit was brought by several news gatherers who wished to examine the list of voters. Since the law permits political party officials to see the list, the judge ruled that the law (barring the general public from seeing the list) violates the 14th amendment.
5. Indiana: On January 15, the 7th circuit ruled against fusion in Stewart v Taylor, 96-3108, even though the issue is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. The 7th circuit had ruled against fusion back in 1991, also. The case had been brought by a candidate who won the Republican primary for Township Board, and then also won the Libertarian nomination for the same office, at the party's nominating convention.
6. Iowa: there will be a hearing in the 8th circuit in Marcus v Iowa Public TV, 96-3645, on April 15. All judges of that circuit will hear the case, which is on appeal from a U.S. District Court. It is unusual for any Court of Appeals to schedule an initial hearing before the entire membership, but several judges in the circuit have staked out strong positions (which don't agree with each other), so they each will now participate. The issue is whether Public TV must invite all candidates who are on the ballot to debate, when it sponsors the debate.
7. Minnesota: On December 11, the 8th circuit upheld Minnesota's public financing law, which provides that if a candidate does not voluntarily agree to accept campaign limits, his or her opponents may receive public funding and also spend without limit. The vote wsa 2-1. Rosenstiel v Rodriguez, 101 F 3d 1544 (1996).
8. New York: On December 2, U.S. District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor ruled that a federal court lacks jurisdiction to hear a damage suit, involving the failure of New York city to provide write-in space in a city election back in 1993. Gelb v Board of Elections, 94cv-13. The decision was surprising, because back in 1995, the same judge had ruled that the case could proceed.
9. Ohio: Independent congressional candidate Mark Miller has filed his appeal brief in Miller v Lorain County Board of Elections, 96-4267. The main issue is the customary lack of due process, when Ohio elections officials validate petitions. Miller also challenges the disparity in the number of signatures he needed as an independent (1,807) versus the number a candidate for the same office needs to get on the primary ballot (50 signatures).
10. Virginia: On January 24, the 4th circuit agreed with the lower court, that plaintiffs in Marshall v Meadows, 96-1685, lack standing. The issue is whether the Republican Party can demand a closed primary instead of one in which any registered voter may choose to vote in the party's primary. However, since the Republican Party of Virginia itself was not a party to the lawsuit, the case was dismissed.
11. West Virginia: the ACLU is about to file a lawsuit against a state law which forces political signs to be placed at least 300 feet away from a polling place.
The Libertarian Party of North Carolina has 28,000 signatures (51,324 are required); the Green Party of Utah has 550 signatures (500 valid signatures are required); the Reform Party of Tennessee has several thousand (37,179 are required).
The Pennsylvania Secretary of State has tallied Ralph Nader's write-in vote: 3,086. This is the first time Pennsylvania state elections officials have ever tallied write-ins for any presidential candidate. This brings Nader's national total to 685,338.
See this note about tables.
|SEATS UP||Libt.||Nat Law||Reform||USTax||Green||Consv||Other|
|Alabama||0||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|California||20||62,503||52,359||33,913||12,089||Peace & Freedom 20,601|
|Connecticut||36||2,125||626||753||A Connecticut Party 7,554|
|Illinois||40||2,028||2,047||Harold Wshington Pty 13,812|
|Louisiana||0||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|Maryland||0||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|Michigan||0||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|Mississippi||0||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|New Jersey||0||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|New York||61||75,423||762||317,187||Lib 63,224; Rt to Life 43,717|
|Rhode Island||50||Cool Moose 6,256|
|Utah||14||1,797||Indp. American 6,643|
|Vermont||30||2,433||716||991||Liberty Unon 1,344|
|Virginia||0||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
Conservative column includes Independence Party of Connecticut. In addition to the parties listed above, the Freedom Party of New York state polled 31,173 votes, all of them cast for candidates who were also Republican nominees.
See this note about tables.
|Alabama||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|California||3.89||2.40||4.27||4.58||Peace & Freedom 3.77|
|Connecticut||2.00||1.81||2.36||A Connecticut Party 5.41|
|Illinois||3.63||2.40||Harold Wshington Pty 13.06|
|Louisiana||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|Maryland||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|Michigan||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|Mississippi||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|New Jersey||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|New York||2.76||.72||6.60||Lib 3.14; Rt to Life 2.32|
|Rhode Island||Cool Moose 17.09|
|Utah||4.44||Indp. American 8.89|
|Vermont||6.10||8.14||5.25||Liberty Unon 9.50|
|Virginia||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
The percentages reflect the number of votes received by each party for State Senate in November 1996, divided by the number of voters in the districts in which each particular party ran candidates. The Conservative column includes the Independence Party of Connecticut. The Freedom Party of New York, not named above, polled 1.16%.
On January 25-26, in Nashville, Tennessee, the Reform Party held a national meeting, to begin the process of organizing itself. Each state was permitted one voting delegate. Delegates attended from every state except Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The temporary chair of the meeting was Jack Essenberg, of New York state. The body chose a 4-person national organizing committee: Chair Russell Verney, vice-chair Dale Welch-Barlow of Oklahoma, Secretary Jim Mangia of California, and Treasurer Carl Owenby of Florida.
One faction in the Reform Party is composed of people from states in which the party already existed, before Ross Perot announced the new party in September 1995. This faction, composed mostly of people from Minnesota, New York and Oregon, was disappointed that it was not represented on the National Organizing Committee, and some members of this faction walked out.
There will be a national convention, probably in October, with delegates to be elected by congressional district.
B.A.N. has been on the Internet since 1994, thanks to the volunteer efforts of Bob Bickford of San Jose, California. In addition to converting each issue to a web document, Bickford also gathers related information, constructs additional tables and charts, and adds links between issues. OLD WEB ADDRESS; CHANGED IN Jan. 1998 http://www.well.com/conf/liberty/ban/index.html Issues are online about three weeks after they are mailed.
B.A.N. also wishes to thank the many subscribers who provide information which would otherwise be missed, especially information about bills in state legislatures.
ERRATA: The January 1997 B.A.N. carried correct registration totals for each political party, but unfortunately the percentages for two of them were incorrect. The percentage of voters who are registered "Libertarian" is .20%, not .14%; the percentage registered "Green" is .14%, not .11%. (Detailed 1996 registration data was first presented in B.A.N. in the December 12, 1996 issue.)
On January 14, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Chandler v Miller, no. 96-126, the case over whether Georgia may requires candidates for state office to pass a drug test before qualifying for the ballot. A decision is expected in a few months.
The oral argument showed clearly that the Court thinks of this case as a Fourth Amendment case, not a case involving the rights of voters. At one point, Chief Justice William Rehnquist asked the attorney who is fighting the drug test law, Walker Chandler, whether it would be constitutional to require a drug test of all candidates, with the results to be made public; but no one would be kept off the ballot, regardless of the results. Chandler answered that this would be constitutional, since in that case, the voters would have the choice to vote for someone who had failed the drug test. Chandler was immediately attacked by Justice Antonin Scalia, who said, "I thought your objection was to the search".
Reporters who covered the hearing, tended to predict that the Court will rule that states may not impose drug testing on candidates. However, it is likely that the decision will be based entirely on the 4th amendment, and little will be said about the rights of candidates and voters.
On January 25-26, in Miami, Florida, the national committee of the U.S. Taxpayers Party voted not to change the name. The vote was 27-27. Although many party activists dislike their party's name, they aren't able to agree on a better one. "Constitutional" and "Independent American" each had some support.
The January 1997 Atlantic Monthly cover story, by Anthony King, expresses the view that it may have been a mistake for the U.S. to require political parties to nominate their candidates by primary. It points out that virtually no other democratic nation uses primaries, and faults the U.S. system.