|This issue was originally printed on green paper.|
On March 13, both houses of the West Virginia legislature agreed to an amendment to SB 591 which doubles the number of signatures needed for minor party and independent candidates. The amendment was approved hours before the legislature adjourned. There were no public hearings on the idea, and the amendment received no publicity. The final vote approving the bill was unanimous in the Senate; in the House, the bill was approved by voice vote, so there is no record of the margin.
The purpose of the original bill was to toughen campaign finance reporting requirements, an idea that was initiated by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause. Supporters of the bill added the ballot access restrictions into the bill to get more support for the whole bill.
The new requirement for president in 2000 will be 12,730 signatures. This is 1.3% of the number of registered voters in West Virginia. No state in 2000 will require a higher percentage of its registered voters to sign for an independent or minor party presidential candidate (when the easier of the two methods, independent or party, is compared), except for Oklahoma and Wyoming.
The tragedy of the new requirement is that West Virginia still will require petitioners to orally tell everyone approached "If you sign my petition, you can't vote in the primary" (or, if the petition is circulated after the primary, voters who already voted in the primary may not sign). Experience with this restriction has shown that it is almost impossible to get even 7,000 valid signatures on such petitions; and now double that will be required.
West Virginia has required petitions of 1% of the last vote cast since 1932, combined with an exclusion which makes it impossible for primary voters to sign these petitions.
In each of the last three presidential elections, the only successful petitions were completed by candidates who managed to get on the ballot in all 50 states (New Alliance in 1988, independent Perot in 1992, the Reform Party in 1996, and the Libertarian Party in 1992 and 1996).
The bill does delete provision for criminal penalties for voters who sign the petition and then vote in the primary. However, it remains illegal for them to take both actions. The penalties on voters were never enforced anyway during the past fifty years, so the repeal of the penalties is small consolation for the increase in the number of signatures.
The legislature did not increase the vote test for a party to remain on the ballot, which remains at 1% for Governor. The Libertarian Party in 1996 met this vote test, the first minor party to have done so since 1924. Thus the effect of the new law will be most harmful for the other minor parties which try to get their presidential candidate on the ballot of all states: Green, Natural Law, Reform, U.S. Taxpayers. Those parties could, of course, complete their petitions before the bill goes into effect on June 12, 1999, but it is unlikely they will be able to do so. West Virginia does permit stand-in presidential candidates on petitions.
It is possible, but unlikely, that West Virginia Governor Cecil Underwood, a Republican, will veto SB 591. A vigorous campaign is being waged to persuade him to do so. He must decide by April 6.
On March 29, Montana Governor Marc Racicot signed HB 585, which lowers the number of signatures for new parties and statewide independent candidates from 5% of the last gubernatorial vote (16,039), to a flat 5,000 signatures.
On March 26, Congressman Mel Watt (D-N.C.) introduced HR 1173, which would let the states elect members of the U.S. House of Representatives from multi-member districts. This would make it possible for states to experiment with various forms of proportional representation. Under a current law, enacted in 1967, states are required to use single-member districts. The bill already has 12 co-sponsors.
On March 11, the New Mexico House Elections Committee defeated SJR 12, which would have provided for preference voting for all federal and state office. The vote was 4-7. All Republicans and two Democrats voted against the bill.
The Vermont bill for preference voting, H 199, hasn't made any headway through the legislature. The session will last another five weeks.
The Alaska legislature is considering a bill to provide for preference voting, HB 141.
On March 30, the Green Party elected its nominee for California Assembly, 16th district. The vote was: Audie Bock, Green, 14,663 (50.6%); Elihu Harris, Democrat, 14,327 (49.4%). This was the first time a minor party had won a partisan race in California since 1936. Bock spent $20,000 while Harris spent $300,000. For more election results, see page six.
Under Proposition 225, passed by the California voters in June 1998, candidates for congress and state legislature who refuse to support a constitutional amendment to limit congressional terms are labeled "Declined to pledge to Support Term Limits". Harris had that label next to his name on the ballot. Bock pledged to support term limits, so (per the law) she had no such label.
HB 386, which lowers the number of signatures for new parties and statewide independent candidates to 10,000 signatures (from 37,381), and changes the deadline from May to July, was heard in the Texas House Elections Committee on March 31. The bill got a friendly reception and will probably pass the Committee next week. The bill also expands the petitioning start date from March to January. The bill is backed by Texans for Fair Elections, which can be reached at (512)-374-4428.
SB 631, which permits any party to remain on the ballot as long as it is active and is able to show that it has 50 bona fide members, passed the Senate on March 9 by a unanimous vote. It has not yet received any action in the House. The legislature adjourns on May 4. Current law requires a party to poll 10% of the vote to remain on the ballot; or a party may remain on for ten years automatically after it has been on the ballot in three elections. The bill was initiated by the Libertarian Party.
HB 131, a bill to make it easier for a party to remain on the ballot, received a hearing in the House Constitution and Elections Committee on March 24. Existing law requires a vote of 20%. The bill as introduced lowered this to 3%; but the committee amended it to 10%. The committee is likely to pass the bill shortly after the legislature reconvenes on April 6.
City councilman Phil Mendelson of Washington, D.C., has introduced Bill 13-142, which improves ballot access in the District of Columbia. Currently, a party is not "qualified" for the presidential election unless it elected a president since 1950. The bill would provide that any party which is "qualified" for other office, is also automatically qualified for president. There will be a hearing on April 12, at 4 p.m. The bill was initiated by the Green Party.
Nevada has two tiers of qualified political party: major parties are those with registration membership of 10%; minor parties are those which polled 1% of the statewide vote in the last election. Currently, Nevada has three qualified minor parties, Libertarian, Natural Law and U.S. Taxpayers.
The chair of the Assembly Elections Committee, Chris Giunchigliani (D-Las Vegas) introduced AB 520 to abolish the concept of "qualified minor party". Parties which did not have 10% of the registration would be forced to submit a separate petition for each candidate, before each election. 200 signatures would be required for statewide candidates; 25 for district and county candidates.
Although this number of signatures is quite low, it is more onerous for parties to submit petitions for each candidate, year after year, than it is for them to poll 1% of the vote and then be free of the need to petition. After the affected parties complained (at a hearing on March 22), the bill was amended so that it no longer makes any change in the status of the minor parties. The bill does, however, require them to submit their list of nominees in May (current law gives them until the end of June).
Some bills to ease ballot access laws cannot be enacted this year:
1. Arkansas: HB 1766, which would have lowered the number of signatures for a new party from 3% of the last gubernatorial vote (21,000 signatures) to a flat 10,000, was defeated in the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on March 5. It received only one vote. Secretary of State Sharon Priest, a Democrat, sent her legal analyst to testify against the bill on the grounds that it would cause a "proliferation" of parties. Governor Mike Huckabee, a Republican, also sent an aide to testify against the bill.
Another Arkansas bill, SB 804, which would have eliminated petitioning for new parties altogether and simply placed all organized parties on the ballot, failed to get a hearing.
2. Georgia: the House Government Affairs Committee passed HB 672 on March 4, but the Rules Committee blocked the bill from being sent to the floor. Therefore, it can't pass this year, but it could pass next year. HB 672 lowers the statewide minor party and independent petition from 1% of the number of registered voters (39,000) to a flat 7,500 signatures, and lowers district and county petitions from 5% to 1%. It also provides that parties which are qualified to appear on the statewide ballot, are also qualified to appear for district and county races. Some legislators who didn't support it, have promised to support it next year.
3. Iowa: SF 58, which would have changed the definition of "political party" from a group which got 2% for president or Governor, to 2% for any statewide office, failed to move and it is now too late. If the bill had been enacted, the Reform and Natural Law Parties would have been qualified parties in Iowa. Currently, Iowa has no qualified parties other than Democratic and Republican.
4. New Mexico: HB 585, which would have changed the definition of "major political party" from a group which got 5% for any statewide race in the last election, to one which got 5% for any statewide race in the last mid-term election, passed the House and also passed the Senate Rules Committee, but ran out of time before the Senate could take it up. Since the bill didn't pass, the Green and Libertarian Parties will need to poll 5% for either president or U.S. Senate in 2000; or they will need to poll 15% for Public Service Commissioner (the state is divided into three districts, each electing one Commissioner, and since a statewide vote of 5% is needed, that translates into the equivalent of 15% in any one of the three districts).
5. Washington: Rep. Velma Veloria didn't introduce her bill to lower the primary vote test for statewide office from 1%, to one-half of 1%, but she says she will introduce it next year. No minor party candidate for Governor or U.S. Senator has ever qualified under the existing law, which has existed since 1977.
In January the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot require petitioners to be registered voters. An omnibus election law bill in Missouri, SB 346, repeals the law requiring petitioners to be registered. Missouri will probably be the first state to amend its laws to conform to the court decision; the bill has already passed the Senate.
On March 22, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Rice v Cayetano, 98-818, a case brought by a Caucasian who desires to vote for Trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. OHA holds title to property which belongs to the federal government but which is administered for the benefit of native Hawaiians, per the Annexation Act of 1898. Only native Hawaiians are permitted to vote for OHA Trustee, under a state law. Rice charges that the state law violates the 14th and 15th amendments.
On March 4, the 9th circuit upheld the California blanket primary by a vote of 3-0. California Democratic Party v Jones, 97-17440.
Strangely enough, the 9th circuit didn't write an opinion; it just released a few sentences, saying that it agreed with the U.S. District Court's opinion. But the U.S. District Court decision had been released on November 17, 1997, before any primary had ever been held under the new system. The U.S. District Court decision had speculated that no party would suffer having its primary decided by non-members. But in actual fact, at the first blanket primary, the co-plaintiff Libertarian and Peace & Freedom Parties did suffer this harm; their own members were far outnumbered by non-members who voted in their primary.
Therefore, it was odd for the 9th circuit not to acknowledge that the U.S. District Court speculation about what would happen, was factually wrong. The plaintiffs have asked for a rehearing, based partly on this point.
On March 6, the 1st circuit denied any relief to the Maine Green Party in its lawsuit against the definition of "party": a group which polls 5% for president in presidential years, and 5% for governor in mid-term years. Maine Green Party v Secretary of State, 98-1309. The vote was 2-1.
The majority opinion, written by Norman Stahl, a Bush appointee, is actually more favorable to the Green Party than the minority opinion. The majority said "forcing a party which has a commitment to nominate only candidates who could be elected by the Maine electorate to run a presidential candidate might well be regarded as a direct infringement of the party's core protected activity." However, the judge said that since the party didn't clearly make this argument in the U.S. District Court, therefore it can't make that argument in his court. So, even though the Green Party had a good argument, it can't win. The majority opinion was co-signed by Judge Juan Torruella, a Reagan appointee.
The minority opinion, by Judge Levin Campbell, a Nixon appointee, says that the party did make its argument in the U.S. District Court. However, he said that the law should be upheld anyway because he doesn't believe that lower courts should declare laws unconstitutional unless there is a U.S. Supreme Court precedent which makes it obvious that the law is void (the U.S. Supreme Court has never had a case on the constitutionality of how a party remains on the ballot).
1. Arizona: on March 16, U.S. District Court Judge William Browning, a Reagan appointee, held a hearing in Campbell v Hull, 96-444TC. The issue is the state's restriction on who can sign independent candidate petitions. Ever since 1993, only people who are registered, but not registered as members of qualified parties, may sign. This restriction has kept all statewide independent candidates off the ballot ever since it was passed. The hearing went well. The case was brought by the Green Party.
Arizona (2): on March 5, the Maricopa County Recorder sued both factions of the Arizona Libertarian Party, to obtain a court order establishing which faction's officers are the legally-recognized officers. The County Recorder must provide a free list of the registered voters to each qualified party, and brought the lawsuit in order to determine who should receive the list. Purcell v Hancock, cv 99-3904, Superior Court.
2. Arkansas: on Dec. 8, 1998, a U.S. District Court struck down state law which makes it illegal for state officials to accept campaign contributions while the legislature is in session. Arkansas Right to Life State PAC v Butler, 29 F Supp 2d 540.
3. California: on February 25, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi asked the State Supreme Court to invalidate an initiative passed last year, which requires that ballots carry labels next to the names of all candidates for Congress and the state legislature who refuse to work for a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on Congress. The label is "Disregarded voter instruction on term limits" for incumbents. Bramberg v Jones, S076784. The Court hasn't said yet if it will hear the case. Similar laws have been invalidated in every court which has heard them.
4. Colorado: the March 6 B.A.N. lead story was about a U.S. District Court decision, striking down federal law which set expenditure limits on political parties in federal campaigns. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign v Federal Election Commission, 89-N-1159. The FEC did not appeal. It is unusual for a federal law to be declared unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court, and then for the federal government not to appeal; but in this case the government did not appeal, and the decision stands.
5. Florida: on February 22, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Green v Mortham, 98-1196, the case challenging the amount of Florida's candidate filing fees. The case had been brought by a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. Florida fees are 6% of the annual salary, over $10,000 for Congress.
6. Kentucky: on March 1, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Gable v Patton, 98-897 and 98-1072. The 6th circuit had struck down a law making it illegal for a candidate for governor to donate to his own campaign during the last 28 days before the election. But it had upheld a law making it illegal for a candidate to receive contributions from others during the same period. Both sides appealed, but the U.S. Supreme Court turned down both of them.
7. Nebraska: on March 2, the 8th circuit struck down the state's term limits labeling law (see the California paragraph above for a fuller explanation of these labels). Miller v Moore, 98-1563. The court said, "Information conveyed through the official state ballot must be conveyed in a neutral, nondiscriminatory fashion". The state plans to ask for U.S. Supreme Court review.
8. Oregon: on March 22, a U.S. District Court upheld Oregon's all-mail ballot law for federal elections. Voting Integrity Project v Keisling, cv98-1372AA. An 1872 federal law says that congressional elections must be held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, but the judge said that as long as the votes are counted on that day, they need not be cast on that day. Plaintiffs are appealing.
The petitioning chart which usually appears, will be in the next issue of B.A.N. The major changes since last month are: (1) The Reform Party is now on in Colorado, thanks to a ruling of the Secretary of State; (2) the Libertarian Party has begun petitioning in New Hampshire and is about to begin in South Dakota; (3) the Natural Law Party has begun petitioning in Arizona.
The Colorado ruling is based on the fact that the Reform Party polled over 5% for president in 1996. Originally the Secretary of State had thought that was irrelevant, since the current law was passed in 1998; but she was finally persuaded to consider election returns from the period before the bill existed. The Reform Party is now on for president in 19 states.
U.S. Congressional Elections 1788-1997, published 1998 by McFarland & Co., Inc., Box 611, Jefferson, NC, 28640, (800)-253-2187; hard-cover, 1005 pp., $235 plus shipping.
Michael J. Dubin collected data on congressional elections for 30 years, before he published this badly-needed reference. Until the publication of this book, there has been no published source, listing all candidates for Congress and telling how many votes each received.
The United States has never required states to forward election returns for Congress, to Congress, or to any federal agency; the law has merely required states to certify the names of winners. It is true that the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, starting in 1920, has requested the states to forward these election returns, and the Clerk has published the totals in a booklet entitled Statistics of the Congressional Election of (year). But the returns forwarded to the Clerk of the House have often been incomplete, omitting some minor party candidates, sometimes omitting party labels or the first names of some candidates. Furthermore, the Clerk doesn't print many copies of Statistics, and most libraries don't have copies. The Clerk seems to discourage public awareness of Statistics; when Ballot Access News has carried notice that a new version was out, some readers who asked for a copy, were told that there is no such publication.
It is also true that America Votes has published complete election returns for Congress, starting with the 1952 election. But, of course, neither Statistics of the Congressional Election nor America Votes ever published any returns before 1920. Also, Congressional Quarterly published Guide to U.S. Elections in 1975, and it contains election returns for Congress for all U.S. history. But, Guide to U.S. Elections omits all candidates who polled less than 5% of the vote.
At last, thanks to Dubin, a single source exists which presents complete returns for all 37,000 past congressional elections. Dubin includes all special and run-off elections, although he does not include primary elections, nor elections for Delegate to Congress from territories.
In addition to the election data, the book contains a complete alphabetized index of all individuals who ever ran for Congress in a general election, which appears to be approximately 55,000 entries.
Also, the book includes a table, showing the number and percentage of congressional elections in each year with only a single major party candidate; with only a single candidate; showing the percentage of incumbents who were re-elected, and percentage defeated; showing the number and percentage of freshmen each year; and percentage of seats contested by each major party.
There is a political party index for all parties other than the Democratic and Republican Parties, so that anyone seeking information about the candidates of any particular party can easily find them all.
Although the price of the book is high, anyone who desires to use this book but who cannot afford it, would be well-advised to ask a local library to buy the book.
Bill Bradley, seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, has become the first candidate to apply for primary season matching funds for 2000. John Hagelin, seeking the Natural Law Party nomination, is the only minor party candidate who is even trying to qualify (so far).
Mississippi elects all its state officials this year, and filing has already closed. The Reform Party has a candidate for Governor, Auditor, and two legislative seats. The U.S. Taxpayers Party has one legislative candidate. This is the first year since 1923 that a minor party candidate for Governor of Mississippi will have appeared on the ballot.
Bills are pending in several state legislatures to change the dates, or other aspects, of presidential primaries:
1. California: the legislature passed SB 100 on March 23. It provides that all parties other than the Democratic Party may have the names of candidates for "District Committee member" on their primary ballot. "District committee member" is someone who is listed as pledged to a particular presidential candidate. If a party wishes its own registered members to elect such officials (who will be sent to a state convention to then elect delegates to a national convention), it must notify the Secretary of State by June 1999.
The Democratic Party did not wish to participate in this type of primary, so had itself excluded from the bill.
In addition (for all parties), the votes cast for all presidential candidates in the primary will be kept separate, so that it will be possible to know how any party's own members voted, as opposed to how non-members voted.
2. Florida: on March 17 the Florida House passed HB 819, moving the presidential primary from March 14 to March 7.
3. Louisiana: HB 453 would change the presidential primary to the first Saturday in February.
4. Michigan: on February 25 the Senate passed SB 51, which moves the presidential primary to the 4th Tuesday in February.
5. Missouri: SB 346, which has passed the Senate, would repeal the ban on anyone revealing which party's primary ballot any particular chose to vote in (the bill only applies to presidential primaries).
6. Nebraska: LB 695 passed the Senate Government, Military & Veterans Committee on March 25. It abolishes the presidential primary; caucuses would be used instead.
7. New Jersey: A184, which moves the presidential primary from June to the first Tuesday in March, passed the Assembly October 29, 1998, and is pending in the Senate.
8. New Mexico: SB 520, which would have moved the presidential primary from June to March, failed to pass and the session is over.
9. Ohio: HB 157 would change the presidential primary from March to May, but it has not yet advanced.
10. Oregon: HB 3249 would move the presidential primary from March to May, but it has not yet made any progress.
11. Texas: HB 61 would move the primary from March to May, but it has not advanced.
1. Louisiana: Bills to establish the initiative and referendum are HB 643, 644, 657 and 658. They are supported by Governor Mike Foster.
2. Minnesota: Bills to establish the initiative failed to pass this year, although they could still pass next year. SF 678 did pass the Senate, but not the House.
1. California: AB 547 would delete the requirement that no one can circulate a candidate petition unless he or she has been "appointed" to do so. AB 1208 would provide that candidates for county central committee (in minor party primaries) would no longer appear on the ballot, if the number of candidates running was equal to, or less than, the number to be elected.
2. Connecticut: HB 6889 has had two hearings in the House Government Administration Committee. It would require qualified minor parties to file their bylaws with the Secretary of State, so that the public could know the procedures by which they nominate candidates, and whether they had adhered to their own rules.
3. Iowa: HF 125, which would have abolished the "party lever" (also called a "straight-ticket device" or "party circle") failed to pass.
4. Maine: LD 314 would ban petitioning within 250 feet of the polls, and will be voted on in the State Senate on April 5.
5. New York: A 6276, and S 3223, would impose a 5-year residency requirement for candidates for the U.S. Senate. They would also impose a one-year residency requirement in the district for U.S. House candidates. Both bills are clearly unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court decision U.S. Term Limits v Thornton. The bills are intended to prevent a Hillary Clinton Senate candidacy.
6. North Carolina: H 421 would provide that the order of parties on the ballot should be rotated (currently, they are on in order of the size of their registration).
7. Oklahoma: SB 410, which would permit voters to register into parties which are no longer qualified, passed the Senate Rules Committee on March 25. Last year a federal court ordered the state to allow this.
8. Oregon: SB 667 would provide for a non-partisan legislature. Currently, Nebraska is the only state with a non-partisan legislature.
9. Rhode Island: H 5755 would delete "bipartisan" everywhere it appears on the election code. Rhode Island currently has four qualified parties, but many of the election laws were written with the assumption that only two parties would ever exist. H 5757 would provide for a blanket primary.
10. South Carolina: H 3701 would eliminate the "straight ticket" device. S 104 would provide for "None of the Above" on ballots.
11. Vermont: H 230 would restrict primaries to parties which polled 10% for Governor. Currently, parties which polled 5% for any statewide race are entitled to nominate by primary; other qualified parties nominate by convention.
Louisiana elects all its state officials this year, including eight statewide offices. In February, all eight incumbents in those statewide offices endorsed each other for re-election, even though six of them are Democrats and two of them (including the Governor) are Republicans.
(See previous story for California's special election)
1. Florida (March 9), State Senate 8: Republican 18,370, 67.4%; Democrat 8,325, 30.6%; Libertarian 547, 2.0%.
2. Florida (March 9), Representative 35: Democratic 4,866, 50.7%; Republican 4,395, 45.8%; Libertarian 328, 3.4%.
3. Florida (March 9), Representative 61: Republican 3,245, 54.1%; Democratic 2,477, 41.3%; Reform 281, 4.7%.
4. Minnesota (March 30), State Senate: Republican 3,955, 34.8%; Democratic 3,611, 31.7%; Reform 2,224, 19.6%; write-in candidate Thompson, 1,583, 13.92%. The write-in candidate had lost the Republican primary but carried on the campaign in the general election.
1. Democratic: Los Angeles, sometime between August 7 and August 31, 2000 (exact dates will be set in April 1999).
2. Republican: Philadelphia, sometime between July 29 and August 4, 2000.
3. Libertarian: Anaheim, California, June 30 to July 4, 2000
4. U.S. Taxpayers: St. Louis, Sep. 2 to 5, 1999
5. Prohibition: Bird-in-Hand, PA, June 28 to 30, 1999
Other parties which nominate presidential candidates by convention have not yet set a location nor date. However, the Reform Party will hold a national convention this year in Dearborn, Michigan, July 23 to 25, at which the location and date of the 2000 convention will be determined.
At its national committee meeting last month, the U.S. Taxpayers Party again failed to agree on a new name for the party, so it will keep its old name for the time being.
New registration data for California from Feb. 10, 1999: Democratic 6,939,917 (46.72%); Republican 5,238,394 (35.27%); American Independent 291,922 (1.97%); Green 98,350 (.66%), Reform 86,558 (.58%), Libertarian 82,339 (.55%), Peace & Freedom 70,832 (.48%), Natural Law 64,068 (.43%), independent and miscellaneous 1,980,741 (13.34%).
Parties which failed to poll 2% of the statewide vote last November were required to have 86,177 members to requalify. The Reform Party requalified by the narrow margin of only 381 members. The Peace & Freedom Party was 15,345 members short, but it has another chance to qualify at the October 1999 tally.
The Initiative and Referendum Institute, which exists to promote the initiative process, will hold a national conference May 6-8, in Washington, D.C. Topics include Initiatives overseas; legal issues involved in getting initiatives on the ballot; the history of the initiative; whether voters do a good job of voting on initiatives; money and the initiative process; prospects for a national initiative process; and many more. Several Governors and members of Congress will participate. For more information, call the Institute at (202)-429-5539.
Last month, a Canadian judge in Ontario declared four Canadian election laws unconstitutional, in a challenge filed several years ago by the Communist Party of Canada. The invalidated laws (1) liquidate a party's assets if it fails to run at least 50 candidates for Parliament; (2) provide for refund of filing fees only if a candidate polled at least 15%; (3) print party labels on the ballot only for parties which run at least 50 candidates for Parliament; (4) disqualify parties which fail to run at least 50 candidates for Parliament. The government has not decided yet whether to appeal or not.