|This issue was originally printed on white paper.|
Since the last issue of B.A.N., only two bills to improve ballot access have made headway:
1. Nebraska: LB 805 passed out of the Senate Government Affairs Committee on February 28. It provides that any adult may circulate any type of petition, anywhere in the state. Existing law says that only registered Nebraska voters may circulate petitions.
2. Oregon: SB 777, which makes it easier for parties to remain on the ballot, passed the Senate Elections Committee on March 27, by 6-1. Currently, parties in Oregon must poll 1% for a statewide race in every election, as well as hold registration of .05%. The bill provides that parties with .5% of the registration need not worry about the vote test. In some mid-term years, the only statewide race on the ballot is Governor, and sometimes a party may not wish to run a candidate for that office.
Some Good Bills Fail
Some bills which would have helped ballot access for either minor parties, or independent candidates, have been defeated or seem unlikely to pass:
1. Alabama: HB 185, which would have lowered the vote test for a party to remain on the ballot from 20% to 10%, has made no headway and won't pass this year, although some legislators have promised to help pass it in 2002.
2. Arizona: HB 2597, which would make it easier for a party to remain on the ballot, was defeated in the House Retirement & Government Operations Committee on March 12.
3. Georgia: HB 188, the ballot access reform bill, failed to advance, and the legislature has now adjourned.
4. Kentucky: HB 327, which would have authorized elections officials to tally voters who are registered in parties other than the Democratic and Republican Parties, failed to advance, and the legislature has now adjourned.
5. Maine: LD 1106, which would have made it easier for candidates to get onto primary ballots, failed to advance by the deadline for bills to clear their first committee hurdle.
Iowa: on March 13, Senators Mary Lundby and Joe Bolkom introduced SF 439, to make it easier for a group to become a party. Current law requires it to poll 2% for Governor or President; the bill changes this to any statewide race. It also provides that once a group has become a party, it need not meet the vote test if it has registration of at least .5%. The Green Party initiated this bill. It is too late for it to pass this year, but it could pass next year.
West Virginia: on February 14, Delegate Barbara Fleischauer introduced HB 2039. It repeals the requirement that petitioners tell everyone they approach that they can't vote in the primary if they sign the petition. Also it repeals the law that circulators must be registered voters; and it repeals the requirement that non-presidential petitioning candidates submit a declaration of candidacy, a month before the petition is due.
Most bills to restrict ballot access are also failing to pass, with the exception of an Indiana bill:
1. Indiana: SB 329, to move minor party and independent petition deadlines from July 15 to July 1, passed the Senate on March 1 (the bill had originally set these deadlines in early May, but it was amended).
2. Kentucky: HB 162, to move non-presidential minor party and independent petition deadlines from August to May, failed to make headway, and the legislature has now adjourned.
3. Maine: LD 1034, to move the non-presidential minor party and independent deadlines from May to March, failed to pass out of committee before the deadline.
1. Alaska: the Governor has proposed HB 193 and SB 146, which maintain the blanket primary, but provide that any party which doesn't desire a blanket primary, may have its own separate closed primary. Each party must decide by September 1 of the year before any election.
2. Washington: no bill to replace the blanket primary has yet cleared any committee. Most bills must have passed at least one hurdle by this point, but the deadline rules for blanket primary bills have been waived.
New Mexico SB 204 was signed into law on March 15. It permits ex-felons to register to vote.
Congressman Ron Paul has not yet decided whether to re-introduce the bill to outlaw restrictive ballot access laws (for federal office) for minor party and independent candidates. Also he hasn't decided whether to re-introduce the bill to cut off public funding for general election presidential candidates who fail to debate all their opponents who are on the ballot in at least 40 states.
On March 21, the leading Democratic Party bill on election administration was introduced. It is, "The Equal Protection Voting Rights Act of 2001". For federal elections, it outlaws punchcard ballots; requires states to allow provisional voting for voters whose registration record is unclear; and requires states to send sample ballots to all voters. The Senate bill is S565, by Senator Christopher Dodd and 5 co-sponsors; the House bill is HR 1170, by Congressman John Conyers and 72 co-sponsors.
There are six bills in the House to amend the Constitution, to reform the Electoral College. They are HJR 1, 3, 5, 17, 18 and 25. There are no similar proposals in the Senate.
On February 28, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Federal Election Commission v Colorado Republican Federal Campaign, 00-191. The issue is whether political parties have a First Amendment right to spend as much of their own money as they wish, to support their nominees. Federal law since 1974 has restricted a party to spending 2¢ for each resident of a state, in a U.S. Senate election. This amount is indexed for inflation, so that the current Senate limit is now about 7¢ for each resident of the state. For U.S. House races, the current limit is $67,560.
In 1996 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the federal law is unconstitutional as applied to party expenditures which are made "independently" of the candidate. That is, parties can spend as much money as they want, in support of a candidate, if the money is spend without consulting with the candidate about how it should be spent.
The current case concerns whether the same principle applies, when the party and the candidate are in communication about how the money should be spent.
Another federal law already limits individual contributions to parties. Individuals can give $5,000 to a state party, and $20,000 to national party committees (all of the money involved in this lawsuit is "hard money"; so-called "soft money" can't be used for campaigns for particular candidates, and has no connection with this lawsuit).
The government defends the limit on party spending, by suggesting that without the limit, wealthy individuals could donate money to parties, and then the party would in turn give the money to the candidate; in this manner the candidate would be influenced to do favors for the donor.
A separate federal law makes it illegal for donors to political parties to "earmark" their contributions (i.e., to tell the party how to spend the money), but the government argues that it's very difficult to enforce that law, so the limit on party spending on candidates is necessary.
Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out that since individuals can already make independent expenditures of any amount, that it is unlikely that any wealthy donor would go to the trouble of giving money to a party, in hopes that the party would then give the money to a candidate, who would then feel indebted to that donor. They pointed out that it is much simpler for the donor to make a large independent expenditure, which the candidate would be sure to notice.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor got the FEC's attorney to admit that the problem the law attempts to solve is a "small segment of the problem".
Justice John Paul Stevens asked the FEC's attorney how she responded to the argument that "the basic function of a political party is to elect candidates and therefore a limitation on the ability of the party to give money to candidates pretty well disables the party from doing what it was created to do." The FEC attorney replied that a party is free to make uncoordinated expenditures. In response, Justice Scalia said, "So it serves free speech for the party to spend money on behalf of a candidate without discussing with that candidate the candidate's views and to make sure that the candidate's campaign is the same as the party. It serves free speech if the party doesn't coordinate with the person that it's backing. It's a very strange, very strange calculus."
The attorney for the Republican Party pointed out that only 17 states have laws, limiting how much money a party can spend on behalf of its candidates (it is likely that if the Republican Party wins this case against the federal law, the laws of those 17 states would also be unconstitutional).
The Republican Party's attorney also pointed out that there is no evidence to support the government's fears about party spending, except for a few statements by members of Congress, made in 1973. He said that most "hard money" donated to political parties is in amounts of less than $100. He also pointed out that political parties are the only source of financial support that do not primarily support incumbents.
He also said that much "hard money" donated to parties, is from well-entrenched incumbents who face little likelihood of defeat, so they feel free to donate money (that had been contributed to them) to their party, so that party could help some of its non-incumbent candidates.
The Denver Post story on the hearing (from the March 1 issue) cautiously predicted that the Republican Party would win the case.
The Federal Election Commission attorneys probably make a mistake when they denigrate political parties, which they consistently do. In this hearing, the FEC attorney said, "Political parties have no more a constitutional right to exemption from limits on contributions than do political action committees." Parties have won constitutional First Amendment cases so often in the U.S. Supreme Court in the last fifteen years, it is obvious that the Court respects the role of political parties. Therefore, the FEC argument isn't persuasive.
The FEC, in this case, also gingerly tried to argue that another evil the limit is supposed to prevent, is that if parties are free to give support to their own candidates, they will use that power to punish candidates who don't support the party's platform. This argument drew little reaction from the Justices.
Most social scientists who study political parties would say that this is what parties are supposed to do. Voters, in theory, vote for a party's candidates based on that party's principles, and if the party's candidates don't support those principles, the voter's vote was wasted. Parties can be the mechanism by which voters' policy wishes can be implemented.
The only lawsuit over general election presidential debates which is still alive is the one filed by Ralph Nader, who asked the Supreme Court in January to hear his appeal. The brief from his opponent (the FEC) asking the Court not to hear the case, was due March 2, but the FEC asked for more time, so it is now due April 2.
1. California: on March 5, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the state's appeal in Jones v Schaefer, no. 00-675. The issue is whether a candidate for Congress must be a registered voter. The 9th circuit had struck down the state law, and that decision will now stand. As a result, similar laws in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon (other states in the 9th circuit) are void.
California (2): on March 14, the State Supreme Court agreed to hear Waremart v Progressive Campaigns, S094236, over whether supermarkets which are not in shopping malls must permit petitioning in areas otherwise open to the public. The lower court had ruled that the stores need not permit such activity. Malls in California must permit it.
2. Colorado: on December 26, the 10th circuit struck down a state law which requires donors who make independent expenditures about candidates, to include in the ad the name of the person paying for the ad, the amount spent, and a statement that the candidate did not authorize the ad. Citizens for Responsible Gov't v Davidson, 236 F 3d 1174. The court said the law amounted to forced speech (the First Amendment protects not only the right to speak, but the right not to speak).
3. District of Columbia: on January 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. circuit, upheld a city ordinance making it illegal for a voter to wear anything showing support for a candidate at the polls. Marlin v D.C. Board of Elections, 236 F 3d 716.
4. Maryland: on March 2, a lower state court upheld the state's ballot access laws for minor parties. Green Party of Maryland v Board of Elections, c2000-657880, A.A. Circuit Court. The judge didn't mention the U.S. Supreme Court decision of February 28, Cook v Gralike, even though the plaintiff candidate was a candidate for Congress. The Green Party has asked for a rehearing, based on the Cook decision, which says states must not discriminate against any class of candidates for Congress.
5. North Carolina: on March 5, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the state's appeal of a 4th circuit ruling which had struck down a law, requiring groups which spend money on ads which mention candidates (but don't say to vote for or against them) to file campaign spending reports. Bartlett v Perry, 00-1111.
North Carolina's HB 33, to provide that each congressional district elect its own presidential elector, passed the House Judiciary Committee on February 28. Colorado's SB 51, on the same subject, was killed in a House Committee on March 19.
On March 21, U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone tried to amend the McCain-Feingold bill, S. 27, to permit states to provide for public financing of campaigns, for candidates for Congress in that state. States are now forbidden from providing for public financing for federal candidates (although twelve states have public financing for state office). The amendment was defeated 36-64. John McCain and Russell Feingold voted against the amendment.
On March 23, Ralph Nader spoke at the University of San Diego's public-interest law conference. In response to a question about his opinion on S. 27, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill, he said, "It's become a monster. There's a very distinct possibility that it will worsen the situation from what it is now." There is no transcript of his remarks; these quotes were taken from a San Diego newspaper.
No state legislative bill, establishing Instant-Runoff voting generally for state or federal office, seems likely to pass this year. The Vermont bill has strength but supporters don't plan to bring it up for a vote until 2002. The bills in Maryland and New Mexico have been defeated, and bills in other states have not moved.
Minor parties have always desired to have their full names printed on ballots, rather than abbreviations. Although virtually every voter knows that "Rep" on a ballot next to a candidate's name means "Republican" and that "Dem" means "Democrat", minor parties aren't nearly so familiar to most voters.
The Florida U.S. Senate election last year included candidates from the Democratic, Republican, Reform and Natural Law Parties (there were also three independent candidates). Nine counties printed the full names of all parties, for that race. The other 58 counties printed 3-letter abbreviations. Generally, "Law" was used for the Natural Law Party, and "Ref" for the Reform Party. However, also used were "Nat" and "Rfm".
The election returns show that in counties which printed the party names in full, the minor parties did better. The Reform Party polled .24% in the counties which abbreviated the party name, but .42% in the counties which used the full party name. In all 9 counties which used the full party name, the Reform candidate polled better than he did in the average county which abbreviated.
The Natural Law Party polled .37% in the abbreviation counties, but .61% in the full-name counties. In 7 of the 9 full-party name counties, the Natural Law candidate did better than he did in the average of the abbreviated-ballot counties. The nine counties which spelled the party names in full, for the U.S. Senate race, were Broward, Clay, Escambia, Hillsboro, Holmes, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas and St. Johns.
In the presidential race, only 13 counties used abbreviations. "Constitution" was sometimes "CON", and sometimes "CPF". "Socialist" was sometimes "SOC", and sometimes "SPF". "Socialist Workers" was sometimes "SWK", sometimes "SWP", and in one county was "SOC". "Workers World" was sometimes "WWD", and sometimes "WWP". "Green" was consistently "GRE"; "Libertarian" was consistently "LIB".
The New York Conservative Party suffered a serious decline in voter support in 2000:
1. For the office at the top of the ticket (in 2000, president), it polled 2.12%. This is the lowest share of the vote it has ever polled for its candidate closest to the top of the ballot. By contrast, in 1998, it had polled 7.36% for Governor.
2. For U.S. House of Representatives, it polled 3.96% for its candidates (this percentage is the number of votes cast for Conservative candidates for House, divided by the number of votes cast in districts in which the party had candidates). This was the lowest percentage for the party's candidates for U.S. House since 1964. By contrast, in 1998 its House candidates had polled 7.22%.
3. For State Senate, it polled 4.99%, the lowest for this office since 1964. By contrast, in 1998 its State Senate candidates had polled 8.84%.
4. For Assembly, it polled 4.15%, the lowest for this office since 1964. In 1998 it had polled 7.95% for Assembly.
5. For Judge of the Supreme Court, it polled 4.08%, the worst since 1964 (for this office, in which the voters elect several judges from each of 12 districts, the percentage is calculated based on the party's highest vote-getter in each district, divided by the number of votes cast for all candidates in the districts in which the party ran candidates).
New York state elects Supreme Court Justices every year. In 1999 the Conservative Judicial candidates polled 6.73%, the worst since 1988.
The reason for the decline in the Conservative Party vote must be that, for the first time since 1966, it did not have the third line on the ballot. Normally, the Conservative percentage of the vote is very stable from year to year. This is because two-thirds of its candidates are always cross-endorsed Republican nominees (and for president, the party has never nominated anyone who wasn't the Republican candidate as well).
New York city uses mechanical voting machines in a party column format. The rest of the state uses a party row format. The order of party rows or columns is determined by how well each party did in the previous gubernatorial election. Starting in 1966, and until 1998, the Conservative Party had always placed third in the gubernatorial race, and thus always had the third row on the ballot. The third row is very advantageous, compared to the rows below it, and the 2000 election returns are convincing evidence that a minor party does poll more votes when it occupies the third row.
In the 1998 gubernatorial election, the Independence Party ran a multi-millionaire candidate for Governor, Thomas Golisano. He spent lavishly on his own campaign, and was able to outpoll the Conservative Party (of course, the Conservative Party's nominee was the cross-endorsed Republican nominee, George Pataki). Thus the Conservative Party was moved down to the fourth row, starting in 1999, and its poor showing in 1999 and 2000 can logically be attributed to its new, inferior ballot position.
The Independence Party did very well in 1999 and 2000, the only years in which it has enjoyed the third row. In 2000 its U.S. House candidates polled 3.00%, the best in the party's history (the party has existed since 1994). In 2000 its State Senate candidates polled 3.45%, again the best in the party's history. In 2000 its Assembly candidates polled 3.34%, the second-best showing in the party's history. In 1999 the party's Supreme Court Justice candidates polled 5.02%, the best in the party's history. In 2000 they polled 3.60%; in 1998 they had only polled 2.81%.
The Independence Party's good showings in 2000 are especially remarkable, given the difficult time it experienced that year. It started out the year 2000 as the New York State unit of the Reform Party. However, all of its delegates (who had been elected in a presidential primary) were unseated at the party's national convention in Long Beach, on the grounds that they were not sufficiently loyal to Pat Buchanan.
Consequently, the state party left the national Reform Party, and nominated John Hagelin (Natural Law Party candidate) for president instead. Hagelin's best percentage showing in 2000 was New York. Nationwide he only polled .10% in the states where he was on the ballot; but in New York he polled .36%.
The U.S. Constitution seems to require that all ballot-listed candidates must be treated equally. Courts have frequently ruled that if ballot position does indeed affect voting behavior, then the states must design a ballot which gives each party, or each candidate, an equal chance for a favorable position on the ballot.
The only reason that such lawsuits have not struck down laws which always give the best spots on the ballot to the major parties, is that the courts always conclude there is no evidence that ballot position makes any difference. Therefore, the evidence concerning the Conservative Party's poor showing in 2000, could be legally significant.
Anyone may obtain the percentage of the vote polled by the Conservative Party, and also by the Independence Party, for each type of federal and state office, for the parties' entire history, by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to B.A.N.
The November 16, 2000 B.A.N. and the February 1, 2001 B.A.N. both said that the Reform Party is no longer on the Nevada ballot. However, the Reform Party did poll enough votes in Nevada in November 2000 (for a legislative seat) to retain its place on the ballot.
The January 1, 2001 B.A.N. carried vote totals for all parties for U.S. House. That chart erroneously omitted the Natural Law vote in Florida (this error was corrected in the online version), and the Reform vote in Ohio and Texas (this error was not corrected online); it also placed one of the Reform Colorado candidates' total in the Green column (also not corrected online). When these mistakes are corrected, the actual national U.S. House totals are: Natural Law 447,791; Green 321,128; Reform 199,762. For a corrected chart, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to B.A.N.
|NO. SEATS UP||Libt.||Green||Nat Law||Reform||Consti||other parties|
|Alaska||40||643||Republican Moderate 6,216; Alaskan Independence 3,424|
|Florida||120||2,176||688||1,554||Christian 10,276; Independent Party 2,152|
|Hawaii||51||815||2,038||1,133||Aloha Ina 1,749|
|New York||150||25,758||559||Right-to-Life 56,802; Liberal 32,155; Conservative
Independence 128,179; Working Families 61,140
|Rhode Island||100||2,885||1,528||Cool Moose 770|
|South Carolina||70||943||1,027||1,776||318||United Citizens 19,112|
|Utah||75||9,573||2,113||Independent American 6,251|
|Vermont||150||1,869||95||Progressive 7,925; Grassroot 1,209; Liberty Union 65|
|Washington||98||87,935||12,731||9,802||2,073||American Heritage 9,211|
States not named had no legislative elections in November, 2000. In the case of states with multi-member districts, the totals above only include a party's highest candidate in such a district, not the total of all the party's candidates in that district. For a sheet that shows each entry above, translated into the percentage of the total vote cast (in the districts in which that party had candidates in that state), send a self-addressed stamped envelope to B.A.N.
In 1996, totals for State House were: Libertarian 343,426; Natural Law 223,233; Reform 174,840; Constitution 41,501; Green 32,283; Conservative 284,932; Liberal 55,927; Right to Life 63,668; Freedom 34,126; Peace & Freedom 28,651; Harold Washington Party 6,028; A Connecticut Party 5,963; Independent American of Utah 4,770; Cool Moose 7,262; Progressive 3,937; Independence of Utah 2,163; Socialist 1,385; Workers World 672; Communist 265; Socialist Workers 128; Liberty Union 116.
Seven candidates with the ballot label "independent" were elected to state legislatures on November 7, 2000:
1. Georgia (two independent victories): Ginger Collins was elected to the House from the 29th district, with 73.1%, in a December run-off. State law provides that when no one gets 45% of the vote in the general election, a run-off is held. At the November election, there had been three candidates, a Democrat and two independents. Collins isn't really an independent; she is a Republican. She ran as an independent, because the incumbent had changed his party from Republican to Democratic, at a time when it was too late for the Republican Party to run anyone against him, except via the independent method.
Also, in the Georgia 172nd district, Buddy DeLoach was elected as an independent. He had no opponent. He had been previously elected as a Republican.
2. Maine (two independent victories): Jill Goldthwait was re-elected to the Senate in the 5th district with 67.4% of the vote, defeating a Republican and a Libertarian. John Michael was elected to the House in the 74th district with 59.7% of the vote, defeating a Democrat. Both are "true" independents.
3. Minnesota: Bob Lessard was re-elected to the Senate as an independent with 54.3% of the vote (against a Democrat). He has since joined the Independence Party.
4. Pennsylvania: Joseph Scarnati was elected to the Senate in the 25th district as an independent, but he is a Republican. He ran as an independent because, after it was too late for anyone to enter the primary, it was revealed that the Republican nominee had committed an ethical impropriety. Scarnati won with only 32.91% of the vote; the Democrat polled 32.69%; the Republican polled 31.64%; the Constitution Party polled 2.76%.
5. Vermont: Daryl L. Pillsbury, a true independent, was elected to the House from Windham County district 2-2. He polled 51.4% in a two-person race against an opponent who had been jointly nominated by both the Democratic and Republican Parties.
The Libertarian Party is 85% done in North Carolina, and 30% done in New Mexico. The Peace & Freedom Party of California had 64,128 registrants as of the February 2001 tally. The October 2000 tally had been 68,345, which shows that the party's work to increase its registration is not keeping up with attrition and the purging process. The party needs 86,212 registrations by October 2, 2001 to get back on the ballot.
Green: both national factions of the Green Party have set times and places for important meetings, to determine whether and how the two groups can build a unified national Green Party structure. The Greens/Green Party USA will meet in Carbondale, Illinois, July 22-23; the Association of State Green Parties will meet in Santa Barbara, California, July 27-29.
Libertarian: The next national convention will be in Indianapolis on July 4-7, 2002. See http://www.lp.org/.
Communist: the party will hold its 27th national convention in Milwaukee, July 6-8, 2001. See http://www.cpusa.org/.
Factional disputes in the Reform Party are not over. A March 26 mass communication from a leading Buchanan supporter says, "Dear Brigade, Well, here we go again! All Brigade freedom fighters are on alert to help us retain (or gain) control of our various state Reform Parties. Yes Brigade, they are back. The Wrecking Crew has reared its ugly head again in several states, and in others it is lurking just below the surface. The Crew knows they need to act fast because this is their last chance. We Brigades are changing state platforms and writing new rules -- essentially removing every trace of Perot and his minions from the party... It's not a big battle, and we can win it handily. All it will take is a few hours of your time by going to your state caucuses and conventions... We are having trouble in California, Connecticut, Montana, Texas and a few other states. Most states are doing just fine and have a great organization in place."