In Alabama, Rep. John W. Rogers (D-Birmingham) has introduced a package of bills to improve ballot access for minor party and independent candidates. H214 lowers the petition for statewide independent candidates from 41,012 signatures to a flat 5,000 signatures. H215 does the same for new and minor parties. H216 provides a later deadline for minor parties to certify the names of their nominees. Finally, H221 lowers the vote test for a party to remain qualified from 20% of the last vote cast, to 3%.
In Alaska, the state Elections Department has asked the legislature to pass SB76 and HB 94. They set up the state’s first procedures for independent presidential candidates, and also make it easier for a party to remain on the ballot. HB94 has a hearing on February 19.
In Arizona, State Senator Karen Johnson intends to amend another election law bill to insert a provision making it easier for new parties to get on the ballot. No party has newly-qualified in this state since 2000, and the only parties that are currently on the ballot, or which were on in 2004, are the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian Parties.
In Georgia, Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield has told the Voter Choice Coalition that she will introduce a bill easing ballot access for minor parties and independent candidates in the week of Feb. 14-19 if a Republican co-sponsor can be found.
In Illinois, 3 state representatives have introduced HB 758, which would cut the number of signatures needed for minor party and independent candidates. The statewide petition would fall from 25,000 signatures to 10,000; district petitions from 5% of the last vote cast, to 1% of the last vote cast. A hearing is likely in February. The three authors are Democrats Mike Boland and Jack D. Franks, and Republican Paul Froehlich.
In Iowa, Senator Joe Bolkcom has introduced SF 80, which makes it easier for a new party to remain on the ballot. Current law requires it to poll 2% for the office at the top of the ticket in each election (i.e., president and governor), but SF 80 would let a party remain on if it polled 2% for any of its statewide nominees. The bill would also let a party remain on if it has registration membership of one-half of 1%. Currently, only the Democratic and Republican Parties are qualified in Iowa.
In Kentucky, the Secretary of State has asked the legislature to pass HB141. Among other provisions, it would abolish the requirement that a minor party or independent presidential candidate must file a declaration of candidacy by April 1. The old law has been ruled unconstitutional by the Attorney General, and was not enforced during 2004. The bill would also let minor party and independent presidential candidates circulate a petition to get on the ballot as early as they wished; current law prohibits them from circulating such a petition, except during the 12 months prior to the deadline.
In Maine, Rep. John Eder, the Green Party’s only legislator, has introduced LD392, which would let a party remain qualified if it has registration membership of at least one-half of 1% of the state total. Current law requires a party to poll 5% for President or Governor. If Eder’s bill doesn’t pass, the Green Party will be required to poll 5% for Governor in 2006, even though the party might not want to run anyone for this office. The bill has a hearing on February 15.
In Nebraska, LB 473 has provisions that both help and injure minor parties. It helps them by relaxing the requirements for a party to remain qualified statewide. On the other hand, it eliminates the ability of a party to be ballot-qualified in just one district, or just one county, if that party isn’t qualified statewide. The bill stalled in committee on February 9, but might be amended and revived soon.
In North Carolina, 5 representatives have introduced H88, which substantially eases ballot access for minor parties and independent candidates for statewide office. Current law for minor parties requires 69,734 valid signatures; the bill would cut this to 17,434 signatures. Current law for independent statewide candidates is even worse, but the current law for statewide independent candidates was declared unconstitutional last year. Consequently, chances are good that H88 will pass, since the state needs a new law for independent statewide candidates. H88 would require 17,434 signatures for statewide independent candidates. The 5 authors of the bill include 3 Democrats (Paul Miller, Paul Luebke and Jennifer Weiss) and two Republicans (John Rayfield and Paul Stam).
In Oklahoma, Representative Marian Cooksey (R-Edmond) has introduced HB1429, to make it easier for a new party to get on the ballot and also easier for it to stay on. The bill must pass the Rules Committee by February 24. Backers of the bill are hoping that the Rules Committee will hear the bill next week, since the bill is not on the agenda for this week’s meeting.
Tennessee: State Senator Tim Burchett has introduced SB 1327, which would let candidates who use the independent petition method choose a partisan label, that would be printed on the ballot next to the candidate’s name. Currently, it is so easy to get an independent candidate on the ballot (only 25 signatures) and so difficult to get a new party on the ballot (41,314 signatures), that minor party candidates always appear on the ballot as independents. SB 1327 would let minor party labels appear in conjunction with the independent petition method.