On January 28, Massachusetts Representative Dan Winslow (R-Norfolk) will introduce two bills to improve ballot access. One lowers the number of signatures for candidates for federal and state office, by cutting the current requirements in half. That bill affects candidates seeking a place on a partisan primary ballot, or candidates petitioning directly onto the general election ballot. The statewide petition requirement for the more important statewide offices (U.S. Senator, Governor) would fall from 10,000 signatures to 5,000. Currently candidates seeking a place on a presidential primary ballot don’t need any signatures, but the bill would lower the presidential general election petition from 10,000 to 5,000.
The other bill eases the definition of “political party.” Current law requires a group to have polled 3% for any statewide race at the last election for any statewide office, or to have registration of 1% of the state total. The bill would change both the vote test and the registration test to one-half of 1%. If the bill were to pass this year in that form, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party would both regain their status as qualified parties, because both parties polled over one-half of 1% for President in 2012.
The Massachusetts registration method for qualifying a new party has existed since 1991, and it is so difficult, no group has ever used it. The Libertarian Party was a qualified party during the period 2008-2010 because it polled over 3% for U.S. Senate in 2008. The Green Party lost its qualified status in November 2012, because it didn’t meet the 3% vote test for either President or U.S. Senate. Neither party ran a U.S. Senate candidate in 2012.
If the one-half of 1% vote test for any statewide race had existed continuously during the last 25 years, the only parties that would have been ballot-qualified, but which were not actually ballot-qualified, other than the Libertarian and Green Parties, would have been the New Alliance Party, which polled over one-half of 1% for U.S. Senate in 1988.