Law Professor Ned B. Foley Identifies Instant Runoff Voting for President as the Most Needed Electoral Reform

Election law professor Ned B. Foley has written this column, saying that not only is instant runoff voting desirable in presidential elections, it is the single most important election law reform that should be made. He discusses the 2016 presidential election at length, with reference to Jill Stein and Gary Johnson. Foley is at Moritz College of Law in Ohio, which has a special emphasis on election law. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.

Louisiana Republican Party Hopes U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear its Campaign Finance Case

On January 6, the Louisiana Republican Party asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Republican Party of Louisiana v Federal Election Commission, 16-865. The party is arguing that the First Amendment protects the ability of a state party to receive larger contributions than the federal law now permits. The current law sets contribution limits on individual contributions to state political parties if the money will be used for any federal election activity whatsoever. Sometimes parties want to spend money on activities that affect both federal and state campaigns, such as get-out-the-vote drives.

The Louisiana Republican Party case is only about money that would be spent independently of any particular candidate. The party says that the purpose of the federal law that limits donations to political parties is to prevent individuals from making such contributions in order to curry favor with particular members of Congress, but that this rationale does not justify limits on independent spending. Here is the party’s cert petition. The U.S. District 3-judge court had ruled against the party in late 2016.

Oklahoma Bill to Let Independent Presidential Candidates Qualify via Filing Fee

Oklahoma State Senator Eddie Fields (R-Wynona) has introduced SB 145, which would give independent presidential candidates the option of paying a fee to get on the November ballot, instead of a petition. The bill also lowers the petition to 3% of the last gubernatorial vote, which is considerably lower than 3% of the last presidential vote.

The amount of the fee is somewhat ambiguous. The bill says the fee would be $2,500 for each candidate for presidential elector. Oklahoma has seven electoral votes. Seven multiplied by $2,500 equals $17,500. However, neither the bill, nor existing law, says that independent presidential candidates must file a full slate of electors. The law implies there should be a least two, because it talks about a “slate” of presidential elector candidates, which implies more than one. If two electors were named by the independent presidential candidate, than the fee would be $5,000.

The bill also abolishes the existing law that lets an unqualified party put a presidential candidate on the ballot, with the party label. That aspect of the bill seems unwise, because then there would be no way for an unqualified party to place a presidential candidate unless it qualified as a full party, and that petition is due the first week in March, which is probably unconstitutionally early, at least for presidential candidates.

The State Board of Elections backs this bill.

Also, on January 12, Jill Stein and Rocky De La Fuente filed a notice of appeal in De La Fuente v Ziriax, in their case that challenges the existing procedure for an independent presidential candidate, or the presidential nominee of an unqualified party, to get on the ballot. The case is based mostly on the fact that Oklahoma already lets independent candidates for other office get on the ballot with just a filing fee and no petition, yet won’t extend this option to independent presidential candidates. The bill seems designed to settle the issue raised in the lawsuit. The case number in the Tenth Circuit is 17-6010.

There are probably other ballot access bills about to be introduced into the Oklahoma legislature.

FEC Delays Decision on Socialist Workers Party Disclosure

The Federal Election Commission had planned to vote today on whether to revoke the exemption on reporting campaign donations and expenditures for the Socialist Workers Party. However, that vote has been postponed; no new date has been set yet.

Here is the January 5, 2017 recommendation from the FEC’s staff that the SWP no longer enjoy the exemption. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the news and the link.