Omnibus Ohio Bill Advances

On May 17, the Ohio House of Representatives passed HB3, which, among other things, provides that voter registration forms should let voters register into particular parties. However, the bill provides that if the voter affiliates with a party that is not ballot-qualified, the voter should be deemed to be an independent. Similar practices have been held unconstitutional in New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Colorado. Since the list of members is useful to all political parties, not just qualified political parties, if HB 3 passes, will be subject to a legal attack by any unqualified party in Ohio that does run nominees (in 2004, such groups included the Libertarian and Constitution Parties). HB 3 also raises the fee for requesting a recount from $10 per precinct to $50 per precinct, a reaction to last year’s presidential recount.

British Columbia Almost Votes in Alternate Vote System

On May 17, 57.2% of the British Columbia voters voted to change their voting system to a more proportional system. However, the law required the system to pass with 60%, so it didn’t pass. However, advocates for alternative voting systems are buoyed up by knowing that a substantial majority of the voters voted for the system, and new proposals will be brought forward.

Restrictive Oregon Bill Passes House

On May 17, the Oregon House of Representatives passed HB 2614, which makes it illegal for a registered party member to sign an independent candidate petition. The vote was 45-11. The bill now goes to the Senate Rules Committee. The “no” votes were cast by 6 Democrats (Buckley, Galizio, March, Roblan) and 5 Republicans (Boquist, Bruun, Kropf, Nelson and Olson).

Louisiana Senate Passes Odd Bill on Congressional Election Timing

On May 16, the Louisiana State Senate amended SB 53 and passed it 30-2. The original bill set up a closed primary system for congressional elections. The amended bill is entirely different. It restores Louisiana congressional elections to the schedule used between 1978 and 1996. All candidates run in October, and if anyone polls 50% or more, that person is deemed elected and no November election is held. If no one gets 50% in October, a run-off is held in November.

This is very odd behavior on the part of the State Senate, since the system SB 53 sets up was thrown out by the US Supreme Court in Foster v Love, 522 US 67 (1997), a unanimous decision. The US Supreme Court decision was based on the fact that an old federal law tells the states to hold their congressional elections in November. SB 53 tries to avoid the legal problem by saying that even when the first round in October produces a winner, the “winner” is not “declared elected” until November. This is laughable. The US Supreme Court decision said, “When the federal statutes speak of the election of a Senator or Representative, they plainly refer to the combined actions of voters and officials meant to make a final selection of an officeholder.” Holding an election in October but pretending that it didn’t happen until November is playing make-believe. It will be interesting to see what happens in the Louisiana House. In recent years, the Louisiana House has been friendly to closed primaries, whereas the Louisiana Senate has been the bastion of support for the non-partisan “top two” system.