June 26 is the petition deadline for minor party candidate petitions in Illinois. Two parties filed: Green and Constitution. The state law requires 25,000 signatures for statewide nominees, but state law also says that all petitions are deemed acceptable, whether they have the minimum number of signatures or not. So both parties will be on the ballot, unless there is a challenge. The Green Party believes that its 39,000 signatures will survive a challenge, since they were collected very carefully. The Constitution Party is very vulnerable to a challenge,, since its petition had only 4,500 signatures.
On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Vermont’s campaign finance restrictions. Randall v Sorrell, 04-1528. The lead plaintiff, Neil Randall, had been elected to the Vermont legislature as a Libertarian, although he had also won the Republican nomination as well. Later he changed parties from Libertarian to Republican, and was re-elected solely as a Republican.
The ruling struck down Vermont’s expenditure limits, on the basis that the Supreme Court had already thrown out expenditure limits back in 1976. More significantly, it also said Vermont’s contribution limits are too low, especially the limit on how much money a political party may contribute to its own nominees. The Court said, “We agree with the District Court that the Act’s contribution limits ‘would reduce the voice of political parties’ in Vermont to a ‘whisper.’ The law let parties contribute only $200 to any particular nominee.
The League of Women Voters just held a national convention in Minneapolis. The national League passed a resolution that says, “The League supports only voting systems that have a voter-verifiable paper ballot or other paper record that is the official record of the voter’s intent, that the voter can verify while in the process of voting”.
Ohio state representative Jim Trakas has promised to introduce a bill in the next 10 days to let petitioning candidates choose a partisan label, to be placed on the November ballot next to the name of that candidate. A slight majority of other states already have such a law. These laws typically require that the label be no longer than 3 words, and not mimic the name of a fully-qualified party.
Since virtually all minor parties in Ohio place their nominees on the November ballot by petition, this bill, if passed, would make a huge improvement in Ohio ballot access laws for minor parties. Ohio law permitted such labels between 1891 and 1947. The label was repealed at the same time that the Ohio legislature made other hostile changes, such as eliminating write-ins, eliminating procedures for independent presidential candidates, and sharply increasing the number of signatures needed for independent candidates.
Representative Trakas is a Republican from Cuyahoga County.
The only “National Popular Vote” bills that have already been introduced, and that could still pass this year, are California’s AB 2948, and New York’s AB 11563. The Louisiana bill failed to pass before the legislature went home for the year. The California bill has a hearing in the State Senate Elections Committee on June 28. Bills will probably be introduced in Pennsylvania and Ohio this year, and in most states in 2007.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks will hold a hearing at 9:30 am, Monday, June 26, in Austin, Texas, in Democratic Party of Texas v Benkiser. The issue is whether Tom DeLay is ineligible to run for re-election. DeLay won the March 2006 Republican primary for US House, 22nd district. After the primary, he sought to withdraw. If he withdraws, the Republican Party may choose a new nominee. However, Texas law does not permit anyone to withdraw unless there is a public record proving that the candidate is ineligible.
Texas election officials accepted DeLay’s withdrawal, because he said that he had moved out of Texas and become a resident of Virginia. However, the Democratic Party sued elections officials, saying that DeLay may not withdraw because there is no public record that he is ineligible. Article One of the U.S. Constitution says that members of Congress must be residents of the state they are representing “when elected” (which would be November 2006). Furthermore, the Constitution says that each house of Congress shall be the sole judge of who is validly elected to that house. Courts and state officials have no voice in the matter.
The Democratic lawsuit was originally filed in state court, but the Republican Party successfully intervened to get the case moved into federal court.