Louisiana Closed Primary Bill Advances

On March 29, Louisiana Senate Bill 18 passed the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously. This was quick action, since the legislature has only been in session since March 27. The bill only applies to congressional elections. It would let each party decide for itself whether to invite independents into its primary.

The current system is the “top-two” system, with the first round in November and the run-off in December, in which parties do not actually nominate candidates. Instead, all candidates run on a single ballot, and the top two finishers compete later if no one got 50% in the first round. Sometimes this results in two Democrats in the run-off, or two Republicans. Louisiana officials have decided this sytem puts the state at a disadvantage, since sometimes its members of Congress don’t arrive until all other states have already sent their newly-elected members. Therefore, the best committee assignments aren’t available.

Ex-Felon Legal Victory in Washington State

On March 27, a state court in Washington state struck down a statute that prevented a class of ex-felons from registering to vote. The class includes those who have served their prison time, but are still paying off fines. The plaintiffs are low-income, and at the rate they are paying off their fines, it will be decades before that obligation is complete. The court ruled that the law violates the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as state constitution’s equal protection clause as well. Madison v State, 04-2-33414-4, Seattle.

Interesting Lawsuit Filed in Missouri

On March 27, a Missouri Democrat filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of State, because she refused to let him appear on the Democratic primary ballot for U.S. House, 7th district. The Secretary of State refused to accept his candidacy because the Democratic Party of Missouri said the candidate, Glenn Miller, is a white supremacist (Miller accepts this designation as accurate). Miller v Missouri Secretary of State, 06-5032-cv-SW.

A few states empower political parties to reject a member or a candidate in that party’s own primary, if the member or candidate is not in sympathy with party principles. However, Missouri has no such law. Therefore, the state will need to establish that there is a common law right for political parties to exclude, something that will probably be difficult to do. This case may create an interesting precedent.

IRV Gain in South Carolina

On March 24, South Carolina House Bill 3720 was signed into law. It provides for Instant-Runoff Voting in primaries, for overseas absentee voters. Louisiana and Arkansas already have similar laws. Run-off primaries (which exist only in the south) are a problem for overseas absentee voters, since mail service to many overseas locations doesn’t permit ballots for the run-off primary to reach them in time. So, these 3 states have chosen to use Instant-Runoff Voting, so that overseas absentee voters only need to vote once, combining the first primary with the run-off simultaneously.

Illinois Legislator Says he will Form New Party

Illinois State Senator James Meeks said over the weekend that he will attempt to create a new party, and be its gubernatorial candidate, this year. He is not only a State Senator, but pastor of Chicago’s Salem Baptist Church, which has 26,000 members. When he was elected to the State Senate in 2002, he won as the nominee of the Honesty and Integrity Party, so presumably that would be the name of his party. However, he is also running for re-election to the State Senate as a Democrat. If he goes ahead with his gubernatorial run, he would need to withdraw from his re-election race. Petitioning for third party petitions starts on March 28. Other petitions that will be circulating starting that day are the Green and Constitution Party statewide petitions.

State Party Conventions of March 26

At least two state parties held nominating conventions on March 26. The Nevada Green Party nominated Craig Bergland for Governor.

The Florida Libertarian Party decided not to nominate any candidates for statewide office, and none for U.S. House, but it nominated for two state legislative districts.

Some Florida Libertarians wanted to nominate the ticket of John Wayne Smith for Governor, and James Kearney for Lieutenant Governor, but a majority of delegates preferred to have no candidates for these offices. However, there is another qualified party in Florida called the American Libertarian Party, and it is likely that the American Libertarian Party will nominate these candidates. If so, Smith will be the first minor party nominee for Governor to be on the Florida ballot since 1920. Florida had an independent candidate for Governor in 2002, but has not had a third party nominee on the ballot in 85 years. The Socialist Party nominee for Governor appeared on the ballot in 1920.