On April 11, the 6th circuit refused Ralph Nader’s request for a rehearing en banc in his Michigan ballot access case. Nader had appeared on the Michigan ballot in 2004 as an independent, but he had preferred to be listed as the Reform Party nominee. But the Michigan Reform Party was split, and only one set of party officers nominated Nader; the other set said the party didn’t wish to run any presidential candidate. The Michigan Secretary of State refused to decide which set of state party officers was legitimate, and left all Reform Party nominees off the ballot. Nader had sued, arguing that the Secretary of State had a duty to decide, but the court had ruled against him. He had asked for a rehearing in January, but that has now been denied.
State Senator Ben Westlund, independent candidate for Oregon Governor, has raised $450,000, and his petition is being circulated by 300 volunteers. He needs 18,356 signatures of registered voters who abstain from the May primary, and is thought likely to succeed. He is about to launch a TV ad for himself, emphasizing that Oregon last elected an independent as Governor in 1930. That candidate, Julius Meyer, is considered by historians to have been a successful governor who helped restore the state’s budget and economy.
On April 11, Vermont’s Republican Governor chose Chris Pearson to fill a vacant seat in the legislature. Pearson is a Progressive Party member, and was that party’s executive director for five years. In Vermont, the tradition is strong that when there is a legislative vacancy, the Governor appoints a replacement from the ranks of the party that had last won that seat. The vacant seat is vacant because former Progressive Party state legislator Bob Kiss resigned to take his new job as Mayor of Burlington.
On April 11, voters in California’s 50th U.S. House district faced a blanket primary ballot with 18 candidates: 14 Republicans, 2 Democrats, one Libertarian and one independent. The various Republicans polled 53.3%; the two Democrats together polled 45.2%; the independent received .8%; the Libertarian, .6%. The highest vote-getting Democrat and the highest vote-getting Republican, along with the Independent and the Libertarian, will face off in a run-off in June.
In November 2004, this same district had voted for U.S. House as follows: Republican 58.4%; Democrat 36.5%; Green 2.3%; Constitution 1.6%; Libertarian 1.2%.
On April 10, the city council of Takoma Park, Maryland, amended the city charter to provide for Instant-Runoff Voting for city office. The voters had already approved the idea last year, and the change is now final.
On March 31, the Maryland legislature passed Senate Bill 129 on an emergency basis. Since it is an emergency bill, it takes effect immediately and does not need approval by the Governor. It outlaws fusion in federal elections. It also codifies the court decision Maryland Green Party v Bd. of Elections. That decision, issued in 2003, struck down the need for qualified minor parties to submit petitions for their nominees, and was a great ballot access victory.
Although Maryland has outlawed fusion in state elections for decades, a loophole in the law seemed to permit fusion for congressional and presidential elections. That loophole is now closed.
Although it is disappointing that federal fusion no longer exists in Maryland, the other part of the bill is beneficial. When a court strikes down a ballot access restriction, it is always useful to have the legislature then amend the law to reflect the court decision, to avoid confusion. In Pennsylvania, during the last 21 years, six different ballot access restrictions have been struck down by federal courts, and yet the Pennsylvania legislature has not amended the election code to reflect any of these decisions.