HB2399, which would move the primary from September to August, and also move the deadline for independent candidates from June to May, has not advanced, and is considered dead.
SB1205, which makes it easier for a new party to get on the ballot in mid-term years, and which has already passed the Senate, also passed the House Education Committee today. Now it goes to the House Judiciary Committee.
On April 5, a local Washington state court will hold a pre-trial conference in the case over who won the disputed gubernatorial election. Depositions are due April 18. The actual trial date will probably be set on April 5.
The only other two election contests still not settled (from the November 2, 2004) election are those for Mayor of San Diego, and for North Carolina State School Superintendent.
The Washington legislature failed to pass SB 5745 by the deadline, so it is dead. It would have cleaned up the technical errors in the “top-two” initiative that passed last year. The initiative, I-872, limits the general election ballot (for congress, state office and partisan county office) to only the two top vote-getters from the primary. I-872 passed despite opposition from the state’s minor parties. But I-872 is internally contradictory, due to major drafting errors.
The Washington legislature is empowered to alter the language of initiatives, and SB 5745 would have eliminated the errors in the initiative. Because the bill died, Washington faces the future with an election law that is impossibly muddled. The Secretary of State will now draft interim rules, which may or may not provide for minor party ballot access in the November election. There are partisan county elections in November 2005 in some counties of Washington state, so this will be addressed fairly soon.
This week, ballot access improvement bills in Missouri, North Carolina, and North Dakota, have all made some headway.
In Missouri, SB84 has passed the Senate policy committee unanimously. It lets a new party that circulate the party petition decide for itself, after it has finished the petition, whether or not to run a presidential candidate. Current law, because of a drafting error made in 1993, forces such a party to list its presidential elector candidates on the party petition, which cuts down on the party’s flexibility.
In North Carolina, H88 passed the House Committee with only one “no” vote. It cuts petition requirements down to only one-fourth of the current requirements.
In North Dakota, HB1433 passed the Senate unanimously with the amendment that makes it possible for a new party to stay on the ballot in mid-term years, if it polls 5% for either Secretary of State or Attorney General. Since that bill wasn’t in the original bill, it must now return to the House.
In Tennessee, HB 1776, to allow labels for candidates who use the independent petition procedure, had a hearing on March 23. The legislators had many questions which could not be answered at the hearing, so another hearing will be held in a week.
Today, the Montana Supreme Court finally issued its explanation of why Rick Jore, Constitution Party nominee for the Montana legislature, was not actually elected last November. Back in December, that Court had unseated Jore, but had not explained why. The March 21 decision is 31 pages long, and says that when a voter fills in a bubble next to one candidate’s name, and then makes an “X” through that filled-in bubble and then fills in another bubble next to a rival candidate’s name, it is impossible to understand that voter’s intent. The vote was 6-1. The dissenting justice stressed that the local elections officials had unanimously agreed that they could understand voter intent in such a situation.
This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Nader v Connor, 04-918. The issues were whether it is constitutional for Texas to require more signatures for an independent presidential candidate than are needed for a new party or a statewide non-presidential independent; and whether it is constitutional for the state to require an independent presidential candidate to submit signatures two weeks before new party petitions are due. The lower courts had upheld these discriminatory ballot access laws.