On March 31, 5 Georgia state representatives introduced HB 927. It would improve Georgia ballot access. Although it was introduced too late in the session to advance this year, it can advance next year, since Georgia has a 2-year legislative session.
HB 927 is sponsored by 4 Republicans (David Ralston, Ronald Forster, Robert Franklin and Burke Day), and one Democrat (William Mitchell). It lowers all district and county petitions from 5% of the number of registered voters, to 2% of the last vote cast.
It has no effect on the number of signatures now needed to create a new, ballot-qualified statewide party.
It actually makes ballot access somewhat more difficult for statewide candidate petitions in presidential election years (but slightly easier in gubernatorial election years), by changing their petitions from 1% of the number of registered voters to 2% of the last vote cast for that office.
The Yale Law Journal, vol. 114, #5, March 2005, carries an article “Judging Partisan Gerrymanders Under the Elections Clause” by Jamal Greene.
In 2001, the US Supreme Court struck down a Missouri law that said opponents of congressional term limits should have a label printed on the ballot, indicating that they had oppose that proposed constitutional amendment. That case, Cook v Gralike, said Article 1, sec. 4 of the U.S. Constitution (the “Elections Clause”) forbids the states from discriminating for or against any class of candidates for Congress.
The Yale Law Journal article is focused on Cook v Gralike. This particular article says that under the Cook v Gralike theory, partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. That’s an interesting idea in its own right. The article looks into British history, and U.S. colonial history, to support its thesis.
When Cook v Gralike was decided in 2001, B.A.N. argued that the theory behind Cook v Gralike could also be used to overturn severe ballot access requirements for congress (see March 1, 2001 B.A.N.). Unfortunately, Cook v Gralike has been ignored, ever since it was written. The Yale Law Journal article may cause more judges and attorneys to think about Cook v Gralike.
On March 28, a US District Court ruled the county distribution requirement for initiatives in Montana to be void. Montana Public Interest Research Group v Brown, cv03-183-M. The decision was no surprise. Ever since 2000, when the US Supreme Court issued Bush v Gore, lower courts have been ruling that county distribution requirements for statewide petitions of all kinds are unconstitutional. Requiring a certain number of signatures from each county gives more power to voters in low-population counties than in urban counties.
The only state that still has a county distribution requirement for candidate petitions is Pennsylvania, which imposes them on candidates seeking a place on a primary ballot for statewide state office.
SB 1233, to set up a procedure by which a group can turn itself into a qualified party, passed the Connecticut Joint Administration and Election Committee on March 31. If the bill becomes law, a group that submits a petition signed by 1% of the last vote cast (currently 15,788 signatures) could then nominate by convention for any partisan office it wished, without further petitioning. The petition also has a distribution requirement.
State Senator Debra Bowen, chair of the California State Senate Elections Committee, has introduced SB 596, to allow any city, county or school board in California to use Instant-Runoff or Choice Voting systems. Also, she has agreed to be the keynote speaker at Californians’ for Electoral Reform’s annual general meeting on May 14 (location not set yet).
SB 84 passed the Missouri State Senate on March 30. It repairs a drafting error in the state’s ballot access reform bill passed back in 1993. The intent of the 1993 law was to let parties petition for qualified status, and only then would they be required to choose their nominees, in convention. But due to an error back in 1993, the law excluded the right of such a party to nominate for president, unless it had listed candidates for presidential elector on the petition. SB 84 fixes the problem, and deletes the requirement that the electors be listed.