Ballot Access News -- November 8, 1998

Volume 14, Number 8

This issue was originally printed on light blue paper.

Table of Contents
  1. FLORIDA VOTERS WIPE OUT MANDATORY PETITIONS
  2. PREFERENCE VOTING WINS IN SAN JOSE
  3. MINNESOTA REFORM PARTY MAKES HISTORY
  4. SUPREME COURT HEARING GOES WELL
  5. LIBERTARIAN, TAXPAYERS PARTIES OFF IN ILLINOIS
  6. QUALIFIED PARTIES
  7. DEBATES
  8. BOOK REVIEW: THE NATURAL LAW PARTY, A REASON TO VOTE
  9. HOLLINGS NIXES FUSION
  10. "OTHER" VOTE TOPS 5%
  11. PARTISAN WINS
  12. INDEPENDENT VICTORIES
  13. PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN GREAT BRITAIN
  14. PARTY RIGHTS
  15. OTHER LAWSUIT NEWS
  16. TENNESSEE MURDER SHOWS NEED FOR WRITE-IN SPACE ON BALLOTS
  17. BALLOT ACCESS FIGHT IN PUERTO RICO
  18. TV ACCESS VICTORY
  19. REFORM PARTY PRESIDENTIAL RULES
  20. LABOR PARTY CONVENTION
  21. FULANI VICTORY IN NEW YORK PARTY
  22. VOTERS ALTER ELECTION LAWS
  23. Subscription Information

FLORIDA VOTERS WIPE OUT MANDATORY PETITIONS

BIGGEST VICTORY FOR BALLOT ACCESS REFORM SINCE 1968

On November 3, the voters of Florida passed Revision Eleven, amending the state Constitution so that ballot access procedures for minor parties and independent candidates cannot be more difficult than for members of major parties. It passed with 64.7%.

In Florida, Democrats and Republicans gain access to the primary ballot with no petition whatsoever; they merely pay a filing fee. Since it is very unlikely that legislators will ever impose mandatory petitions on themselves, the likely outcome for future elections is that minor party and independent candidates will also be permitted on the ballot with no petition, if they pay the fee.

Florida recognizes any minor party which submits a list of officers. However, minor parties can't place candidates on the ballot unless they submit petitions of 3% of the number of registered voters (except that presidential candidates need 1%). In 1998, 242,337 valid signatures were required for statewide office. In the entire history of the U.S., no political party has ever managed to overcome a petition requirement that high, with the exception of the Progressive Party in California in 1947-1948, which managed to comply with a requirement of 275,100 signatures.

In Florida, a minor party is a party with registration membership less than 5% of the state total. No party, other than the Democratic or Republican Parties, has held 5% of any state's registration, since the 1910's decade. This has meant that even if a minor party did manage to collect the needed 242,337 signatures, no matter how many votes it then polled, it would need to repeat the petition all over again in the following election year. By contrast, most other states have a vote threshold to determine if a party can remain on the ballot automatically.

Bills have been introduced in the Florida legislature eight times during the last twenty years to ease the requirements, and none ever passed even one house. The petition requirements have been upheld seven times in federal court and once in state court. Consequently, it had seemed virtually impossible that the Florida barriers could ever be changed.

However, the Florida state Constitution contains a unique provision: every twenty years, an elite body of Constitutional Revision Commissioners is appointed. This group has the authority to place possible revisions on the ballot, and if these ideas gain more "yes" votes than "no" votes, they become part of the Constitution.

The Commissioners must hold hearings in various parts of the state, during the first few months of the election year. This year, a Libertarian activist and attorney, Daniel F. Walker of Tallahassee, conceived the idea of persuading the Commission to place ballot access reform on the ballot. Walker organized Libertarians and other friends of ballot access reform to attend every single public hearing, to ask the Commission to include ballot access reform. Other parties, especially the Reform and Green Parties, participated; and Common Cause, a non-partisan pressure group for better and cleaner elections, also participated. The Commission was persuaded, and unanimously added ballot access reform into its package of other election law changes. Then it was up to the voters.

Most newspapers in the state endorsed the election reform package, which was known as Revision Eleven, although the Orlando and Jacksonville newspapers opposed it. Former Congressman John B. Anderson, the League of Women Voters, Gun Owners of America, and other groups, endorsed Eleven.

Common Cause distributed over 100,000 pieces of literature in support. The Libertarian Party mobilized radio talk show hosts, put up billboards, and even hired small airplanes to fly over gatherings with a visible banner urging a "yes" vote. The National Organization for Women, the Christian Coalition, and the National Rifle Association asked voters to vote "no", but did not campaign very hard against Eleven.

Other election law changes in Revision Eleven were: (1) letting candidates for Governor choose their own Lieutenant Governor after the primaries; (2) School Board elections will be non-partisan; (3) Public financing for statewide state office, which is already in existence, is now required by the Constitution; (4) When only one party has a candidate in a partisan race, all voters may vote in that party's primary just for that particular race.

The major parties may sue to overturn that part of Revision Eleven which lets all voters vote in the primary of a party, in races in which only one party has a candidate. However, the various parts of Revision Eleven are severable, so even if the major parties won that lawsuit, there would be no effect on the other parts of the Revision.

This is the second time that the voters of any state have voted on ballot access laws for minor parties and independent candidates. The first time was in Massachusetts in 1990; an initiative cutting the number of signatures down to one-fourth of what they had been passed, by 51.5% to 48.5%.

Florida filing fees, unfortunately, are easily the highest in the nation. They are 6% of the annual salary of the office being sought. Since members of Congress received $140,000, the fee for Congress is $8,400.

The filing fee for member of the legislature is $1,600; for Governor, it is $6,057. A Democratic candidate for Congress challenged the amount of the fee, but lost in the 11th circuit recently; he has asked for a rehearing en banc. If that fails, he will ask for U.S. Supreme Court review.

Florida has no filing fee for any candidates for president. Major parties place candidates on their own presidential primaries simply by telling the state which names to print (the decision is in the hands of the state chair of the party, and the party's two leading state legislators). Therefore, if the legislature doesn't amend ballot access procedures for presidential primaries, it seems that minor party presidential candidates could also be placed on the ballot, with no fee and no petition. However, it seems very likely that the legislature will amend the presidential primary ballot access laws to avoid this outcome.


PREFERENCE VOTING WINS IN SAN JOSE

On November 3, the voters of Santa Clara County, California (the most populous county in northern California) passed Measure F, which gives the County Board of Supervisors the authority to provide for preference voting for County Supervisors. Preference voting permits voters to place a number "one" next to the voter's favorite candidate, and a "two" next to the voter's next-favorite candidate. If no one gets 50%, the lowest-ranking candidate is dropped, and the ballots which assigned a "one" to that candidate are re-assigned to the second place candidates. "F" received 53%.

This is the first time since World War II that the voters of any U.S. jurisdiction have voted in favor of preference voting. A similar question was on the ballot this month in Multnomah County, Oregon (Portland's county) but it lost there, and it had lost in San Francisco and Cincinnati a few years ago.

Preference voting is valuable for minor parties, since it overcomes the "wasted vote" fear of voters.


MINNESOTA REFORM PARTY MAKES HISTORY

Jesse Ventura, elected Governor of Minnesota on the Reform Party ticket, is the first candidate of a nationally-organized minor party to win a gubernatorial election since 1916.

His election shocked virtually everyone. At the September primary, he had polled 2.6% of the total vote cast for Governor (Minnesota has open primaries; a voter is free to decide which party's primary to vote in). By early October he had risen to 21% in polls, but then he spoke favorably about legalizing drugs and prostitution, and commentators assumed he would drop in popularity. The last poll taken showed him at 27%.

He benefitted from Minnesota election laws, which provide matching funds for gubernatorial candidates; he raised $250,000 and received another $250,000 from the state. He also benefitted from election day registration. Exit polls showed that his highest support came from people age 18-29. People of this age are least likely to vote, and many in this group weren't registered, but Minnesota permits unregistered voters to register at the polls, and then vote.

Spending by the major party candidates in the gubernatorial race was $15,000,000 (including spending by the national major parties).

Finally, he benefitted from the fact that he was included in all gubernatorial debates. Both the Democratic and Republican nominees believed that his presence in the debate was beneficial, since each major party candidate assumed that Ventura pulled votes from the other major party.

Web edition notes by rab: in interviews within two days of his election, Ventura stated at least twice that he had considered running as a Libertarian candidate but then decided to run under the Reform label instead because "they were already on the ballot". According to the Minnesota Secretary of State, Ventura's final percentage of the vote was 37.0%, to 34.3% for the Republican and 28.1% for the Democrat, with the remaining 0.6% going to five other candidates and write-ins.

Other minor parties which have elected a governor are these one-state parties: the Alaska Independence Party in 1990; A Connecticut Party in 1990; Wisconsin's Progressive Party in 1934, 1936 and 1942; and Minnesota's Farmer-Labor Party in 1930, 1932, 1934, and 1936. The last nationally-organized minor parties to win a governorship were the Prohibition Party in Florida in 1916, and the "Bull Moose" Progressive Party in California in 1914.


SUPREME COURT HEARING GOES WELL

On October 14, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Buckley v American Constitutional Law Foundation, no. 97-930. This is the Colorado case over whether states can require petitioners to be registered voters. Most of the justices seemed to be skeptical of the need for the law. Justice O'Connor asked "Why can't someone who is an adult resident of Colorado perform that function as well as a registered voter?" O'Connor also said, "It's very hard for me to understand the justification." When the Colorado Attorney General responded that elections officials sometimes seek to question a petition circulator months after the work is done, Justice Stevens noted that registered voters can leave the state just as easily as non-registered residents. When the Attorney General said that "bands of people go state to state simply to circulate petitions", Justice Scalia asked, "How many of these election gypsies are there?" The Attorney General responded "perhaps several hundred". Scalia said, "It's not a whole lot of people."

The First Amendment specifically mentions the right of people to "petition the government", and all citizens have constitutional rights, whether they are registered voters or not.

If the Court does strike down the law which requires petitioners to be registered voters, it is almost certain that the ruling would also apply to petitions to place new parties and independents on the ballot as well.

Some states won't let a petition for district office be circulated unless the petitioner is registered in that district. West Virginia requires all petitioners to obtain credentials. Illinois won't let petitioners circulate for an independent or new party candidate, if the petitioner had earlier that year circulated a petition for a primary candidate. All of these laws could be subject to challenge, if the Colorado decision is favorable. It will probably be handed down by January or February 1999.


LIBERTARIAN, TAXPAYERS PARTIES OFF IN ILLINOIS

On October 7, the Illinois State Board of Elections ruled that the Libertarian and U.S. Taxpayers Parties' statewide slates should not be on the ballot. Illinois requires 25,000 signatures for statewide candidates, and ordinarily does not check the petitions. However, in this case, Republicans challenged both petitions, so the State Board of Elections checked each signature.

The Taxpayers Party petition, which had 41,000 signatures, was found to include fewer than 25,000 valid signatures. However, the Libertarian Party petition was found to bear 26,610 valid signatures. Nevertheless, the party was still removed from the ballot, on the grounds that since one petitioner had forged some names, therefore all his work was disallowed, including many hundred sheets which themselves were free of any forgery. Since this petitioner had been one of the most energetic petitioners, once his work was disallowed, the total number of remaining signatures was below 25,000.

The Libertarian candidates filed a lawsuit, challenging the theory that otherwise valid signatures should be excluded if they were collected by someone who appeared to have forged some names. Tobin v State Board of Elections, 98-co-0152, Cook County. However, on October 30, Judge Francis Barth ruled that the lawsuit could not be heard, since the plaintiffs had "served" notice of the case on the objectors one day after the case had been filed. The law does not say that service must be made on the day a lawsuit is filed, but dicta in a previous election lawsuit said both actions must occur on the same day.

The Libertarian and Taxpayers Party statewide slates had already been printed on the ballots of most counties, but the State Board of Elections instructed the County Boards to obscure those names. It is likely that some counties will not do so, but the state board has also told the counties not to count any ballots for the affected candidates, if any are cast for them.


QUALIFIED PARTIES

As a result of good or bad showings for various nationally-organized parties on November 3, 1998, the following changes (relative to December 1996) occurred in ballot status:

Reform Party: lost qualified status in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. The party can regain its status in California if it keeps its registration at 88,000 (which is its current figure) during 1999. It is still qualified (for president) in 15 states.

Libertarian Party: won qualified status in Massachusetts and Nebraska, and lost it in South Dakota. In New Mexico, where it was formerly a qualified convention party, it is now a qualified primary party, although it must double its voter registration within the next year to keep that status.

Green Party: won qualified status in New York (probably), Maine and the District of Columbia, and lost it in Nevada and Alaska (in Alaska, it would have retained status with just 148 more votes for Governor).

Natural Law Party: won qualified status in Michigan and lost it in Oregon.

U.S.Taxpayers Party: won qualified status in Minnesota.

New Party: lost qualified status in Wisconsin. It tried very hard to win qualified status in New York, but fell short by about 2,000 votes.

Socialist Party: lost qualified status in Oregon.

American Party: gained qualified status in Utah.

A new one-state party gained qualification in Alaska, the Republican Moderate Party. The Peace & Freedom Party of California appears to have lost its status, but it can regain it if it increases its registration from 72,000 to 88,000 during 1999. A Connecticut Party is no longer a qualified minor party. The Freedom Party is no longer qualified in New York.


DEBATES

During September and October 1998, minor party candidates for Governor, U.S. Senator, or Congress-at-large, debated both their major party opponents on television in these 19 states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming.

This is very similar to 1994, when minor party candidates for those offices debated major party opponents in 20 states: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.

In Oklahoma and South Carolina, where there were only three candidates in the gubernatorial election, League of Women Voters debates were held which excluded that third candidate. The Libertarian Party in South Carolina, and the Reform Party in Oklahoma each sued in state court, but lost.

In both states, the League excluded the third candidate on the grounds that they were below 15% in the polls. However, in both states, no poll which mentioned the third candidate had ever been held! The only polls had mentioned only the Democratic and Republican candidates. Nevertheless, the courts said the League was free to do what it wanted. The South Carolina case was Moultrie v League of Women Voters & S.C. Educational TV, in Columbia; in Oklahoma it was Reform Party of Oklahoma v League of Women Voters and University of Oklahoma, cj-98-7451-61, in Oklahoma City. The South Carolina League has since tacitly acknowledged that it behaved badly.

In Missouri, Public TV invited the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian candidates for U.S. Senate. The Reform Party candidate sued in federal court, but lost. Newport v KETC, 4-98cv 1648 RWS (St. Louis).


BOOK REVIEW: THE NATURAL LAW PARTY, A REASON TO VOTE

Author: Robert Roth; publisher: St. Martin's Press, New York, ISBN 0-312-19304-1. Hard cover, $23.95.

Most minor parties have books published, detailing the case in favor of the party's ideas. Generally, these books are interesting to people who like public policy or ideology, or political sociology, but they don't have large appeal to most people.

A Reason to Vote, however, is so cleverly organized and written, it is enjoyable to read for almost anyone. The author did not propound his own ideas. Instead, he visited experts in various subjects, described such experts, described the setting, and relayed the conversation between himself and these experts. By this technique, he manages to make the subjects of genetic engineering of food, preventive health care, organic farming, education in inner cities, and aid to war-ravaged societies, truly absorbing. The book is a pleasure to read.

What's more, the book applies this technique to the subject of how minor parties are treated in the U.S. Therefore, the book (which has been the best selling book on politics during the last month), has spread the word about unfair ballot access laws and debate practices.

The author, Robert Roth, has been touring the U.S., promoting the book and speaking about ballot access and debates problems. Through talk radio and TV, he has reached several million listeners in the last few months. There is probably no more interesting book in print, on the subject of discrimination against minor party and independent candidates.


HOLLINGS NIXES FUSION

The Sept. 4 B.A.N. said that the South Carolina Election Commission had given permission to the Reform Party to cross-endorse U.S. Senator Ernest Hollings, the Democratic nominee. However, Hollings refused the Reform nod, choosing to appear only as the Democratic nominee. He was re-elected anyway.


"OTHER" VOTE TOPS 5%

On November 3, 5.1% of U.S. voters voted for a minor party or independent candidate for the most important office on the ballot. This does not include votes cast on minor party lines for cross-endorsed major party nominees. "Most important office" is Governor. If there was no "other" candidate for Governor, or if the state didn't elect Governor, then it is U.S. Senate; if none of these, then U.S. House of Representatives.

The same statistic in November 1994 was 4.9%. In 1998, states in which the "other" vote exceeded 10% were Alaska (due to a strong showing by the Republican Moderate Party), Maine (due to independent Rufus King winning the election), Minnesota (due to the Reform Party), Mississippi (due to Libertarian candidates for the U.S. House), New York (due to the Reform Party), Pennsylvania (due to the U.S. Taxpayers Party), and West Virginia (due to Libertarian candidates for the U.S. House).


PARTISAN WINS

In addition to the Reform Party victory for Minnesota Governor, the following minor parties elected candidates in partisan offices this month:

Libertarian: won two township offices in Indiana, a county surveyor in West Virginia, a sheriff in Colorado, and a state representative and a high bailiff in Vermont. The legislative winner, Neil Randall, a dues-paying member of the party, first won the Libertarian nomination in caucus, and then won the Repubican primary for the same office. Vermont permits fusion. Randall was listed as "Libertarian/Republican". He plans to list himself strictly as a Libertarian in the legislative directory.

Green: won a county council seat in Hawaii County, Hawaii (the "big island"). The party had won a seat on this body in 1992 and 1994 as well, but had not won any in 1996.

Progressive Coalition: elected four state representatives in Vermont, up from three. The Progressive Coalition recently renamed itself the Progressive Party.


INDEPENDENT VICTORIES

As expected, Congressman Bernie Sanders was re-elected to his fifth term in the U.S. House as an independent. He long ago set the record as the independent congressman who has won the most terms (most independent members of Congress were either defeated after one or two terms, or joined a party).

Also as expected, Maine's independent Governor Angus King was reelected. Due to his large share of the vote, plus good votes for the Green and U.S. Taxpayers Party candidates for Governor, neither the Democratic nor the Republican nominee polled as much as 20% of the vote. If Alabama's definition of "political party" existed in Maine, neither the Democratic nor the Republican Party would be on the ballot now: Alabama requires a party to poll 20% of the vote for any statewide race, and in Maine this year, Governor was the only statewide race.

Two independents were elected to the Vermont state legislature. It is likely that other independents were elected to state legislatures around the country; if so, the next B.A.N. will list them.


PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN GREAT BRITAIN

On October 29, Lord Roy Jenkins released his committee's recommendations for proportional representation in British parliamentary elections. The plan recommends that 80% or 85% of members of the House of Commons be elected by preference voting. Another 15% or 20% of the seats would be "top up members". Parties which had run candidates in at least half the districts, and which had been underrepresented in the district seats, could obtain a share of these seats, so that each party's share of seats in Parliament would match its share of the national popular vote.

Any change to proportional representation is opposed by the Conservative Party and by 100 Labor members of Parliament, as well as by the Trade Unions. The voters probably won't be permitted to vote on the idea until 2002. If it passes, it would be implemented no sooner than 2006.


PARTY RIGHTS

California political parties had two recent legal setbacks:

1. The voters rejected Proposition 3, which would have let parties decide for themselves which voters may vote in presidential primaries. The vote was "Yes" 44%, "No" 56%. As a result, the Democratic and Republican National Committees will probably not recognize the "blanket" presidential primaries, and delegates to the major party conventions will be selected by caucus, not by the voters. Proposition 3 had been placed on the ballot by an almost unanimous vote of the legislature. It carried Los Angeles County, but no other county.

2. Meanwhile, the four parties (Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, and Peace & Freedom) which have sued to overturn the blanket primary had their hearing in the 9th circuit. They had the bad luck to end up with a panel of three judges which included Judge Stephen Trott, a Reagan appointee who is probably the federal judge with the greatest antipathy toward political parties. In 1989, he wrote the decision in Geary v Renne, upholding a California law which made it a crime for any political party to "support, endorse or oppose" any candidate for non-partisan office. His decision is 41 printed, single-spaced pages long, and consists largely of a condemnation of all political parties, accusing them of "tyranny", of being "boss-driven", of being opposed to Jeffersonian ideals, of closing the door to elective office for independent-minded persons, and of fostering a "centralized partisan power authority of incredible financial dimensions".

Trott's 1989 decision was overturned on rehearing by an en banc panel of eleven different judges, and the law he upheld no longer exists. However, Trott still feels the same way about parties, and he made it plain at oral augment that he will vote to uphold the blanket primary.

The other two judges on the panel are Betty Fletcher and Proctor Hug. Both are Carter appointees. However, Judge Fletcher is from Washington state, where the blanket primary has been in place since 1934.

When California's attorney declared at the argument that the blanket primary doesn't harm parties in Washington state, Fletcher nodded (though she said nothing). Judge Hug, a Nevadan, seemed to understand the concerns of the political parties.


OTHER LAWSUIT NEWS

1. Alabama: on October 28, the 11th circuit upheld keeping the Reform Party candidates off the ballot, despite the Secretary of State's misinformation to the party on the filing deadline. Reform Party v Bennett, 98-6708.

2. Arkansas: on September 2, the State asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold contribution limits of $100 to legislative candidates. Burris v Russell, 98-399.

3. California: on October 5, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear NAACP v Jones, 97-1840, over whether the current system by which elected judges raise campaign funds violates the U.S. Constitution.

4. Georgia: on October 1, the 11th circuit upheld the petition requirements for minor party candidates for U.S. House, 5% of the number of registered voters. The court refused even to permit a hearing. Amendola v Miller, 97-8888.

Georgia (2): on October 22, the State Supreme Court upheld the practice of disallowing all signatures collected by a notary public, if that notary notarized even a single sheet. Lewy v Beazley, S98A-1903.

5. Maine: in early December, there will be a hearing in the First Circuit in Maine Green Party v Secretary of State, 98-1309. Chances for winning this lawsuit were bolstered this month when the Green Party polled 7% for Governor, so that it will regain its status as a political party in spring 2000. The issue is whether a state may force a qualified party to poll 5% for president.

6. New Jersey: on November 4, the 3rd circuit heard Council of Alternative Parties v Hooks, 97-5398. This is the case over the April petition deadline for non-presidential minor party and independent candidates.

The 3rd circuit had previously granted an injunction in this case; this hearing was to determine if the deadline is constitutional or not. Unfortunately, the two judges who voted favorably last time are no longer on the case, while the dissenting judge remains.

7. New York: on September 23, the State Supreme Court, Albany Division, upheld state law that petition signers in suburban areas must list not only their village, but their town. Feder v Berman, no. 5251-98.

8. Oklahoma: the state has decided not to appeal Atherton v Ward. This means that voters may register as members of the Libertarian or Reform Parties, even though those parties are not qualified.

9. Pennsylvania: on October 13, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Berg v Kozloff, 98-273, over the state's county distribution requirement for statewide state office petitions in primaries.

10. Texas: on October 2, a U.S. District Court refused to issue an injunction to force Texas to print a U.S. Taxpayers Party candidate for the legislature on the ballot. The party had argued that Texas must permit a party to qualify in a single legislative district, if it isn't qualified statewide. Holmes v Gonzales, A98-ca-600SS, Austin.

11. federal law: there was a hearing in the 9th circuit on Nov. 4 in Perot '96 v FEC, 98-15443, over federal practices which insure that all FEC Commissioners are always Republicans or Democrats, and against a law which discriminates against parties which polled 5% of the vote for president at the last election, relative to parties which polled 25%. Parties in the former class receive less federal funding, yet are subject to the same contribution restrictions. The judges were Mary Schroeder, a Carter appointee; Sidney Thomas, a Clinton appointee; and Samuel King, a Nixon appointee. The judges will decide if the case is substantial enough, to permit Perot to present evidence. The lower court wouldn't even permit a trial.


TENNESSEE MURDER SHOWS NEED FOR WRITE-IN SPACE ON BALLOTS

On October 19, Tennessee Democratic State Senator Tommy Burks was murdered. He had been running for reelection, but the ballots hadn't been printed yet, so in accordance with state law, his name was removed from the ballot.

This left only one candidate on the ballot, Republican nominee Byron "Low Tax" Looper. However, Looper was soon arrested, since police believed he killed Senator Burks. There was no basis for removing Looper's name from the ballot, however, since he hadn't been convicted yet.

Tennessee and 44 other states permit write-ins. Senator Burks' widow, Charlotte Burks, declared herself a write-in candidate for her late husband's seat, and she won the election with 30,072 write-ins. Looper, the only candidate listed on the ballot, only received 1,500 votes. Without write-in space, Looper could not have been defeated.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that states are free to omit write-in space from ballots, Burdick v Takushi. This was an unfortunate decision which ignored 100 years of precedents from 20 state supreme courts, saying that write-in space must be preserved, because the state has no right to tell voters whom they may or may not vote for. Despite the 1992 decision, none of the 45 states with write-in space has abolished write-in voting since 1992.


BALLOT ACCESS FIGHT IN PUERTO RICO

A lawsuit was recently filed against the requirement for new parties to qualify for the Puerto Rican ballot. The law, which is harsher than that of any state in the U.S., requires a petition signed by 5% of the registered voters. Each signature must be notarized, and it's very difficult for a non-lawyer to become a notary public. Civil Action Party v Electoral Commission, 98-09-6837. The case is filed in Commonwealth court, not federal court, and is assigned to Judge Zadetta Bajandas Velez. Currently, the law requires 98,685 signatures. Only one party has complied with the law in the past twenty-five years.


TV ACCESS VICTORY

On October 7, federal judge Arthur D. Spratt ruled that a public access cable TV station cannot refuse access to candidates for public office. The case had been brought for the Marijuana Reform Party of New York, which was on the ballot this year for statewide office. Moss v Cablevision Systems Corp., 98cv59855 (e.d., Uniondale). The station had claimed that political ads are commercial speech.


REFORM PARTY PRESIDENTIAL RULES

At its September 1998 national convention, the Reform Party passed a set of bylaws governing presidential candidate selection. No one will be permitted to run for the party's nomination, unless the candidate demonstrates the ability to qualify as an independent candidate in at least half the states in which the party is not ballot-qualified.


LABOR PARTY CONVENTION

The Labor Party will hold its first Constitutional Convention November 13-15 in Pittsburgh, Pa. The biggest issue will be whether the should run candidates for public office. For more information, call (202)-234-5194.


FULANI VICTORY IN NEW YORK PARTY

The New Alliance Party, which ran Lenora Fulani for president in 1988 and 1992, has been part of the Reform Party since 1995. In New York state, where Fulani's group is strongest, the Reform Party elected a new state committee at its September primary. At the party's state convention on September 28, a majority of members sided with the Fulani forces.


VOTERS ALTER ELECTION LAWS

At this month's election, voters in Oregon voted to abolish polling places, and switch to all-mail ballots. Voters in Wyoming and Mississippi voted to make it more difficult to get initiatives on the ballot. Voters in Arizona voted to let registered independents vote in any partisan primary they wish.


Ballot Access News. is published by and copyright by Richard Winger ban@igc.apc.org. Note: subscriptions are available!
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Compilation copyright (c) 1998 Bob Bickford