|This issue was originally printed on yellow paper.|
On January 4, an elite eleven-member Commission formed to study preference voting for statewide office in Vermont issued its report. It unanimously endorsed the idea. The Commission included powerful Democratic and Republican officials, academics, good government groups including the League of Women Voters, and a former state chair of the Libertarian Party.
The recommendations will be introduced in bill form in mid-January by Rep. Terry Bouricius and a host of co-sponsors. The State Constitution need not be changed, so if the bill passes this year, as drafted, it would go into effect in time for the 2000 election. It would apply to all statewide office, federal and state alike, including presidential electors. Of course, any bill can be amended, and if it passes, its effective date might be altered.
Preference voting lets voters put a series of numbers on the ballot for several candidates, such as "1" for the voter's first choice, and "2" for the voter's second choice. It solves the "wasted vote" problem which prevents many voters from voting their convictions.
Vermont is a state which appreciates diversity. The Vermont legislature currently has members from 4 political parties (Republican, Democratic, Progressive and Libertarian).
On December 23, 1998, a Superior Court in Puerto Rico ruled that the Election Commission must let unqualified parties have access to the list of registered voters. The Commission had been providing the list only to the qualified parties. Partido Accion Civil v Comision Estatal de Elecciones, KAC 98-0646. The Civil Action Party is trying to qualify for the ballot, and was handicapped without the list. The government is appealing.
Congressman Ron Paul will probably reintroduce his 1997 bills on ballot access and presidential debates in 1999, according to his staff. The 1997 bills, offered as amendments on the House floor, received 88 votes (debates) and 62 votes (ballot access). It will be easier for activists to lobby for the bills in 1999, since members of congress will be more aware of the bills, since most of them cast a vote on them. Please contact Ballot Access News by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or telephone (415)-922-9779 if you wish to know how your member of congress voted on the bills in 1998; or see the August 3, 1998 B.A.N., page 5.
The ballot access bill would forbid the states from having strict ballot access laws for minor party and independent candidates in federal elections. The presidential debates will would require the major party nominees to debate their leading minor party and independent opponents, or lose their general election public funding.
In November 1998, 906,808 voters voted for a Libertarian for the U.S. House of Representatives. This is the first time since 1948 that any party, other than the Democratic and Republican Parties, has received as much as 1% of the total U.S. House vote (the Libertarian share is 1.36%). In 1948, the Progressive Party founded by Henry Wallace received 1.89% of the U.S. House vote and elected one member. Since 1948, no third party had polled even 1% of the House vote, until 1998.
The previous best Libertarian vote for U.S. House (889,027) was in 1992. Since more voters turn out in presidential years, that year's tally was only .91% of the total vote cast.
The president of the Maine Senate, Senator Mark Lawrence (D-York Co.), has introduced a bill to change the definition of "party" from a group which polled 5% for the most important office at the last election (president or governor), to a group which has registration membership of one-half of 1%. Maine bills had to be introduced by December 18 but don't have numbers yet. Lawrence is vague about what the one-half of 1% would be based on. If it is the total number of registered voters, a party would be required to have 5,000 members; if it is state population, it would need 6,000 members.
In either event, the bill would be a great improvement over the existing law. Currently, the only parties, other than the Democrats and Republicans, which have polled over 5% for president in 1996 and over 5% for governor in 1998 (which is what Maine now requires) are the Reform Parties of Minnesota and New York.
Two other helpful bills have also been introduced in Maine this year. One by Rep. Bob Stanwood (R-Hancock Co.) would let a presidential stand-in named on an independent candidate petition withdraw, and be replaced by the actual presidential candidate (this would let a group petition for president before it has made a decision as to whom to run). The petition is due in mid-May.
Another bill would define "party" to be a group which had polled 5% for either president or governor (but not both), and would provide that a party is recognized as soon as it polls this vote. Currently, even after a party polls 5%, it must wait 15 months before it can be "recognized". This bill is by Belinda Gerry (I-Auburn). It was also introduced in 1997, and was endorsed by the Secretary of State, but it didn't pass.
On December 24, New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman signed S1227/A2228, which sets the petition deadline for independent and minor party candidates (for office other than president) on primary day, which is currently in early June.
Although this is better than the old deadline, which was 54 days before the primary, activists were disappointed, since they had been trying to amend the bill to set the deadline in July. The legislature only acted because the old deadline was held unconstitutional last year.
The 1999 session of the New Jersey legislature may change the primary from June to March, in presidential years. If that happens, the indirect result would be to put the deadline in March, which would almost certainly cause a new lawsuit. The legislature could have avoided this problem if it had written the law so that the petition deadline is not dependent on the primary date.
Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City), Rep. Rebecca Reynolds-Knight (D-Van Buren Co.), and Rep. Ed Fallon (D-Des Moines), have agreed to cosponsor a bill easing the definition of "party". The current definition is a group which polled 2% for the most important office at the top of the ticket (president or governor). Under this definition, there are no qualified minor parties in Iowa.
The bill will change the definition to a group which polled 2% for any statewide race. If this were the law, the Natural Law and Reform Parties would be currently qualified.
Parties which are qualified in Iowa are listed on the state income tax form, and taxpayers can designate a donation to the qualified party of their choice. Also, voters can register as members of qualified parties, but they cannot register into unqualified parties.
For more information, contact Susan Marcus at (515)-472-4711 or Russell Lovetinsky at (319)-351-0161; e-mail Ptaflove@aol.com
1. California: on December 8, the 9th circuit heard California Pro-Life Council v Scully, 98-15308, over the campaign contribution limits passed by voters in 1996 ("prop. 208"). Judging from comments from the bench, some observers felt that Judge Stephen Reinhardt is likely to vote to invalidate the law, whereas Judges John Noonan and Michael Hawkins are more disposed to uphold it.
2. Colorado: A decision is expected momentarily from federal judge Richard Matsch in Campbell v Buckley, 98-M-1929, over whether a state can keep a candidate for Congress off the ballot because he isn't a registered voter. The plaintiff, Douglas Campbell, submitted a valid petition last year to be on the ballot for the U.S. House, but he was kept off the ballot because he refuses to register to vote. Under the 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision U.S. Term Limits v Thornton, states cannot add to the qualifications listed in the Constitution.
3. Georgia: on December 15, the 11th circuit refused the plaintiff's re-hearing request in Amendola v Miller, 97-8888, over the 5% (of the number of registered voters) petition requirement for minor party ballot access for the U.S. House. The law is so strict, it has never been used in the 55 years it has existed.
4. Maine: on December 10 the First Circuit heard Maine Green Party v Secretary of State, 98-1309, over the state's definition of "party". The three judges were Juan Torruella (Reagan), Walter Cummings (Johnson), and Norman Stahl (Bush). Judge Stahl has never had a ballot access case; the two other judges have ruled unfavorably on ballot access in past cases.
5. Oregon: A lawsuit has been filed against the new all-mail ballot law, as applied to federal office, on the grounds that federal law mandates that federal officers be elected on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Plaintiffs argue that in all-mail ballot systems, most voting is done during the three weeks prior to election day. Voting Integrity Project v Keisling, cv98-1372.
6. Virginia: on December 16, U.S. District Court Judge Jackson Kiser, a Reagan appointee, upheld the Virginia June deadline for independent and minor party non-presidential petitions. He ruled only 13 days after the hearing, and made no reference to any of the evidence presented at that hearing. Wood v Meadows, 94-47-D. The plaintiff is appealing. Presidential petitions in Virginia are due in late August.
7. Wyoming: On December 14, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case against state law which says that when a voter abstains from voting on an initiative, that is counted as a "no" vote. Brady v Ohman, 98-625.
1. District of Columbia: Councilman Phil Mendelsen will probably introduce a bill, repealing a law which says that even qualified parties are not "qualified" for president, unless they elected a President since 1950. Contact Jenefer Ellingston at email@example.com, or (202)-546-0940.
2. Georgia: the Georgia Coalition for Ballot Access has been established to work for reform of the ballot access laws. Organizers hope to reduce the number of signatures needed for minor party and independent candidates, and also perhaps to reduce the filing fee burden. Contact Hugh Esco at 706-896-5718 or firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Montana: Rep. Rick Jore (R-Lake Co.) will introduce a bill reducing the number of signatures needed for a new party to 5,000, and deleting the requirement that the petition bear a certain number of signatures from at least one-third of the legislative districts.
4. Tennessee: Charles Wilhoit is organizing an informal coalition of activists to work for a bill, letting candidates who use the independent procedure choose a partisan label, which would be printed on the ballot. He is at (423)-448-6493, or e-mail LikelyTN@juno.com
5. Texas: Rep. Jim Keffer's ballot access reform bill is HB 386.
|Rep.||Dem.||Libt.||Reform||Nat Law||US Tax||Green||SocWkr||Other|
|District of Columbia||8,610||122,228||1,087||2,323|
|Libt.||Reform||Nat.Law||US Tax||Green||SocWkr||Consv||Marijuana||oth pty|
|District of Columbia||.80||1.71|
The "Other" column in the first table consists of: Arizona, independent; California, Peace & Freedom; Connecticut, Term Limits (3,045) and Independence (5,116); Massachusetts, independent; Minnesota, Grassroots (5,839) and independent (1,561); New Jersey, Legalize Marijuana (1,257), Conservative (15,586), independent 6,924; New York, Conservative (270,549), Right to Life (90,744), Liberal (42,548), Freedom (1,046), independent (1,487); North Dakota, independent; Ohio, independent; Oklahoma, independent; Oregon, Socialist; Rhode Island, independent; South Carolina, Patriot; Tennessee, independent; Texas, independent; Utah, American (21,533) and Independent Party (3,998); Vermont, independent (136,403), Grassroots (3,464), Liberty Union (2,153); Virginia, independent; Wisconsin, independent; District of Columbia, Statehood (2,323) and independent (1,647).
In the second table, the Independence Party of Connecticut has been put in the "Conservative Party" column, since that matches its ideas. Percentages represent the vote that a party polled for U.S. House in those districts in which it had candidates. "w" means write-ins.
|Dem.||Rep.||Lib't.||Reform||US Tax||Nat Law||Green||Marijuana||Other|
The "Marijuana" column above includes the Marijuana Reform Party in New York and the Grassroots Party in Vermont.
The "Other" column consists of: California, Peace & Freedom; Colorado, Pacifist (1,981) and independent (3,230); Connecticut, Term Limits; Iowa, Socialist Workers; Louisiana, independent; New Hampshire, independent; New York, Conservative (274,220), Right to Life (104,565), Liberal (55,724), Socialist Workers (3,513); Oklahoma, independent; Oregon, Socialist.; Utah, American; Vermont, Liberty Union (1,238) and independent (2,893); Wisconsin, independent. Scattering write-ins are not included above.
|Dem.||Rep.||Lib't.||Reform||US Tax||Nat Law||Green||Marijuana||other pty|