|This issue was originally printed on white paper.|
On February 18, a U.S. District Court Judge in Colorado struck down the federal law which limits how much money parties can spend on the campaigns of their congressional candidates. Federal Election Commission v Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee, no. cv-89-N-1159. The decision is by Edward Nottingham, a Bush appointee. The FEC is appealing.
If the decision stands, it removes an oddity in federal campaign law, that candidates were permitted to spend as much money as they wished (unless the candidate accepted public campaign funds), whereas political parties could not spend freely. It is important to note that the decision has nothing to do with campaign contributions to political parties, which are still limited.
Back on June 26, 1996, in this same case, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that parties are free to make "independent expenditures", but this had little practical effect, since it is almost unheard of for political parties to support their candidates while not communicating with them (by definition of "independent expenditures", the person or group making them must not coordinate with the candidate).
Nottingham's decision reads like a political science journal article about the role that political parties ought to play. He wrote, "The FEC seeks to broaden the definition of corruption to the point that it intersects with the very framework of representative government. Corruption cannot be defined so broadly. Nor can corruption be defined to include whatever it is that political parties and candidates do which the FEC does not like... Political parties, and the central activities in which they engage, are a paradigm of the right to freedom of association as guaranteed by the First Amendment...
...The purpose of political parties is to gain control of government, rather than to pursue single goals, as PACs do... Political parties function, in large part, to elect persons who represent the shared political beliefs of their members... Party pressure over candidates -- despite the FEC's attempts to cast it otherwise, is not corruption... Party influence over candidates is the nature of the party-candidate relationship... A political party functions to promote political ideas and policy objectives over time and through elected officials. Give the purpose of political parties in our electoral system, a political party's decision to support a candidate who adheres to the parties' belief is not corruption. Conversely, a party's refusal to provide a candidate with electoral funds because the candidate's views are at odds with party positions is not an attempt to exert improper influence."
Back when this case was in the U.S. Supreme Court, four of the nine justices wrote separately to say that they felt the expenditure cap on party spending was unconstitutional (the other five judges expressed no opinion on this), so it seems fairly likely that the Nottingham decision will ultimately be upheld.
Judicial opinions upholding the First Amendment rights of political parties are always helpful to minor parties as well as to the two major parties. If the courts would consistently uphold the First Amendment rights of political parties, the parties, rather than state government, could decide for themselves who should participate in their nomination process; could decide for themselves whether to jointly (with another party) nominate a candidate; could decide for themselves how candidates may receive the party's nomination and even be freed from laws which tell them that they cannot nominate a non-member of the party.
On February 22, HB 585 passed the Montana House by a vote of 96-4. It would reduce the number of signatures needed for new parties, and for statewide independents, from 5% of the winning candidate's vote (new parties need 5% of the winning candidate for Governor's vote), to an exact 5,000 signatures. Since the existing law for 2000 requires 16,039 signatures, this would be a dramatic improvement. Currently, Montana requires more signatures to get a minor party or independent presidential candidate on the ballot, divided by the number of registered voters, than any other state (when the easier method in each state is compared). Montana requires signatures from 2.51% of the voters; second highest is Oklahoma at 1.77%.
The bill, by Rep. Rick Jore (R-Lake County) was initiated by the U.S. Taxpayers Party. Although the party has helped lobby for better ballot access laws in many states, this is the first time a bill initiated by the U.S. Taxpayers Party has made substantial headway. The Senate will vote on the bill in mid-March.
On February 28, the New Mexico State Senate passed SJR 12, which would provide for preference voting for all federal and state office. The vote was 22-1. The New Mexico Senate has 42 members. When the vote was taken, all of the Republican Senators were absent; they had walked out earlier to protest a Democratic maneuver on an education bill.
If the bill passes the House, then the voters will decide whether to add the provision to the State Constitution, perhaps at a special election this year.
The Vermont bill for preference voting, H 199, still hasn't made any headway through the legislature.
On February 25, the Senate passed SB 591, which removes the penalty for any voter signing a minor party or independent candidate petition, and then voting in the primary.
Currently, a voter can't sign a petition and then vote in a primary. This West Virginia bill is a half-step toward eliminating that restriction. Under current law, and under the bill, a petition on a signature by a registered voter is valid. If the voter later votes in the primary, the signature is still valid, but the voter is subject to misdemeanor penalties. If the bill passes, the penalties will be extinct, which will make it easier to persuade voters to sign a petition.
On March 2, the Georgia House Government Affairs Committee heard testimony in favor of HB 672, which would drastically ease ballot access for minor party and independent candidates. The bill will be taken up again on March 4, and the Committee will vote then.
HB 1742, which would cut the number of signatures for a new party from almost 60,000 signatures, to an exact 10,000, failed to receive a Committee hearing by February 22, so it cannot pass this year. However, it could still pass next year.
Rep. Bob McKee (R-Montgomery) has introduced HB 131, which lowers the vote for a party to remain on the ballot from 20%, to 3%. McKee will amend the bill to also lower the number of signatures, from 3% of the last gubernatorial vote to 1%, if there is support. To help pass this bill, contact Ray Vaughn, 300B Water St. #214, Montgomery Al 36104, firstname.lastname@example.org, (334)-265-6529.
Rep. Courtney Sheppard (D-El Dorado) has introduced HB 1766, which would lower the number of signatures for new parties from 3% of the last gubernatorial vote, to 10,000.
HB 47, which would have created a petition procedure by which a group could become a qualified political party, lost in the Senate Privileges & Elections Committee on February 16. The bill had passed the House, but the Chair of the Senate Committee, Kevin Miller (R-Harrisonburg) refused to schedule it. Virginia is one of eleven states in which it is impossible for a group to become a qualified party, in advance of any particular election.
1. California: Last month, Senator John Lewis (R-Orange) introduced SB 365, which would make it more difficult for minor party candidates to get on primary ballots. It would also increase the difficulty for independent candidates to get on the general election ballot. Introduced at the request of the County Clerks Association, it would require separate petitions for ballot access, and in lieu of a filing fee. Under current law, one petition serves both purposes. Activists hope to meet with the County Clerks on March 12 to find a better solution.
2. New Hampshire: HB 375, which would increase petition requirements 7-fold, did not pass the House Election Law Committee on February 9. It has been sent for study.
On February 9, the 9th circuit issued a ruling in National Committee of Reform Party v FEC, 98-15443, upholding federal law which gives the 2000 Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns equal payments of $65,000,000, while giving the Reform Party only $12,000,000.
The decision, written by Judge Mary Schroeder, a Carter appointee, says, "Third parties have been completely incapable of matching the major parties' ability to raise money and win elections. Congress was, of course, aware of this fact of American life, and thus was justified in providing both major parties full funding and all other parties only a percentage of major-party entitlement...
"We conclude that the Reform Party has not stated a claim that the Act has resulted in invidious discrimination as applied to its campaigns."
That's as though a court in 1930 in the South had said, "Black voters have been completely incapable of matching white voters' ability to register to vote, and thus the state legislature was justified in providing higher poll taxes for black voters than for white voters".
In contrast to the federal law, Minnesota law provides equal public funding to all statewide candidates who poll at least 5% of the vote, showing that a model of equal payments to significant parties of varying size is practical.
1. Arizona: there will be a hearing in the Green Party's lawsuit against the independent candidate petition law on March 16. Campbell v Hull, cv96-444-TC. No one who is a registered member of a qualified party can sign for an independent candidate.
2. Colorado: the Libertarian Party recently dropped its lawsuit over the order of parties on the ballot.
3. D.C.: there will be a hearing on April 19 in Alexander v Daley, 1-98-2187, over whether the Constitution requires that D.C. residents have representation in Congress.
4. Iowa: on January 11, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Marcus v Iowa Public TV, 98-710, a debates case.
5. Montana: on Nov. 20, 1998, a U.S. District Court struck down a law banning corporations from using general funds to contribute for or against initiatives. Montana Chamber of Commerce v Argenbright, 28 F Supp 2d 593. The state is appealing.
6. Texas: last month, a lawsuit was filed against "early voting" in federal elections, on the grounds that federal law requires federal elections to be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Voting Integrity Project v Blomer, H99-0247, federal court, Houston.
|FULL PARTY||CAND.||LIB'T||REFORM||NAT LAW||TAXPAYR||GREEN|
|Alaska||(reg) 6,606||#2,410||already on||already on||0||0||already on||June 1|
|Arizona||13,565||es. #9,500||already on||0||0||0||0||May 20|
|California||(reg) 86,177||149,692||already on||already on||already on||already on||already on||Oct 4, '99|
|Colorado||(reg) 1,000||#pay fee||already on||unsettled||already on||10||already on||July 11|
|Connecticut||no procedure||#7,500||0||already on||0||0||already on||Aug 11|
|Delaware||es. (reg.) 235||es. 4,700||already on||already on||already on||already on||14||Aug 19|
|D.C.||no procedure||es. #3,500||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||Aug 15|
|Florida||just be org.||undetermnd||unsettled||unsettled||unsettled||unsettled||unsettled||undetermd|
|Georgia||39,094||#39,094||already on||0||0||0||0||Jul 11|
|Hawaii||6,015||#3,703||0||0||300||0||already on||Apr 26|
|Idaho||9,835||4,918||already on||already on||already on||already on||0||Aug 31|
|Illinois||no procedure||#25,000||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||Aug 6|
|Indiana||no procedure||#30,717||already on||0||0||0||0||Jul 15|
|Iowa||no procedure||#1,500||0||0||0||0||0||Aug 17|
|Kansas||14,854||5,000||already on||already on||0||already on||0||June 1|
|Kentucky||no procedure||#5,000||already on||already on||0||0||0||Aug 30|
|Louisiana||est. (reg) 135,000||#pay fee||691||already on||14||40||89||July 1|
|Maine||21,051||#4,000||0||0||0||0||already on||Dec 16, '99|
|Maryland||10,000||es. 26,000||finished||0||0||0||0||Aug 7|
|Massachusetts||est. (reg) 37,500||#10,000||already on||2,289||59||0||311||Feb 15|
|Michigan||30,272||30,272||already on||already on||already on||0||0||July 19|
|Minnesota||104,550||#2,000||0||already on||0||already on||0||June 1|
|Mississippi||just be org.||#1,000||already on||already on||already on||already on||0||Jan. 14|
|Missouri||10,000||10,000||already on||already on||0||already on||0||July 31|
|Montana||16,039||#16,039||already on||already on||already on||0||0||Mar 14|
|Nebraska||5,453||2,500||already on||200||0||0||0||Aug 1|
|Nevada||4,099||4,099||already on||0||already on||already on||0||July 2|
|New Hampshire||9,569||#3,000||0||100||0||0||0||Aug 7|
|New Jersey||no procedure||#800||0||0||0||0||0||July 30|
|New Mexico||2,494||14,964||already on||already on||0||0||already on||Apr 4|
|New York||no procedure||#15,000||can't start||already on||can't start||can't start||already on||Aug 21|
|North Carolina||51,324||es. 90,000||already on||0||0||0||0||May 18|
|North Dakota||7,000||1,000||0||already on||0||0||0||Dec 31, '99|
|Oregon||16,663||13,755||already on||100||0||0||already on||Aug 28|
|Pennsylvania||no procedure||es. #25,000||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||Aug 1|
|Rhode Island||15,323||#1,000||can't start||already on||can't start||can't start||can't start||Aug 1|
|South Carolina||10,000||10,000||already on||already on||already on||already on||0||May 7|
|South Dakota||6,505||#2,602||0||0||0||0||0||Apr 4|
|Texas||37,381||56,117||already on||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||May 28|
|Utah||2,000||#300||already on||0||200||0||0||Feb 15|
|Vermont||just be org.||#1,000||already on||0||0||0||0||Jan 1|
|Virginia||no procedure||#10,000||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||Aug 24|
|Washington||no procedure||#200||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||Jul 1|
|West Virginia||no procedure||#6,365||already on||0||0||0||0||Aug 1|
|Wisconsin||10,000||#2,000||already on||can't start||can't start||already on||already on||June 1|
|Wyoming||3,485||3,485||already on||can't start||can't start||can't start||can't start||June 1|
|TOTAL STATES ON||27||18||9||10||10|
"Deadline" refers to the procedure with the earliest deadline. The only other nationally-organized party which is on the ballot is the New Party, which is on in New York. The Reform Party has enough registrants in California as of last month's tally, that it has requalified. The Peace & Freedom Party will need to gather another 14,000 registrants before October 1999.
|Libt.||Reform||Nat. Law||US Tax||Green||Socialist||Free Soc||Prohi||Grassroots|
The nine parties listed above are the only parties, other than the Democratic and Republican Parties, which had candidates on the ballot for the lower house of a state legislature in more than a single state. "Free Soc" = Freedom Socialist; "Prohi" = Prohibition. Parties which had candidates on the ballot for the lower house of a state legislature in just one state were: Conservative, New York, 284,185; Right to Life, New York, 59,213; Liberal, New York, 34,935; Peace & Freedom, California, 21,283; American, Utah, 8,748; Independence Party, Utah, 5,056; Progressive, Vermont, 2,565; Cool Moose, Rhode Island, 2,512; Alaska Independence, 2,255; New Party, New York, 2,096; Harold Washington Party, Illinois, 1,062; Freedom, New York, 620; Socialist Workers, Iowa, 428.
|Libt.||Reform||Nat.Law||US Tax||Green||Socialist||Free Soc||Prohi||Grassrts|
Percentages above are the total number of votes received by each party, divided by the total number of votes cast for all candidates, in the districts in which the particular party ran candidates. Parties which had candidates in just a single state got these percentages: Progressive, Vermont, 75.04%; Cool Moose, Rhode Island, 20.81%; Independence Party of Utah, 12.53%; Alaska Independence, 10.27%; New Party, New York, 9.60%; American, Utah, 8.47%; Socialist Workers, Iowa, 7.79%; Conservative, New York, 7.95%; Harold Washington, Illinois, 3.78%; Right to Life, New York, 3.72%; Peace & Freedom, California, 3.23%; Liberal, New York, , 2.12%; Freedom, New York, .72%. See the preceding chart for explanation of some party name abbreviations.
On March 31, 1999, the Perot '96 office at 7616 LBJ Freeway, Dallas, Texas, will close. Although the office has technically not been the national office of the Reform Party, it has functioned as though it were, since Russell Verney, national chair of the Reform Party, has been working there. Verney will continue to be national chair, and will probably remain in Dallas, but the party won't have a physical headquarters.
Furthermore, it is likely that the lawsuit Perot '96 v Federal Election Commission, now pending in U.S. District Court in D.C., will be dropped. This is unfortunate, since the case is strong. The FEC has regulations requiring the Commission on Presidential Debates to use objective, neutral criteria in determining whom to invite into the general election presidential debates. The FEC staff determined that the Commission broke those regulations, but the Commissioners themselves refused to do anything about it. Thus, Perot sued the Commissioners. The case still hasn't been heard. The Reform Party may also drop its case against the distribution of public funding.
Al Shugart, a Pebble Beach, California, venture capitalist, is spending at least $1 million of his own money to qualify an initiative for the statewide ballot, to place "None of the Above" on all public office ballots in the state. The signatures are due in June and the measure is expected to qualify. If "NOTA" won, that would have no legal effect and the first-ranked candidate would still take office.
California will hold a special election to fill the vacant Assembly seat, 16th district, on March 30, between the Democratic nominee and the Green nominee. At the blanket primary for this same empty seat last month, the vote was Harris (Dem.) 48.75%, Russo (Dem.) 36.41%, Bock (Green) 8.72%, Palacios (Dem.) 6.11%. The Green candidate is expected to do quite well on March 30, since the Democratic nominee paid for a free chicken lunch for anyone who voted, and the practice got extensive bad publicity immediately after the primary.
On February 8, the Internal Revenue Service granted tax-exempt status to the Commission on Fair Elections. The Commission, still in the process of being organized, will serve as a 501(c)(3) organization to defend the interests of minor party and independent candidates, in the arena of ballot access, debate inclusion, public financing, alternative voting methods, and other problem areas. Contributors to 501(c)(3) organizations may deduct their gifts from federal income tax, if they itemize deductions.
The Commission will have 7 directors, who will made the day-to-day decisions, and who will generally be leaders of minor parties and allied groups. There will also be 12 Commissioners, who will set policy and, is it hoped, will be individuals of national renown and stature, such as Walter Cronkite, former Congressman John B. Anderson and Tim Penny, and Laurence Tribe. Not all of these individuals have necessarily agreed yet to serve as Commissioners, but they are named to give examples of the type of famous person who is being sought.
The two individuals who have worked hardest so far on the Commission are Tom Carlisle, 639 Whispering Hills Rd. #201, Boone, NC 28607, (828)-262-1449, email@example.com; and attorney Tom Linzey, 2244 Lindsay Lot Rd., Shippensburg Pa 17257, (717)-530-0931, firstname.lastname@example.org. Carlisle is with the Natural Law Party and Linzey is with the Green Party.
The Commission is the outgrowth of several meetings last year by the Coalition for Free & Open Elections (COFOE). COFOE is an informal coalition of nationally-organized minor parties, plus other organizations, all of whom support the goal of a fairer U.S. election system.
Louisiana will hold a special election to fill the vacant seat in the U.S. House, First district, on May 1. If no one gets 50%, the two top vote-getters will hold a run-off on May 29, even if they are from the same party. Candidate filing is on March 17-19. Any Louisiana citizen over 25 may obtain a place on the ballot with a $600 fee.