On May 23, the Minnesota legislature passed HF 1481, which adds another means for a group to gain or keep qualified party status. The bill says a group is a qualified party if it runs at least 45 candidates for state house, 23 for state senate, 4 for US House, and one statewide office (all in a gubernatorial election year). It doesn’t matter how many or how few votes they poll; just running this number of candidates gives a group qualified status for the next 4 years.
The old law says a party is either a group that polled 5% for any statewide race (at either of the last two elections), or which submits a petition signed by 5% of the last vote cast. In Minnesota, groups that use the independent procedure can choose a partisan label. Historically, in Minnesota, every time a group has gained status as a qualified party in Minnesota, it has been by running an independent candidate with a partisan label, and having that candidate poll 5%. Independent candidates only need 2,000 signatures.
The 5% petition procedure, passed in 1913, is so difficult, it has never been used, but that doesn’t matter so much, since there has been another way to become a qualified party. And now, there are two other ways to become a qualified party.
It is no easy task for any group to run 73 candidates for state office, especially if it isn’t already a qualified party. For a group that isn’t already a qualified party, the group will need 73 different independent petitions, which cumulatively adds up to 40,000 signatures, which must all be collected in a 2-week window. So the practical impact of the new procedure will probably not be very great.
The motivation for the new law seems to be a Republican Party attempt to encourage lots of Green candidates. The Green Party losts its status as a party in 2004 because it had failed to poll 5% for any statewide race in either 2002 or 2004. The Green Party did not ask for this particular bill and was just as surprised as everyone else when the legislature passed the idea.