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December is the Month in Which Activists Should Find Sponsors for Legislative Bills

Published on November 30, 2009, by in General.

December is the prime month during which activists should look for state legislators to introduce bills in next year’s legislative sessions. More progress improving ballot access laws comes from persuading state legislators to ease these laws, than via lawsuits. But many states have very early deadlines for legislators to introduce bills. For example, in Indiana, all bills considered in 2010 must have been introduced by the first week in January 2010.

3 Responses

  1. Brian Bittner

    The Maryland Green Party is seeking sponsors to re-introduce its bill to cut the party-forming signature requirement in half. Last year the bill was introduced into both houses, cross-filed as Senate Bill 947 (http://bit.ly/5SXVES) and House Bill 1562 (http://bit.ly/4uxe3Q).

    All of the co-sponsors of last year’s bills are still in office, including Maryland’s only independent state legislator. The Maryland General Assembly is in session for 90 days from January to April.

    The Maryland Green Party has ballot access for the 2010 election but must turn in the required number of signatures to maintain four additional years of ballot access by December 31, 2010, or be de-certified. The party has already begun to collect signatures.

  2. Richard

    Why not ask the Maryland legislature to define a qualified party as a group that has at least 2,000 registered members?

    Colorado uses 1,000 registered members, and so does Louisiana, to determine if parties should be on the ballot.

    Petitioning is inherently unproductive work, and somewhat meaningless. When a party has at least 2,000 registered members in a medium-size state, that means something.

    Another problem with asking that parties have a petition of 5,000 signatures, is that it is grossly unfair to Maryland statewide independent candidates, who would continue to need about 28,000 signatures, if their law is not changed. Still another problem with petitioning in Maryland is that the petition-checking procedures are (at least right now) very burdensome, with the exact match requirement seeming to be in force.

  3. Brian Bittner

    The party asked legislators to introduce 947/1562 last year because it was an easy substitution (striking one number in the state code and substituting another). We have no expertise in writing legislation. Current law defines a major party as one that has 1% of the state’s registered voters – approximately 30,000 members. Cutting that to 2,000 – an over 90% reduction – would probably not win enough support to be introduced. The 50% signature reduction did not even make it to a vote to get out of committee in either house, so even that change is not popular.

    We recognize that there are legislative options that would make qualification much easier, but right now our petitioning resources are stronger than our legislative resources. We have no staff and find it very difficult to keep up with the rigor of a 90-day session with nearly 2500 bills. And in my opinion, ballot access issues are of very low priority in this state. Elected officials do not fear or even need to acknowledge third parties because they tend not to face tough challenges from the opposition major party – Democrats win big in liberal areas and Republicans win big in conservative areas. When I spoke to legislators about our bills last year, many of them didn’t even know there was a petition process for minor parties.

    The Maryland Green Party is active in the Maryland Ballot Access Coalition that emphasizes reforms for independent campaigns. I think most of our members value independent campaigns (depending on the values and tactics of the candidate) but emphasize the importance of building alternative parties that continue to work after a particular campaign ends. We chose to focus our efforts on the party qualification process.

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