The Massachusetts Joint Elections Committee will hear HB 639 on October 16, at 2 p.m., in Room 2A of the Statehouse. The bill makes it more difficult for an unqualified party to apply to have its registrations tallied. Massachusetts law says that any group that wishes to become a qualified party may do so if it persuades at least 1% of all the registered voters to join the party, as shown on voter registration forms.
The bill says that groups that file to have their registrations tallied must submit a petition of 500 names. Also, if a group hasn’t attained at least one-fourth of 1% after two years, all its registrants are converted to independent voters.
One-fourth of 1% would be approximately 11,000 voters. Massachusetts has no ballot-qualified parties currently, except for the Republican and Democratic Parties. The only unqualified party that has one-fourth of 1% of the registrants is the Libertarian Party. The bill is sponsored jointly by Representative Angelo Scaccia (D-Boston) and William Galvin, Secretary of the Commonwealth.
It is disappointing that Secretary Galvin is asking the legislature to make this restrictive change, when there are so many badly-needed ballot access improvements in Massachusetts that he is ignoring. Massachusetts law doesn’t permit substitution for any minor party or independent candidate petitions. This is because in 2012, the Massachusetts Supreme Court interpreted the law to forbid substitution. Thus, an independent presidential candidate cannot start petitioning until he or she has chosen the vice-presidential running mate. This is a serious problem that ought to be addressed by the Secretary. In 1980, independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson did not choose his vice-presidential running mate until August 27, so if the current law had been in effect in 1980, Anderson could not have had his actual vice-presidential running mate on the November ballot.
Another problem the Secretary is ignoring is that the deadline for creating a new ballot-qualified party by registration is in November of the odd year before the presidential election. By all precedents, this deadline is unconstitutionally early, especially since the party registration method is the only means by which a newly-qualifying party can get on the ballot and have freedom to choose its presidential and vice-presidential nominees in the late spring or summer of the election year.