by Phil Huckelberry, Illinois Green Party, Co-chair of GPUS Ballot Access Committee

To get ballot access we need to do a lot of work and raise a lot of money because the blunt reality is that a political party without ballot lines is not much of a political party.

The 2008 presidential cycle is now well underway. Not wanting a repeat of the timid campaign strategy of 2004, many Greens are pushing for a strong, all-out strategy in 2008. But an all-out campaign strategy does not operate in a vacuum and would be rendered meaningless if our presidential nominee is off the ballot in one-third of the country.

In almost every state, ballot access is secured by petition, but the signature requirements and time limits can vary wildly; and for presidential elections, almost all ballot drives begin – and some even end – before the Green Party holds its convention. This means that several state parties are actually petitioning for a ballot line before knowing who will be on it. This can make it very hard to rally support.

The national Green convention cannot take place until primary voting is completed due to complicated ballot laws. Many states wrap up before July 1. Texas petitioning ends in May; Arizona petitioning actually ends in February! Many Greens did not understand this in 2004, mistakenly thinking that ballot access for presidential candidates would be a function of the presidential campaign. Ballot access must instead be a function of the party.

The ballot access requirements in several states are so oppressive that it is unrealistic and unreasonable to expect state parties to handle ballot drives on their own. The reality is, the national party does have the ability to identify and provide the resources necessary to make a difference for several state ballot drives, but not unless the National Committee makes ballot access a priority.

After years on the petitioning grindstone, Greens across the country have learned how to run strong, effective ballot drives on small budgets. In most states – even many with difficult requirements – ballot drives can be pulled off without having to hire paid petitioners. Such states can learn from example how to manage a large-scale drive, and the national party can provide training opportunities and facilitate better interstate communication. At the same time, the states with the absolute worst requirements will probably have no choice but to rely on paid petitioners, and the national party must be able to provide whatever financial support it can.

There are other programs the national party can seed that could be cost-effective ways to support state petition drives. A major internship network where students are sent to other states to provide critical petitioning assistance, with lodging handled by the host state, would not only help states meet requirements, but also train dozens of young Green leaders who are badly needed at all levels of the party. Other possibilities might include putting together a concert or lyceum circuit which would make a priority of visiting cities where petitioning is ongoing.

The vital question is whether the national party will elevate ballot access to the stature it requires. The evidence so far is mixed. In 2004, the national party allocated only $1,000 to ballot access work. A standing Ballot Access Committee was created in 2005, but the committee has operated on almost zero budget since its inception. Petitioning windows are already open in several states, with the 2008 petition drive already well underway in Arizona; but financial difficulties have prevented the national party from offering any monetary assistance, and the National Committee has been very slow to shore up the party’s fundraising shortfalls.

If Greens are dedicated to making 2008 a success, we need ballot access. To get ballot access we need to do a lot of work and raise a lot of money because the blunt reality is that a political party without ballot lines is not much of a political party.

Here are the ways you can get involved in making ballot access a priority:

Visit the Ballot Access Committee website at www.gp.org/committees/ballot for a map showing what ballot lines The Green Party currently has and what states are already petitioning.

Contact your state delegates to the National Committee and urge them to make a priority of both national party fundraising and providing resources to ballot access efforts.

Donate to the Green Party of the United States – and earmark half your donation to support ballot access.

Donate directly to state parties that need financial assistance. See the website for more information.

See if your state party has filled its complement of members on the national Ballot Access Committee, and if not, volunteer for the committee yourself.

Make plans to take a carload (or more) of Greens to a neighboring state for a day/ weekend to help them collect signatures. Most states do allow out-of-state petitioners, and there are still ways to help in states where there are laws against out-of-state petitioners. Find contact information for those state parties on the website.

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Phil Huckelberry is co-chair of the GPUS Ballot Access Committee. As former Co-Chair of the Illinois Green Party, he coordinated the 2006 ballot drive that collected 39,000 signatures in 90 days, leading to Rich Whitney winning 10.3 percent of the vote for governor and securing a lasting ballot line for the Green Party in Illinois.

Contact Phil at: phil.huckelberry@gmail.com

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