Correspondents include Richard Winger (CA), Dean Myerson, Gary Swing (CO), Michael Christopher (HI), Nancy Allen , John Rensenbrink (ME)

Hawai’i Green Party gains ballot status for ten years

Hawai’i, state law says that if a party qualifies for the ballot three election cycles in a row, it is entitled to 10 years automatic ballot status. But even though the Hawai’i Green Party qualified three times in a row, they were being denied status after the ‘96 elections.

In 1992 and 1996 the Greens successfully petitioned for ballot status. In 1994, the party qualified because Linda Martin received over 10% in a statewide race in the preceding election (14% for US Senate).

But Hawai’i state law said ‘a party must successfully petition three times in a row in order to receive guaranteed ballot status for 10 years’, instead of ‘a party can simply qualify three times in a row’, without specifying utilizing only the petition process route.

Since the 1996 elections, the Hawai’i Green Party sought statewide legislation to make this word change in the law. Originally, the bill went successfully through state House and Senate Committees. But then Representative Terrance Tom, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee (the committee that has jurisdiction over bills changing the election code) wouldn’t let the bill come to the floor for a vote. Not coincidentally, Tom had twice been strongly challenged for State House by Green Party candidate Karen Archibald (41% and 38%).

In 1997, the bill went forward when someone else became Judiciary Committee chair, and it passed the legislature. Then the issue became whether the law should apply retroactively to the Green Party. This was ironic because the purpose of the bill was to recognize the Green Party. Eventually the new elections officer ruled that it did apply retroactively to the Green Party.

Hawai’i Green officials feel that without the additional burden of petitioning for the right to run candidates, the party will be more successful getting candidates elected.

Change in Law Will Give Colorado Greens Ballot Status

Because of a change in state law, the Green Party of Colorado will become the first progressive party to gain ballot status in Colorado in more than 80 years if they simply increase their state voter registration from 962 (as of April 15th) to at least 1000 by July 1st.

This is possible because of legislation sponsored by progressive Boulder legislator Ron Tupa. Democratic Governor (and Democratic National Committee chair) Roy Romer signed it, but was rumored to be reluctant, as he has been quoted as criticizing New Mexico Green candidate Carol Miller for ‘spoiling’ a Congressional candidate when she received 17% and the Democrat lost by 2%.

The new law is a major improvement over the old law, which defines a political party as ‘any political organization which received at least ten percent of the vote for governor in the last general election’. According to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News, the old law was the most restrictive definition of party status of any state in the western United States. No political organization other than the Democrats and Republicans has achieved ballot status in Colorado since 1914. Colorado has been one of only six states with no recognized political parties other than the Democrats and Republicans, despite the existence of several active “third parties” in the state.

Tupa’s bill will now permit third parties to nominate candidates for all partisan offices in the state (except president) by convention, if the party met any of three criteria: 1) gathering ten thousand signatures on a party qualification petition by May 1st of the election year; 2) receiving at least five percent of the vote for any statewide office in the previous general election; 3) having at least 1,000 registered voters affiliated with the party as of July 1st of the election year.

(As of March 17th, 1998, there were also 2,916 registered Libertarians, and 10 Natural Law Party).

Court Decision Throws Maine Greens Off Ballot

In February, the US District Court affirmed a ruling issued in December by a Federal magistrate, upholding the decision of the Maine Secretary of State (both are Democrats) to disqualify the Maine Green Party from the ballot.

In 1994, Green gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Carter received 6.5%, more than the 5% needed to qualify the Greens for ballot status. To retain their status, the courts have ruled that parties in Maine must win at least 5 percent of the vote, every two years, for each gubernatorial and presidential election. In 1996, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader received 2.5% of the statewide vote.

Maine Greens unsuccessfully argued that the political viability of a party should be measured during a four-year cycle, rather than every two years, and that a state party should not be penalized for the relative lack of strength of their national party. They also argued that the relevant state statute is ambiguous on the issue. The language says “governor ‘or’ president”, but the Greens say the courts are ruling as if it said ”governor ‘and’ president”.

The Maine Greens plan to appeal to the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, where they feel the case will get a fairer hearing than in Maine. They’ll argue the constitutional rights of citizens to form a political party under the First and Fourteenth amendments are being violated.

For the present, approximately 3,600 registered Green Party members in Maine will be redesignated as ‘unenrolled voter’s’ by local registrars and municipal clerks across the state. Unresolved is what the Greens will be allowed to do with contributions they’ve received through the state income tax form check-forms. In 1996, the Greens collected $8,000; more than did the Maine Republican Party. It is unlikely anything would be done this, but money from 1997 forms could be held up. The issue is still to be decided upon by the Attorney General’s office and the state tax assessor.

Maine Greens hope to regain their ballot status this fall, with Green gubernatorial candidate Pat LaMarche needing to receive at least 5% of the vote.

New Jersey law change could help Greens

In April, a federal judge in Newark, New Jersey declared unconstitutional a state law that had required all parties to file their list of candidates for all races by 54 days before the primary.

Parties that do not hold primaries in June, now have until the end of July to register candidates. This will give the Greens (and other small parties) more time to organize themselves and their candidacies.