Pennsylvania Greens seek to ease ballot access

The Voters’ Choice Act was introduced into the Pennsylvania State House in February, 1999. Drafted by the Green Party of Pennsylvania, it would reduce the number of signatures necessary to qualify a candidate for a statewide race ballot from the current 30,000 to 4,500. It would also provide a realistic way for new parties to qualify for ballot status. The current law, passed in 1976 requires a party to register a number equal to approximately 15% of all registered voters, or about one million voters. The Voters’ Choice Act would change that to requiring a party to get 1% of the vote in any statewide race.

Revision 11 revolutionizes Florida ballot access law

In November, 1998 Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Revision 11, with 64.7% of the vote. It amends the Florida State Constitution to provide that ballot access procedures for minor party and independent candidates can be no more difficult than procedures by which the Democrats and Republicans get on the ballot. According to Richard Winger, Revision 11 is the biggest victory for the ballot access reform movement in the US since 1968.

The old Florida procedures for minor parties and independent candidates were the most draconian in the U.S. For non-presidential statewide office, candidates had to submit 242,000 valid signatures, as well as pay a huge filing fee. If they did get on the ballot, no matter how many votes they polled, they had to repeat the same petition process all over again in the next election. To qualify a party for ballot status, the party had to have at least 5% of all the state’s registered voters (no party, other than the Democrats or Republicans, have had 5% in any state since the 1910s).

Revision 11 is a product of the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), which only meets every 20 years to consider changes to the Florida Constitution. The Green Party of Florida, together with a coalition of other minor parties, the ACLU of Florida and Common Cause, spent two years lobbying the CRC to recommend these changes.

When the Florida legislature convenes in March, it will discuss the implementing legislation for Revision 11. Specifically, it will deal with the number of petition signatures due in lieu of filing fees, and amount of the filing fee itself. Based on how the Secretary of State handled four special legislative elections that occurred since the November election, it is expected that the legislature will lower the number of petition signatures to 1% of the number of registered voters in the district, and lower the filing fees to some as of yet not specified amount.

Florida has no filing fee for candidates for president. Major parties place candidates on their own presidential primary ballots simply by telling the state which names to print (the decision is in the hands of the state chair of the party, and the party’s two leading state legislators). Therefore, if the legislature doesn’t amend ballot access procedures for presidential primaries, minor party presidential candidates could be placed on the ballot in the same way. However, it seems likely the legislature will amend the presidential primary ballot access laws to avoid this outcome.

DC Greens seek qualification for presidency

The Green Party of the District of Columbia qualified for the ballot by receiving enough votes in the November, 1998 election – except, that DC law provides makes this ballot status for every office except president. DC Greens are lobbying the DC City Council to change this.

Arizona Greens test landmark ballot access law in court

In 1996, because they did not have ballot status, Arizona Greens tried to get Green presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot as a ‘Green’ independent candidate. But they found that an Arizona law, enacted in 1993, forbade them from getting petition signatures from anyone who is already a registered member of any ballot qualified party in the state (currently the Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians). This law substantially shrinks the universe of eligible voters from which to gather signatures, and greatly increases the amount of work just to find voters that can sign such a petition.

Two and a half years later, Arizona Green Party members have received word that they will finally have their day in court. Green Party members Sloane Haywood and Carolyn Campbell filed suit in Federal Court following the June, 1996 deadline for turning in signatures to place Nader’s name on the ’96 ballot.

Since filing their case pro se, Christopher Clarke, a Washington D.C. lawyer, volunteered to take on the case pro bono. The Greens’ attorney will argue a Motion for Summary Judgment on March 16 in the US District Court for the District of Arizona.

Richard Winger, Ballot Access News publisher calls this case one of the 2 most important ballot access cases in the country (the other is the case of the Maine Greens): “If this case is lost, we can expect to see other state legislatures also passing Arizona-type laws. Already, there is a similar bill pending in the Massachusetts legislature. If we can beat the Arizona law in federal court, that will nip these other attempts in the bud.

Greens and the Federal Election Commission

On January 29, 1999, the Federal Election Commission issued an Advisory Opinion granting the Hawaii Green Party status as a State Committee of a State Political Party of the Association of State Green Parties (ASGP). The Hawai’i Greens join the Maine Green Independent Party and the New Mexico Green Party as declared state committees of their respective state parties as affiliates of the ASGP. Others in the application process are the Green Parties of Rhode Island and the Pacific Green Party of Oregon. Each is seeking the same recognition, as a state party committee affiliated with the ASGP

Green Ballot Status as of 1998

In what speaks loudly about the results from the 1998 – and what bodes well for the future of the party in the United States – Greens gained ballot status for the first time in Colorado, the District of Columbia and New York. The party regained ballot status in Maine, and retained it in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawai’i, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin. By not running a candidate in either, the Greens lost ballot status in Nevada and Vermont.

Where can I register Green?

According to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News, there are 26 states in which one can register “Green”: AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, FL, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, NE, NV, NH, NM, NC, NY, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, WV, and WY. However, in some of these states, the governments won’t tally them, until the party qualifies for the ballot.

Green voter registration totals as of 1998

Alaska 3,303; Arizona 1,744; California 98,443; Colorado 1,226; Connecticut 194; Delaware 14; Florida 965; Louisiana 89; Massachusetts 311; Nevada 713; New Mexico 8,549; Oregon 2,986. Arizona data is incomplete. (note – Maine had 2,600 Green registrants until they were knocked off the ballot by a ruling of the Maine Sec. of State. They are now back on the ballot and are beginning a new registration drive)