by Tabitha Hall, Albuquerque Greens, New Mexico

Spurred on by their recent successes at the polls, New Mexico Greens took the lead in 1997-98 to push for meaningful electoral reform. Their legislative committee set the stage for a statewide, multi-partisan effort to institute ‘Instant Runoff Voting’ (IRV) for municipal and all state executive offices.

IRV is a system in which the voter ranks the candidates in a particular race according to the voter’s preference. Each voter ranks the candidates, 1, 2, 3 and so on. In a multi-candidate field where no majority winner — defined as at least 50 percent plus one — has appeared, the bottom vote getter is dropped and the people who ranked them first will have their second choice votes tabulated. The same process repeats until a majority winner appears.

In this system, few votes are wasted, and the voter is not held hostage to considerations of ‘throwing away’ their vote. By making it easier to vote for a ‘third party’ candidate, it also gives a clearer indication of the voter’s real preferences.

In light of recent Green Party gains, interest in electoral change has been high on all sides. Greens were accused of throwing elections to the Republicans by siphoning off progressive votes from the Democrats, particularly in the case of Carol Miller’s 17% for US Congress in 1997. In addition, state courts ruled that Albuquerque’s traditional runoff system was unconstitutional, which resulted in the state’s largest city electing a mayor with only 29% of the vote.

New Mexico has a part-time legislature. The Green Party spun off a legislative lobbying group called New Mexicans for Instant Runoff Voting (NMIRV) in time for the thirty day legislative session in January 1998. Headed up by Green male and female co-chairs, this energetic group lobbied the legislators daily, and learned the ropes of lobbying “on the job.” Senate Bill 8, an amendment to the state constitution, was introduced on the floor and went to two committees before it died in a tied 4-4 vote.

Although it was clear that support for IRV fell along Democrat and Republican party lines, in the first committee hearing, an idiosyncratic Republican ensured the resolution’s passage out of committee by his behavior and personal attacks on NMIRV representatives. In the second committee the Republican had done his homework and his fellow Republicans were set to vote with him and against the bill.

In New Mexico, the legislative committees are scheduled simultaneously, so aides and advocates must work hard to help legislators to be there for important votes. This system places the onus on lobbyists to educate legislators in advance because the odds are that any particular legislator will miss key testimony. In the second committee there were many times when IRV might have passed because of missing committee members on the Republican side. However, when it came down to the vote, the ninth (Democrat) legislator was missing despite all efforts to find him, so it fell to a 4 to 4 tie.

What lessons can be learned? Citizen lobbyists in New Mexico are rare and legislators can be polite and accessible to them. Electoral reform is a hot topic. Even those who opposed IRV were eager to talk and listen. Even the most powerful and curmudgeonly legislator was gracious and wanted to discuss substantive issues in regard to the bill. This was a tremendous opportunity to educate legislators and show them that the Greens are more credible than they had imagined.

NMIRV held a demonstration of instant runoff voting in the rotunda of the capitol building, which was well-attended by legislators, the Secretary of State’s office (that willingly printed up sample ballots and loaned us the voting machines for the demonstration), and the press. This raised the “product awareness.” We gave them candy and had them vote on the machines.

IRV also gathered an impressive group of endorsers, including New Mexico Common Cause; New Mexico Public Interest Research Group; US Senator Jeff Bingaman; former Albuquerque mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Marty Chavez; former Governors Toney Anaya (D) and David Cargo (R); state Democratic Party Chair Ray Sena; several chairs of Democratic county committees; state Reform Party chair; and the New Mexico Green Party.

Other states are looking at IRV legislation. One of the nation’s few third party representatives, Terry Bouricius, is making progress in Vermont, where a task force of legislators and civic leaders has been created to study IRV. In California, the Green Party plans to begin gathering signatures to qualify an IRV ballot initiative for the November, 2000 statewide ballot.

How can you pursue IRV in your own state? Select your bill’s sponsor carefully. The amount of interest your sponsor has, and his or her work habits will greatly influence the outcome of the bill. Rely on the bill sponsor’s staff people for help. They will often do extra things such as make copies, send e-mail or faxes, track the bill and nudge the sponsor into being more responsive.

Clearly the Greens around the nation belong in the halls of their state legislatures not simply running for office. In a period of two months, a group of three or four Greens were able to become proficient in the ideas behind instant runoff voting, design and implement a campaign including literature, and do daily lobbying. Grassroots efforts to lobby and bring about progressive legislation are golden opportunities for Greens to participate in the political discourse with an eye to education and a firm group on their principles.

The other major lesson from New Mexico is that strong third-party candidacies bring out the defects in the present winner-take-all electoral system. Charges of “spoiler” can be used to focus attention on proposals for PR and IRV.

Prospects for IRV in New Mexico remain hopeful, with organizing likely for next legislative session. For more info on IRV and proportional representation, go to http://www.igc.org/cvd.

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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.

Maine Greens fight to retain ballot status
by Nancy Allen, co-chair, Maine Green Party

The Maine Green Party (MEGP) was founded in 1984. In 1992, their first Congressional candidate, Jonathan Carter, received 10% in a district covering half the state. In 1994, Carter received 6.5% for Governor, topping the 5% in a statewide race the Greens needed to achieve ballot status.

At that time, the MEGP assumed that according to their reading of the law, this would qualify them for the next four years, until the next statewide election (this is the case in several other states, including California).

The Secretary of State’s office however, let it be known that their office would interpret the law to require a party to achieve 5% every two years to remain on the ballot – in both the gubernatorial and presidential elections – not just every four years at the state elections.

The Greens originally appealed this decision in federal court. The federal judge sent the case to the State Supreme Court to find out what exactly the Maine law is. At the same time, the Greens and the Secretary of State’s office pursued legislation on the state level that would change the requirement to 5% every four years. Both times, the legislature turned it down.

In August ‘97 the Maine Supreme Court ruled unanimously in support of the Secretary of State’s ruling (a ‘bad interpretation according to Richard Winger, Ballot Access News). Because MEGP presidential candidate Ralph Nader received only 2.5% in ‘96, the court ruled the Greens would have to go off the ballot.

But Nancy Allen, co-chairwoman of the Green Party, said the decision does not disqualify the party, because there is an injunction prohibiting it until the case is fully resolved. According to Allen, the MEGP’s suit included a clause stating after the state defined the application of the law, the federal court would rule on its constitutionality. First is the question of the state of Maine’s violation of the MEPG’s 1st and 14th amendment rights to form and sustain a political party. Second is the state of Maine’s requirement that a newly-forming state party must run a national candidate for president without the existence of a national party. In this respect, Allen said the current law is unfair to emerging parties that can do well within the state, but not yet nationally.

This case is potentially historic, because there has never been a federal court decision striking down any state’s definition of ‘ongoing party’. According to Winger the case very easily could win. In 1992 the US Supreme Court said (in Norman v. Reed) that the states are required to have election laws which permit new parties to grow and develop. “If there’s any law which violates this,” according to Winger, “it’s Maine’s law, since Maine makes a new party wait 16 months after it polls 5%, before the state will consider it recognized! Then only 8 months later, it must poll 5% again. It’s outrageous.”

The MEGP’s long-time attorney recently got a new full-time job and although he wanted to continue working on the case, his new employer forbade him from doing so. The party is on the verge of hiring a new attorney, Gary Sinawski, who has litigated more constitutional ballot access cases than any other attorney in the nation.

An interesting backdrop to this issues of legitimacy is what the public seems to indicate through the voluntary state income tax political party donation checkoff. In 1997, the MEGP received more money state tax donation money ($8,306.84) than the Republicans ($6,446.08) and almost as much as the Democrats ($10,468.14).

Pennsylvania Greens help prevent weakening of state ballot access
by Tom Linzey, Shippenburg (PA), legal advisory, ASGP

A hearty thanks to all the national greens that assisted us here in Pennsylvania with the defeat of Senate Bill 200, a bill which would have doubled or tripled ballot access requirements for third parties and independent candidates. If this bill had been in place in 1996, circulators for the presidential campaign would have been forced to gather 99,000 signatures for ballot access. Responding to grassroots pressure, Governor Thomas Ridge vetoed the Bill and sent a veto message to the Pennsylvania legislature.

Lobbying heavily against the bill was Richard Winger of Ballot Access News and
Ralph Nader, who sent an especially strong letter to Governor Ridge, urging him to veto the bill. Winger was instrumental in getting an article in the New York Times that blasted the two party hold on Pennsylvania politics.

The Greens have drafted a Ballot Access Bill which reduces signature
requirements in this state, and have presented it to several legislators
for sponsorship. Known as the Voters’ Choice Act, it would reduce the signature requirement to one-tenth of 1 percent. If the legislation had been in place last year, the signature requirement would have plunged from 40,000 to 4,200. (Republicans and Democrats are required to net only 2,000 signatures to get on their respective primary ballots.) The bill likewise would slasd the signature requirement for local contests and ease restrictions for third-parties to become recognized by the state.

Steps towards success
By Brian Bittner

To create a sustainable framework for continued success, the Ballot Access Committee (BAC) needs all registered Greens and all who want the opportunity to legally register as Greens to make a commitment to winning ballot access.

Ballot access is an essential component of the success to which the Green Party strives. Without it Green ranks of elected officials will not grow, nor will the Green Party win higher offices in a number of states. Without it Green membership cannot increase nationwide to provide a real challenge to major-party rule. Without it it will be difficult to maintain strong local and state parties that work with organizations to create an influential peace, environmental, and social justice movement. Without it the Green candidate will not make a strong showing in this year’s presidential election. 

None of these goals are possible without Greens across the country raising awareness and funds on behalf of ballot access drives.

Each of the state ballot access drives mentioned in the accompanying article—
Arizona, Hawaii, Virginia, and Pennsylvania—point out techniques for success which the BAC needs U.S. Greens to replicate throughout 2008.

Because of the early timeframe of its petition drive, the BAC was able to focus solely on assisting the Arizona Green Party. As Election Day nears, more and more states are beginning their ballot access drives. The support of state and local Green Party volunteers—some organized by the Ballot Access Committee, some arising independently from the grassroots—was absolutely vital to Arizona’s success and will be the most important factor in getting more Green Parties on state ballots. Volunteers should alert the BAC by completing an on-line form at www.gp.org/committees/ballot/, but do not need to wait for instructions to organize fundraisers, contact neighboring states, and make plans to collect signatures as soon as possible.

In Hawaii, the Ballot Access Committee was able to once again help a state party by providing financial support for grassroots volunteers and a few paid professionals. Without being able to cover travel expenses, lodging expenses, and provide stipends for food and days off of work volunteered by supporters, it is highly unlikely that the Green Party of Hawaii would have been able to win the second drive of 2008. 

Funds budgeted by the Green Party of the United States for the Ballot Access Committee are running low as the number of active ballot access drives is increasing. The national party has established an ambitious fund raising campaign to ensure that grants will be available to more states. In February, hundreds of Greens got involved in fund raising for the Arizona Green Party and the Ballot Access Committee. A similar—but bigger—effort is needed now. Make a financial donation at  our web page. More importantly, alert your local and state organization to the need for a major fund raising effort and ask friends and party members to contribute as well.

The Green Party of Virginia has taken time at the start of its ballot access drive to create an organizational structure that has netted benefits quickly. Important tasks it has completed include:  

• Understanding the law and how to meet state requirements.

• Delegating responsibility to a responsible petition coordinator.

• Maintaining contact with the BAC by seeking volunteers to join the committee.

• Fundraising to support volunteers and paid petitioners, if necessary.

• Holding meetings and outreach events to fund volunteers and distribute petitions.

• Seeking volunteers from within and from outside the state to collect signatures.  

The Virginia party has brought in volunteers from both nearby and faraway states for month-long stints petitioning, living with local hosts, and doing additional volunteer work with Greens in nearby Washington D.C.  Finding and utilizing the efforts of students, retired activists, and other Greens looking for the excitement of travel and building a new party is a powerful tool for states with less volunteer help. BAC is working to identify volunteers who are looking to travel and help neighbor states collect signatures.  

After the exclusion of Green U.S. Senate candidate Carl Romanelli from the ballot in 2006, the Green Party in Pennsylvania is showing the importance of determination in winning ballot access even after bitter defeat. By pulling together volunteer resources to collect signatures and professional resources to defend the party’s action in court, all state Green Parties can be prepared to overcome any challenge.  To do this, all Greens must prioritize raising funds and efforts to ensure that all Americans have the legal right to register with the party of their choice.  

Help by doing one or all of the following:

• Donate to the Ballot Access Committee.  Visit www.gp.org/committees/ballot/  or send a contribution to the Green Party of the United States, Ballot Access Committee, P.O. Box 57065, Washington, DC 20037.  

• Donate directly to states that are currently petitioning for ballot access.  Contact them through the information in the back of Green Pages.  

• Volunteer to help BAC. On that committee’s webpage, an on-line form can be completed that indicates choices of activities to help achieve ballot access, including fundraising and phone calling, blogging and e-mailing, volunteering  legal assistance, experienced signature gathering and coordinating.  

• Make plans to take a carload (or more) 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. 

• Volunteer to be on the BAC if your state party has not filled its complement of members to be on the committee.

• Post an appeal for help to all Green listserves, blogs, and web pages.  Include links to pages where party members can make donations, download petitions, and get contact information to petition drive organizers.  

Download flyers and volunteer sign-up forms at the Ballot Access Committee web page.  Distribute them at your state and local Green Party meetings.  Let the BAC know about past or presence signature drives.

• Ask state party delegates to the Green National Committee to prioritize funding and allocation of more resources for ballot access efforts.   

• Join a local ballot access coalition.  Many states have coalitions of minor party members; independent candidates and civil rights activists who work for more sensible state ballot access laws.  Work to start a ballot access coalition if one is not working in your state.  

• Write letters to the editor about one’s state ballot access laws and how they could be changed so they are fair to all parties and candidates. 

Updated information about state ballot access drives, fundraising efforts, and the activities of BAC on the website. All the successes to come during the 2008 election season will result from the support of Greens from around the country taking the initiative to fundraise, spread the word, and volunteer in support of our national ballot access effort.

Presidential campaign ignites many state ballot drives

By Brian Bittner, member of the GPUS Ballot Access Committee

Ballot access—the ability to organize a political party, claim to represent a membership, run candidates for office, and have votes for those candidates counted—is like running water or electric lights. We depend on it for much of what we do without even thinking about it. Only in its absence do we stop to think about where it comes from and how we can live without it. Most of us have constant access to water, light, and ballot access, but some of us do not. 

Just as our commitment to social and economic justice inspires us to work to provide universal access to basic daily needs, our commitment to political justice ought to inspire all of us to contribute to ballot access for all of the state affiliates of the Green Party of the United States (GP-US).

The Ballot Access Committee of the GP-US has taken on the challenge of winning ballot access for Green Parties in as many states as possible in 2008, not only to give our presidential candidate a chance at setting new records, but also establishing the groundwork for mid-term ballot access drives in 2010. 

 

Ballot Access History

In 2000, the Green Party presidential candidate appeared on the ballot in 22 states. In 2004, the Green Party presidential candidate appeared on 28 state ballots. The Green Party currently holds ballot access in 21 states and the District of Columbia. The Green Party allocated only $1,000 to winning more ballot lines in 2004. Since then the standing Ballot Access Committee has been created and the Green Party has committed to raising funds for 2008. GP-US has established a fundraising goal of $100,000 for ballot access efforts in 2008. Only about 5 percent has been raised thus far.

GP-US’s 2008 ballot access drives illustrate both the variety of barriers that have been set up to keep minor parties off state ballots and how the grassroots efforts of Greens from across the country have helped overcome those barriers. Four of this year’s ballot access drives—in Arizona, Hawaii, Virginia, and Pennsylvania—show how Greens have contributed to a successful national ballot access plan.

While many state parties faced and met ballot access deadlines in 2006 and safely enjoy ballot access throughout the 2008 election season, other state parties’ deadlines are set based on presidential elections and will come throughout 2008.

Each state party sets its own legal requirements and allows a party to win or maintain ballot access through different measures, some by registering a certain number of party members, others by earning a certain percentage of the vote. Most states require groups to petition the state government to form a new party or extend the ballot access of an existing party by gathering the signatures of a particular number of citizens to show that public support for that party exists.

 

Arizona

The first state to face a requirement this year was Arizona. Because of this unusually early deadline (similar early deadlines have been overturned as unconstitutional by other state courts) and high number of signatures required (20,449) the situation looked particularly grim. “With just three or four weeks to go and only 13,000 signatures in hand, I thought we were doomed to failure!” said Richard Scott, co-chair of the Arizona Ballot Access Committee. With many potential volunteers and donors not checking the ballot access radar be cause of the early deadline, a handful of volunteers in a geographically imposing state were overwhelmed. Because of state laws that required petitions to be sorted by county and turned in at county boards of election, the few volunteers who were collecting signatures on a regular basis were busy simply transporting petitions to the proper office.

Because no other drives had started, the Ballot Access Committee was able to make a sizable donation of funds to the Arizona Green Party to entice new volunteers to get involved, employ a few professional petitioners to work at high-volume events, and show national support for Arizona’s efforts. More importantly, state and local organizations from all over the country took the initiative to raise funds and send volunteers of their own. All of the candidates for the Green Party’s presidential nomination visited or sent volunteers to help collect petitions. On March 6th, the Arizona Green Party handed in almost 30,000 signatures, well above the legal requirement of 20,449. “I can’t thank all the helpers and contributors enough” Scott concluded. “This shows just what we can do when we pull together.”

Hawaii

The Green Party of Hawaii (GPH) faced a whole new set of challenges in April of this year. The party there had been on the ballot continually since 1992, having worked to establish state law that granted ten years of ballot access for parties that either successfully petitioned or held a ballot line through election results for three consecutive elections. Perhaps because of the lack of need to work for ballot access for the past ten years, the GPH found itself in need of assistance to make the ballot in 2008. 

Because of its low population, Hawaii state law required only 663 valid signatures (one tenth of one percent of the state’s registered voters). The party had to collect several times that number, however, to ensure their petition endured strict verification procedures. As the party was collecting signatures, the campaign of the 2004 Constitution Party presidential candidate and the 2004 independent campaign of Ralph Nader were in court arguing that Hawaii’s verification procedures were overly strict. They lost, but help from the Ballot Access Committee helped the Green Party of Hawaii win ballot access in 2008. 
The major difficulty the GPH faced was geography—most party organizers lived on the least populated of the state’s eight major islands, making mass signature collection difficult. Again, the Ballot Access Committee was able to provide a major financial grant to the party to provide stipends for volunteers and arrange help from experienced petitioners from the mainland. The Green Party was also to cooperate with petitioning teams from the Libertarian Party and the independent campaign of Ralph Nader to share petitioning duties, find popular spots, and share housing for volunteers. At the beginning of April the Green Party of Hawaii was able to turn in more than 1500 valid signatures to maintain ballot access and are awaiting certification from the state elections board.

 

Virginia

The Green Party of Virginia (GPVA) is on its way to becoming the third success story of 2008. The state of Virginia requires 10,000 valid signatures to earn four years of ballot access. While this is a modest requirement compared to Arizona’s, the standard is toughened by the fact that the GPVA must ensure that each of the state’s congressional districts are represented by a certain number of signatures.

  As of June 1, GPVA had already reached over half of its petitioning goal, well before the August 22 deadline. The party plans to have completed its ballot access drive by the start of the Green Party national convention in July and be ready to send volunteers to other states to complete their drives. 

Pennsylvania

The Green Party of Pennsylvania (GPPA) strives to win a spot on November’s ballot in one of the nation’s most restrictive political environments. Courts in Penn sylvania have cooperated with major parties to create a system in which parties and candidates attempting to win ballot access have been forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal penalties for merely presenting a ballot access petition to the state. The GPPA has engaged hundreds of volunteers in petitioning and have already collected several thousand signatures, which it is preparing to defend in court if a challenge arises. 

The Ballot Access Committee is collecting funds to provide legal defense for ballot access drives and to challenge hundreds of restrictive, outdated, and unconstitutional ballot access laws on the books across the country and are working with the Green Party’s legal advisors and new contacts with the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights and liberties organizations to be prepared to defend state Green Parties when a lawsuit should arise.

Each of these states—in their ability to overcome long odds or their ability simply to stand up to them—represents a 2008 success story. There are many others to be told. 

Connecticut (5,000 signatures needed by August 6th), Iowa (1,500 by Aug. 15), Kansas (5,000 Aug. 4th), Kentucky (5,000 Aug 4), and New Jersey (800 by July 28) are currently in the midst of petitioning drives. New York (15,000 Aug. 19), New Hamp shire (3,000 by Aug. 6), Ohio (5,000 by Aug. 21), Rhode Island (1,000 by Sept. 5), and Utah (1,000 by Sept. 2) are currently planning petition drives and waiting for state boards of election to let them begin working. As the successes of early 2008 showed, they can expect success if all Greens make these ballot access drives a national effort.

Minimum Number of Signatures Necessary to List
a Green Party Candidate for President in November
State   Deadline
Alabama 5,000 September 8
Alaska 3,128 August 6
Conn. 7,500 August 6
Idaho 5,984 August 25
Iowa 1,500 August 15
Kansas 5,000 August 4
Kentucky 5,000 September 2
Minnesota 2,000 September 9
Missouri 10,000 July 28
Montana 5,000 July 30
New Hampshire 3,000 August 6
New Jersey 800 July 28
New York 15,000 August 19
North Dakota 4,000 September 5
Ohio 5,000 August 21
Penn. 24,666 August 1
Rhode Island 1,000 September 5
Utah 1,000 September 2

Legal Challenge Changes Arkansas Ballot Access Law
Greens Assert Their Rights
by Mark Swaney, Green Party of Arkansas

There was no “legitimate state purpose” to having different standards for independent compared to partisan candidates.

One of the greatest challenges the Green Party faces across the United States are ballot access laws written by Democrats and Republicans aimed at excluding alternative voices so they are not heard.

In Arkansas this year, those laws are in flux as a direct result of a Green Party challenge. Formerly, in order to qualify for the ballot, the state of Arkansas required new political parties to collect signatures from a number of valid registered voters equal to 3 percent of the vote in the previous governor’s race. For the 2006 election, that number was 24,171 signatures.

However on June 27, 2006 the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project filed a suit, Green Party of Arkansas v Daniels, in Federal Court against this law. The ACLU argued that since Arkansas had already deemed that 10,000 signatures was enough of a “modicum of support” for an independent candidate not affiliated with a party to qualify for the ballot, the state could not require more from a candidate that was from a political party.

Previously on May 30, 2006 the Green Party of Arkansas had submitted more than 18,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office to qualify for party status, but the state refused to check them. With presumably at least 10,000 of them valid, the ACLU sought an injunction against the Arkansas signature law with the goal of obtaining ballot status for Green gubernatorial candidate Jim Lendall.

U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr. agreed and granted the injunction, arguing there was no “legitimate state purpose” to having different standards for independent compared to partisan candidates.

In the case of ballot access laws, which have only existed for a relatively short time in America, the only “legitimate state purpose” to make any restriction whatsoever on the number of persons or parties allowed to be printed on the ballot is to prevent “voter confusion” by demonstrating a party or candidate has a “modicum of support.” The federal courts have left it up to state legislatures to decide what a “modicum of support” should be in that state. As Arkansas had previously determined that a modicum of support for an independent candidate was 10,000 signatures, they are not free to define it differently for a political party candidate.

In what appears to be a partisan response however, the overwhelmingly Democratic-controlled Arkansas state legislature (75 Democrats, 25 Republicans), supported by the Democratic secretary of state, passed a new ballot access law in March of this year, HB2353, cutting the time to gather the 10,000 signatures from the 150 days allowed under the 3 percent signature law, to only 60 days. The bill’s proponents claimed this was because the independent candidates were only allowed 60 days to gather their 10,000 signatures, despite the fact only one independent candidate had ever qualified for the ballot under this law. The bill was approved 66-23 and removes the existing law’s provision that allows a party 15 days to gather additional signatures if petitions are rejected by the secretary of state.

Even though Arkansas has had fewer minor party and independent candidates on the ballot for governor and U.S. senator than any other state, during 1980-2004 the legislature declined to pass a compromise bill, advocated by the ACLU and the Green Party of Arkansas. This compromise bill would have allowed 120 days to both political party and independent candidates.

According to 2006 Arkansas Green attorney general candidate Rebekah Kennedy “the clear motive for this new ballot access law was to continue to make it difficult to put new political party candidates on the ballot. As a result, there is ample reason to believe the new law is unconstitutional because of the legislature’s clear intent to protect a political monopoly of the one political party — the Demopublicans!” Lendall, who testified against the bill agreed, “this would not benefit voters, particularly those who feel disenfranchised under the status quo.”

According to Kennedy, the Green Party of Arkansas believes it can succeed in its ballot access efforts despite this new law, and intends to place several candidates on the 2008 general election ballot, including Kennedy for U.S. Senate and several others for U.S. House. At the same time, the party is keeping its options open for a challenge to the new law in court.