Third Party & Independents Archives

Two Big Ballot Access Stories, And Two Chances To Make A Difference For Third Parties In America

Here are two significant stories from Richard Winger’s Ballot Access News. One is that Georgia residents have a chance to speak up directly about their oppressive ballot access laws (for those of you who don’t know, ballot access laws are the rules for how to get on the ballot and are frequently much harder for independents and third parties than for Dems and Reps). The other is that anonymous Florida legislators are trying to raise the signatures required for a new party’s presidential candidate from zero to over 330,000. Yes, you read that right.

(Since I first wrote this, although before I posted it at WatchBlog, the bill passed the Florida House, and an update is posted below.)

First, the more immediately significant story from Georgia. The state has the single most oppressive ballot access law in the nation - so much so that there's been no third party or independent candidate to successfully meet the challenge since 1964! There will be a public meeting about the law, and others, on April 27.

In one week, the Georgia Elections Advisory Council will hold its first public meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to let Georgia residents express themselves about problems with Georgia’s election laws. The first meeting is Wednesday, April 27, at 10 a.m., in room 341 of the Georgia state Capitol.

Anyone can speak about any topic for three minutes. It is possible to pre-register to speak, although this is not a requirement. To pre-register, go to Members of the public are free to hand out written material to the members of the Council. The Council includes one Libertarian, and also includes the state’s only independent state legislator, Rusty Kidd, so there will be at least a few sympathetic ears on the Council to anyone who raises ballot access.(continued...)

Georgia has the nation’s worst ballot access law: specifically, the Georgia law on ballot access for minor party and independent candidates for U.S. House. The law was stiffened in 1964 and ever since then, it has never been used successfully. There is no other ballot access law in the nation that approaches that level of disuse...a law that, in effect, prohibits anyone from being on the ballot for that office unless the person is the nominee of the Democratic or Republican Parties. The law requires a huge number of signatures, up to 20,000; and requires that the candidate pay a filing fee of approximately $5,000 before the petition is due and before the candidate can know if the petition is valid; the law requires each petition sheet to be notarized, which is also expensive; and the law disqualifies the work of any notary public who himself or herself circulates even one sheet.

And Richard Winger does a better job explaining the situation in Florida than I could.

First (more info here, including why this is definitely unconstitutional):

On April 18, the Florida Secretary of State’s omnibus election law bill was amended to require new political parties who wish to place a presidential nominee on the ballot to submit a petition signed by a number of voters, equal to 4% of the last presidential vote. For 2012, this would be 335,630 valid signatures. The 4% standard would need to be met in each of half the congressional districts in the state. The party would need to pay to have its petition checked. Under existing law, no signatures are needed for minor party presidential candidates.

The beauty of this is that no one will own up to who sponsored the bill:
The Tampa Tribune has this story about the April 18 amendment to the omnibus election law bill that makes it vastly more difficult for the presidential candidate of a new party to get on the Florida ballot. The bill, HB 1355, passed second reading on the evening of April 20, and will probably receive a vote on third reading on April 21.

The reporter who wrote the story tried, but failed, to find out which legislator inserted the ballot access amendment.

UPDATE: It has passed the Florida House, with all Republicans voting for it and all Democrats voting against it. More info. (And for those who don't know - ballot access laws have been generally getting better in the recent past.  Back in the early 20th century, when they first really started appearing, there were some horrid ones a lot like this one.  I guess we're just returning to feudalism in every way possible.)

Posted by Ross Levin at April 24, 2011 6:23 PM
Comment #322408

Ross, a real good article for the middle column. While the partisan bickering rolls on the Corpocracy continues on a win-win-win path. By controlling the media and the election process the Corpocracy can pretty much control/pick/choose who gets a real chance to run for dog catcher on up. To understand how that could be we can look at a page from Robert Kuttner’s ‘The Squandering Of America’.

(Gist/excerpts): Robert says we lost control of much of the political process in the 1970’s. As big money became more important in politics, Democrats found themselves on the weak side of a potent asymmetry. Repubs had more money and, with the wealthy, enjoyed more congruence of ideology and self interest. Economic populism had made the Dem’s the majority party but wealthy donors were paying Dem’s to be less populist, rewarding them for deserting their natural constituency and ideology of ‘managed capitalism’.
Many ‘business Dem’s’ worked to wean their party from progressive taxation and economic regulation and gain support for ‘freer trade’. Clinton’s support for NAFTA and China’s entry into the WTO was about winning credibility with business which ost the Dem’s with their economic base voters.

By the 90’s scores of Dem’s reliably voted with organized business on issues that harmed ordinary people—bills making it easier for stock promoters to cheat small investors, undercutting the right of people to sue if they were maimed by corporate negligence, making it easier for corporations to loot workers’ pensions, helping credit card companies to impoverish people if they declared bankruptcy because of huge medical expenses, bills tilting tax relief to the very top, such as deep cuts in the estate tax paid by the top 1 percent rather than relief for working people. As many as 80 House Dem’s, including several African-American reps often helped Repub’s win enactment of bills harmful to the Dem base. Business interests, led by the tobacco industry, used a loophole in the campaign finance laws to pour money into the Congressional Black Caucus’s affiliated foundation, creating a multimillion-dollar slush fund and weaning many black legislators from their ususal support for consumer legislation.

Kuttner continues with much more on how the wheels for what we know as globalization was set in motion. In summation he relates, that in 2006 the US narrowly averted losing its democracy. The Rove-Cheny-Bush machine had a cynical formula for building a ipermanent majority and reducing the opposition to window dressing. Their strategy failed only bev\cause of the Repub’s staggering foreign policy hubris and cascading domestic scandals. Saying that if the Repub’s remain in power beyond 2008 and take back Congress by substituting hot button social issues for ones that demand economic resolution and manipulating the machinery of free elections, there is a real risk that the SU will be a democracy in name only. And, that this has happened elsewhere. For six decades, Mexico had all the trapping of nominal democracy; the opposition party just never got to govern. The same has been true of postwar Japan. And, closing with, It was Bismark who said that diving providence protects idiots, drunkards, children, and the US. That if our society is to reclaim broadly shared prosperity, we had better revive our democracy. End Kuttner.

Sure, the Corpocracy has worked for over 200 years to buy government to facilitate their well being. Controlling the election process is just one facet of that. Kuttner and thousands of others write and communicate about losing our government to the Corpocrcy but it seems few offer solutions as to how we can remove the money influence and restore democracy, sovereignty and the Constitution.

We won’t get there by bickering over gas prices, social issues and so on. We need to look to the source or the root of our problem and that leads directly to the passing of Corporate Personhood law in the 1800’s. That’s when a few railroad barrons and corrupt Supreme Court Justices took a law that dealt with protecting the rights of freed slaves and twisted it into a law equating corporations as ‘persons’ and giving them certain human rights in law. Euphemistically referred to as the Santa Clara Blues’. From there, the Corpocracy has put into law that ‘money equates to free speech’ and of recent, a law that lets corporations fund ads that directly attack or support political candidates. President Obama is expected to receive $1B for the 2012 elections. One organization in particular is working to lay the groundwork to get corporate personhood before the Supreme Court but is expected to be years in the process.

IMO, we need to abolish corporate personhood law and implement real campaign finance reform where all donations are submitted to one account and disbursed to viable political candidates on some rational basis. But, we can’t expect the Corpocracy to go along with that. Therefore, we must fight fire with fire. We need a new 3rd party, established in rules to prevent co-option by the money influence and given the specific mission to abolish corporate personhood and implement campaign finance reform.

Through that process we can restore the USA.

Otherwise, we have the Corpocracy we deserve.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at April 28, 2011 1:08 PM
Comment #322473

Roy I agree an excellent article for the middle column. I don’t know why these state legislatures don’t want a little competition after all isn’t that the American way? Or at least the way we tell ourselves is the American way. It seems competition is only welcomed when it is the working class competing for way to many jobs.

Anyway good work Ross

Posted by: j2t2 at April 28, 2011 11:50 PM
Comment #322502

Ross, I agree, good job. It seems the Republicans in Florida are trying to crush their new competition, the Tea Party.

Posted by: jlw at April 29, 2011 3:42 PM
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