Original posts at Ballot Access News by Richard Winger.
Texas Representative Robert Alonzo (D-Dallas) has introduced HB 246. It would move primary elections from early March to early February, in all election years. Because the date of the Texas primary is tied to the deadline for petitions for both new political parties and for independent candidates (for office other than president) to submit petitions, those deadlines would become even earlier.
Existing law puts the new party deadline in late May, and the non-presidential independent candidate deadline in early May. If the bill is passed, those deadlines would be in April. That would give Texas the 2nd earliest petition deadline for new parties (except for states in which new parties must nominate by primary) in the nation. Only New Mexico, which has an early April deadline for new parties, would be earlier (again, except for states in which new parties nominate by primary).
The bill would also move the date on which independent candidates (other than president) must file a declaration of candidacy from January of the election year, to December of the year before the election. In some years, depending on the calendar, that deadline would even be in late November.
Oklahoma State Senator Randy Brogdon has introduced SB 359, to improve ballot access. For independent presidential candidates, who now need a petition signed by 3% of the last presidential vote (the worst in the nation), the bill permits a filing fee option. The fee would be $5,000.
For a new or previously unqualified party, the bill reduces the number of signatures from 5% of the last vote cast to exactly 5,000 signatures. Oklahoma required exactly 5,000 signatures for new parties from 1924 to 1974, and no election ever saw more than two minor parties on the Oklahoma ballot during those years.
Also, the bill lowers the vote test for a party to remain on the ballot from 10% to 1%. The national median vote test for a party to remain on the ballot is 2%.
Oklahoma was the only state in 2008 in which voters could not vote for president unless they voted for the Republican nominee or the Democratic nominee. The same situation was true in 2004 in Oklahoma as well. Thanks to Tom Holmes for this news.
Virtually all states are having budget problems. This situation may provide an opening for activists to suggest that state legislatures replace ballot access petitions with filing fees. Canada and Great Britain depend on filing fees, rather than difficult petition requirements, to regulate access to the ballot. And in the U.S., almost two-thirds of the states already depend mostly on filing fees, not mandatory petitions, to regulate access to primary ballots.
Fiscal considerations ought to support this idea. Election administrators must expend resources to handle petitions, especially if state law requires that all petitions be checked. On the other hand, filing fees not only cost nothing to administer, they add to government revenue.
Of course, past U.S. Supreme Court precedents require states to leave petition alternatives in the law. Also, of course, it is bad policy for the filing fees to be exorbitant.
States that already use filing fees to regulate independent candidate access to the general election ballot are Louisiana, Florida (but not for president), Oklahoma (but not for president), and Colorado (president only).
State Senator Justin Alfond, elected to the Maine Senate in 2008, is interested in improving his state’s ballot access laws for minor parties. He is a Democrat representing part of Portland.
Posted to IPR by Paulie