Major NC Paper Blasts Ballot Process

Republicans and Democrats: tag team politicsOne of the key areas that is getting a lot of good press this election cycle is the ridiculous ballot hurdles that third parties have to face. Major newspapers like North Carolina’s News & Observer are starting to pick up the groundswell of discontent among voters disillusioned by the two parties and the chokehold they’ve placed on the competition:

If you’re a political party, you’ll first have to gather 69,734 petition signatures and get them validated. Roughly one-third of all petition signatures are tossed out by the board of elections, so you’ll be shooting for about 105,000, or one for every 73 people in the state.

To get there, you’ll have to hire professional petitioners (no third party has ever done it without them), and you’ll probably have to get big funding from out of state. If you’re as efficient as the Libertarian Party of North Carolina, maybe you can do it in nine months at a cost of $100,000.

Good luck in the election! But remember, if your party doesn’t pull down 10 percent of the vote for governor or president, you’ll be starting all over in the next election cycle. Don’t you wish you had that $100,000 for advertising now?

[…] The legislature should let go its stranglehold on elections. The N.C. Open Elections Coalition, a group of third parties and electoral reform groups, is asking the Senate to pass House Bill 88 in the form it passed two House committees last year.

Our elected officials should make it easier, not harder, for the citizens to get involved in their government. Third parties believe their viewpoints are vital to the healthy functioning of our state and our democratic system. You don’t have to agree with them on that point to believe that fairness demands better ballot access laws.

It’s great to see we’re making inroads to ballot reform in the third worst state for third parties (LPNC is suing, sign their petition online if you agree). That says a lot about Libertarian and other third parties’ efforts to make electing someone other than the same-old blue or red guy more of a reality. Because it’s $100k thrown out the ballot access window instead of being spent on advertising. Third parties need all the dollars they have access to in order to run ads and mount a newsworthy campaign, and this kind of press critical of that barrier is very effective in dismantling those hurdles.

  1. Out of curiosity, does the LP or anyone else have a list (even an informal one) of states in order of bad ballot access laws? Georgia has very high hurdles to jump, which get higher as you go down to the local level where a third-party candidate would have a better shot at election. I’ve heard our system described as “the worst in the country”. However, North Carolina sounds worse than us… and VanDyke implies that there are two states worse than N.C. (which two?). Are there any states known for GREAT third-party ballot access?

  2. Despite complaints from local LP candidates, California is pretty easy. To gain statewide party status all we need is (I believe) 2% in one of the state wide elections (e.g. governor, lt. governor, etc). Once a party, it takes very few signatures to run for office, less than 150 for state senator, state assembly or congress, similar for higher offices. These signatures are a pain in the butt to collect, but not that hard to do, and one could argue that the minimum effort required gives the LPC better candidates.

  3. Wow, this is actually the best news I’ve heard all week. Makes me think there might be hope for this country…

  4. I’ve heard that Oklahoma is the worst, and that’s why the LP couldn’t get ballot access there in 2004 but I can’t confirm that. Good luck with the effort, Sean! As a part-time North Carolinian myself, it’s more than obvious this needs to happen.

  5. Wow, 150 signatures?!? In Georgia the signature requirment for state house or senate, or U.S. House of Reps., is 5% of registered voters in that district. That’s around 1,500 signatures to run for the state house, or 15,000 to run for the federal house.

    I could get 150 signatures in a few weekends, with half of that coming from friends and family on the first day. If we don’t candidates running in every single state house district, we’re doing something wrong.

  6. Try adding a little threat too: if you make it too hard to enter as third party candidates, then we will just enter your primaries and force you to spend your money to win the primary and maybe explain away why “nutty” libertarian views are being expressed in Republican or Democratic primaries.

  7. R.E., we are suing in state court, so we are being somewhat confrontational. ;-) Part of our dying bill would fix the requirements for independent candidates which were thrown out in court. Without a fix by 2008, anyone could file at will as an independent for statewide office, so I’m keeping an eye on that situation.

    Others, comparing states on ballot access is an apples and oranges deal. Here we have one massive requirement but if we meet that we have full access to the ballot. Georgia I think is worse because you have to petition separately for each office. Richard Winger at Ballot Access News has done some pretty comprehesive research on the topic.

    If you want to donate to our efforts here in NC, check out and make a note on the form that you want your cash to go to NC’s efforts. Thanks!

  8. Ideally, with the Free State Project, we will at some point make Ds & Rs face a libertarian in every primary and then a Libertarian in the general election. PLUS use fusionism. This could make life miserable for the established parties. It could cause a backlash, but exposing said backlash could cause a backlash over the backlash.

  9. …and thirdly, if a backlash could backlash backlashes, how many backlashes could a backlash backlash?

  10. Sean,
    I tried to logon to Freedom Ballot Access but the site was down. I will try again later. Keep up the great work for liberty. Best regards,

  11. HippyChimp: Not that simple, the 150 signatures must be of registered libertarians, 40 of those are “nominating signatures”, and in fact the only actually required, the rest are signatures in lieu of fee (the fee is about 1,500, us cash-strapped libertarians mostly go for the signatures). It takes a few weekends to gather the signatures, mostly by going house to house and MEETING registered libertarians, a good thing. Candidates get the list for free from the registrar of voters or from the LPC which makes it a bit easier.
    Still, a fairly fair system (IMHO).

  12. The Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania has to collect 100,000 signatures this year to get our statewide candidates on the ballot, even though we are already a qualified minor party.

    We had a ballot access lawsuit in Pennsylvania on Monday (3rd Circuit Court of Appeals), which I attended. I’m cautiously optimistic based upon the tone of the judges’ questions in oral arguments.

    Richard Winger’s Ballot Access News is the best source of ballot access information. I’m a subscriber myself and I highly recommend you all check it out.

  13. I’d like to see a more strategic approach to ballot access. In the past, it was considered a source of pride to be on all 50 states, because the LP really likes to be be able to prove that it’s up with the big boys. Bill Redpath of course is big on running candidates, but that’s his reason for being.

    Now that he is Chair, I’m hoping he’ll be open to a study for an look see into how much effort and money to get any one state on the ballot is worth vs. the expected gain the LP might make. Frankly, really difficult states like OK are not worth the time and effort it takes to get on UNLESS you have the chance that by doing so you may change that.

    Just running candidates and getting on in 50 states just so we can prove we can and sending a PR out about it does not impress me as much. There should be a clear political benefit for the LP and the candidates to spending party resources and effort to run in a given state.

    I would rather the LP be a strong playa in 20 or 25 states.

  14. On the bright side, in Massachusetts we have full ballot access (party name next to candidate’s, easier signature requirement than D or R candidates) without doing anything. Alas, there are people trying to get us to take ‘major party status’ by running someone for Auditor or whatever, which would wreck our ballot access.

  15. Sigh. Amateur hour at the asylum again.

    How about allowing LP members who want the LP to be on the ballot to fund ballot access?

    That strategy will still allow those who don’t want us to be on the ballot the freedom to sit there whining on blogs to their hearts content.

    There are (or at least were, until the reformers started encouraging everyone to leave) LP members who will donate to the ballot access drives, who will not necessarily donate to other LP activities.

    Why don’t you step off your expert horse and let them distribute their donations as they wish?

    Oh, I forgot. You’re the Sage of the LP and donors may only donate to projects you approve of.

    All hail.

  16. D Walter: Not sure who you’re referring to, but I think the issue here isn’t raising money to do ballot drives and accept the hurdle, it’s to tear the damn thing down once and for all.

  17. D. Walter,

    This is the ~Expert Professional Super-Libertarian~ speaking.

    My mojo hand is stronger than your puny voodoo. I suggest you reload and try harder.

  18. Roberto – I realize there’s plenty of fight left to be fought, just was very pleased that a Main Stream paper is picking up on this major hurdle that 3rdparties are forced to deal with. Somebody at that paper is connecting the dots and starting to realize how we got to where we are. That’s progress…

  19. Me and Tim West tend to agree on much, but I’m am sharply opposed to abandoning 50-state access as a high priority. Being on the ballot in all 50 states is the only real claim to being a “real party” we have when we’re consistently drawing sub-1% results in Presidential elections and 3% or so in local elections. Right now we are a party that no one votes for, but at least everyone knows exists.

    I firmly believe that as soon as we shift our priorities away from universal ballot access, we will start to decay to the level of the Constitution Party, America First Party, or all the other psuedo-parties that aren’t relevant even in theory.

  20. Anyone telling you that running a Massachusetts candidate for statewide office will ‘get ballot access’ for Massachusetts libertarians is the escapee from the unoriginal amateur hour.

  21. Steve,

    The LP is spread too thin for 50 state access. We spend way too much money trying to prove the point that WE ARE SOMEBODY without concerning ourselves over if the efforts are worth the trouble.

    I would much rather the LP get elected in 5 states than also ran in 50. We just dont have the resources.

  22. With a project model, people can choose whether they want to support ballot access or not. Let the free market decide.

    I don’t think we should give up on any state, but the method of attack may be different. Many states we should just be petitioning. Other states we should try legal action instead. Still other states we should be lobbying the legislature.

    If a difficult state has a lot of electoral votes or if ballot access carries a lot of side benefits additional to getting the presidential candidate on the ballot for 1 year, we should be trying a combination of the three strategies.

    Not having 50 state ballot access wouldn’t be the end of the world. Let’s get ballot access where it’s easy and make strategic decisions where it is hard… and perhaps risk forgoing ballot access one year to gamble on making it much easier long term.

  23. I agree 100% with Steve that universal ballot access is required if we are to be a national (and relevant, and growing) party. Having said that, our efforts in NC are geared towards longterm changes in the law so we don’t have to spend $100K every election cycle on sigs. If our lawsuit is successful it will be a powerful tool that can be used by other states since most every state constitution has the same language about equal protection and free elections.

    But until then, we will still be gathering the signatures, because you ain’t a real political party unless you are on the ballot.

    FYI, national has implemented the technology to send targeted fundraisers so that, for example, only likely ballot access donors are solicited to support ballot access projects. This has been in use at least since the beginning of the year. On BA specifically, national has only used project specific funding on it for at least three years. So scratch that criticism.

  24. Wes P said: “Who’s stopping them?”

    You apparently haven’t been reading the Minutes of LNC meetings. If you did, you might find many instances of small and petty individuals who, like the “expert”, want everyone to be forced to indulge in their sweaty-palmed “strategic” ballot fantasies.

    The mere fact that these folks want others to share their lack of political education isn’t enough. They try and legislate it by defrauding conventiongoers into electing them to the LNC where they will have the power to materially interfere with those who do want us to be on the ballot.

    Case in point is the previous Treasurer.

    The answer to your question “who’s stopping them” is “read the LNC Minutes”.

  25. HAUGH: “FYI, national has implemented the technology to send targeted fundraisers so that, for example, only likely ballot access donors are solicited to support ballot access projects.”

    The phundamental phallacy of the opinion above is that LPHQ is not actually sending ballot access fundraisers to “likely” ballot access donors. To my knowledge, it is only sending them to PREVIOUS ballot access donors. There’s a difference.

    “Likely” could be interpreted to mean one has taken into account several factors in deciding who will be asked to contribute (age or income profile, previous donation history, etc).

    I suspect that will change now with Redpath in the chairman’s seat. However, this was one of the ways the former Executive Director, the former chair and former treasurer threw a meaningless bone to those who wanted the LP on the ballot: allow mailings to be sent to ONLY the list of past donors to ballot access, and never mail to anyone new.

    This was a not-so-clever way of making sure the donor pool continuously shrank for ballot access. If you can’t ask new people if they want to support ballot drives, you will always have a shrinking base of people to ask (in case you haven’t heard, people die, move to Elbonia, and so on).

    HAUGH: “This has been in use at least since the beginning of the year.”

    Actually I believe it was all the ballot access committee was permitted to do beginning shortly after the Badnarik ballot drives.

    HAUGH: “On BA specifically, national has only used project specific funding on it for at least three years.”

    Which is a stupid, short-sighted, and asinine policy.

  26. I see I made a cut-and-paste error on the last two quotes by Haugh. What I meant to say:

    HAUGH: “This has been in use at least since the beginning of the year.”

    Actually I believe that was all the ballot access committee was permitted to do beginning shortly after the Badnarik ballot drives. Which is a stupid, short-sighted, and asinine policy.

    HAUGH: “On BA specifically, national has only used project specific funding on it for at least three years.”

    I’m all in favor of project fundraising. However, ballot access should be considered a core function of the national party (remember that we don’t even decide on our nominee until after several petitioning deadlines have passed); even if fundraising for it is done in a “project” manner. The ballot access committee should be able to ask whoever it wants to fund ballot drives.

    It should be a priority, not an afterthought.

    If we’re not on the ballot, we’re not a political party.

    It really is as simple as that.

  27. For those interested in helping the LPNC with its lawsuit, I would suggest donating *directly* to the state party, rather than sending the money to an out-of-state organization and hoping ithe money gets here eventually. The LPNC has no paid staff, so all donations go directly to fund the lawsuit:

    Mention ‘lawsuit’ in the note if you wish the donation to be strictly for the suit, you can also donate to signature gathering for ballot access, or just give a general donation.

    Thank YOU!