Ballot access reform bills in 15 states nation-wide
CHICAGO (April 1) – In the coming weeks, legislators in at least 15 states will be working on legislation to curb unnecessary restrictions on voter choice. In some of these states, ballot access reforms have already made it into law.
On March 16, Nebraska became the first state this year to enact ballot access reform, according to Richard Winger’s Ballot Access News, eliminating “the county distribution requirement for statewide non-presidential independent candidate petitions,” when Governor Dave Heineman signed LB 399 into law.
Three days later, Senate Bill 403, the New Mexico omnibus election law bill passed the New Mexico Senate unanimously after being passed by the House with a unanimous vote. The bill contains provisions to extend the petition deadline for independent candidates by three weeks, and lower the petition signature requirement for new parties in mid-term election years.
In Illinois, Rep. Jim Watson (R-Jacksonville) introduced House Bill 2854, to allow candidates to pay a filing fee in place of Illinois’ discriminatory petitioning requirements, “[helping] Illinois in this time of financial crisis, while opening up the electoral process,” according to Christina Tobin, founder of the Free & Equal Elections Foundation, which is backing the bill. Free & Equal held a press conference recently with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, to highlight the national character of these reforms.
Moving east, the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition is working with Rep. Eugene DePasquale (D-York) and Senator Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) to push for passage of the Voters’ Choice Act (Senate Bill 21). The bill would lower the threshold for new parties to become recognized for the ballot, and reduce the number of signatures required for independent candidates.
In North Carolina, State Reps Stephen LaRoque (R-Lenoir), Glen Bradley (R-Youngsville), Paul Leubke (D-Durham) and Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson) introduced the Electoral Freedom Act (House Bill 32) in early February. The Free the Vote Coalition, composed of fifteen organizations including Free the Vote North Carolina, the Free & Equal Elections Foundation, FairVote Action, the John Locke Foundation and Democracy North Carolina, are actively lobbying for the bill’s passage. State Senators Andrew C. Brock (R-Mocksville) and Eleanor Kinnaird (D-Chapel Hill) introduced Senate Bill 225, a companion bill, in the NC Senate in early March.
Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform (OBAR) is working with Rep. Charles Key (R-Oklahoma City) to promote House Bill 1058, which would cut the signature requirement for new political parties in half. The bill calls for a 22,500 signature requirement, rather than the current requirement of 5% of votes cast in the last statewide election.
In Alabama, an organization called Independent Alabama is backing a ballot access reform effort, while Marylanders4Democracy is pressing the issue in Maryland. The New Hampshire Libertarian Party is backing a ballot access reform bill in their state. Other states with pending ballot access legislation are Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Missouri and New York.
Christina Tobin of the Free & Equal Elections Foundation stated, “this is the largest number of states pursuing ballot access reform in over a decade. This is a sign that people are waking up, and demanding their right to vote for the candidate of their choice. We’re pleased with the number and quality of the legislation being introduced, and look forward to better government from the coming elections as a result.”
Free & Equal is a nonpartisan, non-profit public-policy advocacy organization dedicated to election reform and improving ballot access laws in the United States.
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CONTACT: Christina Tobin, Founder and Chair