Del. Sam Rasoul’s bill to reduce the percentage of the statewide vote for a political party to avoid petitioning failed in the Virginia House of Delegates Elections Subcommitee on a voice vote.
One delegate, Luke Torian (D) of Prince William County, did move to report the bill favorably (I sent him a email thanks) but but that motion failed without a second and the voice vote appeared to be overwhelming in opposition.
This bill would have given ballot access to the Libertarians if it had passed due to the over six percent turnout for Robert Sarvis in the governor’s race in 2013 by virtue of the provision that allows ballot access to continue for two statewide elections if it is won by vote percentage.
Delegate Rasoul spoke on how the median percentage for ballot access is between 2 and 3% and how only a few states are at or above Virginia’s percentage (Alabama has a 20% requirement).
Two citizens spoke on this bill along with Del. Rasoul; Elwood Sanders (yes this blogger) had a detailed presentation including the chart from Richard Winger (with credit given) which was introduced into evidence before the subcommittee.
Sanders opened with Jefferson’s quote:
The ballot is the rational and peaceable instrument of reform…
But the ballot does little good if there is only one choice. Sanders argued that there are too many uncontested elections at the local and state legislative level, citing over 60 of the House members and half of the Virginia General Assembly, every county officer in Hanover County in the general election (one had a primary), many members of the Board of Supervisors throughout Virginia, and all five school board members in King William County for example. He also suggested that many voters voted in real elections for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck or similar characters to protest single candidates on the ballot.
This led to a vigorous exchange between Sanders and Delegate Steve Landes on the need for this bill to increase participation.
Landes suggested there are other reasons for people not seeking to run for office. Sanders agreed, including politics of personal destruction, “ungodly” (I apologized for the use of the word at the time but I am wondering if the word is accurate!) amounts of money to run and gerrymandering among others. This is only one solution among many. Landes cited the ease to get signatures for the House (125) and that even incumbents have to get signatures in the event of a contested primary. Sanders agreed; however the petitioning requirement is onerous for statewide offices and the funding of Robert Sarvis’ gubernatorial petitions (the false account of the “Obama bundler”) was actually an issue in the election – and how a candidate gets signatures should not be an issue in a campaign.
Sanders stated truthfully that he is not a member of any political party which led to Landes asking about what third parties have difficulty getting on the ballot: Libertarians? Socialists? Communists? Sanders’ response was that the Libertarians have had trouble getting on the ballot – several did not get the signatures to run for Congress for example and had to abandon their campaign or run a write-in campaign. Sanders also cited the ability of the Democrats without petitioning to place Prof. Jack Trammell on the ballot against Republican Dave Brat and felt other parties might ought to have the same.
It might be great now and then to not have to contest an election but continued uncontested elections are corrosive to the political process and hurts the mandate that victory brings to the winner or at least it can do so. This also discourages voting and participation.
Finally Sanders suggested the ten percent political party requirement might be flirting with a constitutional violation since new parties have a right to start and have reasonable ballot access. Five percent in this case is still above the median. Alas, Del. Landes was unconvinced as the chair had to call time on Sanders. Del. Rasoul’s bill failed.
Blogger’s note: I am sorry I do not have at this writing the name of the other speaker who basically agreed with me. I thank him for coming and participating in the political process.
Article written by: Elwood "Sandy" Sanders