The legislative session is coming to a close, but HB 794 Voter Freedom Act is stuck in the Senate Rules Committee. This bill was sponsored by the Free the Vote Coalition, an alliance of groups spanning the political spectrum that includes the Libertarian Party of North Carolina.
The original bill would have dramatically lowered our state’s high ballot access barriers. We agreed with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Saine, when he urged us to support transforming the bill into a study bill in order to get it passed. And it did pass the House with an overwhelming 109-5 vote.
That was a month ago. Since then, both houses have been busy working on various budget and tax reform bills. The bill has been left dormant in the Senate Rules Committee.
Time is running out. The legislature may adjourn by the end of June. We need to take action now if we want real ballot access reform to begin.
Call your state Senator as well and ask them to let Sen. Apodaca know they support this legislation. You can look up your state Senator here.
HB 794 is a study bill. It would make no change in the law.
But it would authorize the Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee to study amending the definition of political party, and the nomination process, amending the requirements for unaffiliated and write-in candidates, allowing for nomination by convention by smaller parties, and providing that smaller parties electing to have primaries will have the results determined by plurality.
These are all the points covered in the original bill.
If the bill is not passed by the Senate, we will essentially be back to square one. We’ll have to begin the process again in January 2014, during the short session when the legislature is supposed to focus solely on budget issues. And even if this study bill is passed, the results of the study will not be ready for the 2014 election.
Making a direct telephone call is the best way to have your voice heard.
Ask to speak to the Senator; but if that is not possible, leave a message with the secretary or legislative assistant, and be sure to mention you are a constituent (if appropriate) and that you support the Free the Vote Coalition.
It would not hurt to follow up your call with a personal e-mail message, something you write yourself. You can use one or two of the following points for your call and in your e-mail:
HB 794 is a bipartisan bill that has wide support. Representatives Jason Saine (R), Paul Luebke (D), David Lewis (R), and Rodney Moore (D) were the primary sponsors; Representatives Alma Adams (D), John Bell (R), Mark Brody, (R), Becky Carney (D), Beverly Earle (D), Pricey Harrison (D), Jonathan Jordan (R), and Michael Speciale (R).
In addition, HB 794 has the support of the Free the Vote Coalition, an alliance of public policy groups and political parties from across the political spectrum. Members include the Libertarian and Green parties, as well as the John Locke Foundation and Democracy NC, and other groups representing diverse political opinions.
When political parties, public policy groups and individuals with such divergent views unite in any cause, it clearly attests to the fact that ballot access reform is not a partisan or special-interest group issue, but a question of fundamental freedom that transcends political differences.
North Carolina has the second most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation. NC law imposes an excessive and unreasonable requirement on new political parties and unaffiliated candidates that’s far and above the standard prevalent in most other states.
33 states require 10,000 or fewer signatures for a new political party to obtain ballot access; 22 of these states require less than 5,000 signatures or some other simpler means for a party to be recognized by the state.
36 states require 10,000 or fewer signatures for independent statewide candidates to obtain access to the ballot; 29 of this group require 5,000 or less, or some other simpler means (such as paying a filing fee) for an independent candidate to be listed on the ballot.
Remind Sen. Apodaca that he’s been a champion of ballot access reform.
In 1988, he was the leader of a small group of Republicans (and one Democrat) who proposed an amendment to a ballot access reform bill to lower the number of signatures required to get on the ballot to one-half of one percent. That amendment was defeated by the then Democratic majority.
We need to take action now to keep the Voter Freedom Act alive.
A viable democratic process and fundamental freedom requires that ballot access laws encourage and promote – not limit – the individual’s right to self-government by securing their right to free choice at the ballot box.
Call (and e-mail) Sen. Apodaca and your state Senator today.