Free the Vote Coalition formed

Free the Vote North Carolina has announced formation of the Free the Vote Coalition, an alliance of the state’s alternative political parties and several electoral reform groups, who have banded together to enact major ballot access reform this year.

Rep. Stephen LaRoque, a Lenoir Republican, is expected to file the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011 this week. It will be co-sponsored by Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat. The bill will dramatically reduce the restrictions placed on new political parties and unaffiliated candidates attempting to get on the ballot.

“The Free the Vote Coalition is a truly non-partisan alliance of alternative political parties and public policy groups joined together in the common cause of the right to vote,” said Jordon Greene, founder and president of Free the Vote NC in announcing formation of the coalition.

In addition to Free the Vote NC, coalition members include the Conservative, Constitution, Green, Libertarian, and the Modern Whig parties, the N.C. Center for Voter Education, NC Common Cause, Democracy NC, and the John Locke Foundation.

“These groups have joined together to work to restore the right of every citizen to vote for the candidate of their choice, a right currently denied by the state’s exploitative, unequal and free speech stifling laws that keep most alternative political parties and unaffiliated candidates off the election ballot,” Greene said.

Greene said that it was very significant that the coalition includes political parties and groups representing all shades and colors of the political spectrum.

“North Carolina has the second most restrictive ballot access laws in the entire nation,” noted Greene. “This scheme is deliberately intended to impede competition to the two major parties by placing unreasonable and unnecessary restrictions on any potential electoral competitors through restrictive signature requirements unparalleled in most other states.”

Key provision of the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011 are:

  • Reduce the number of signatures a new political party needs obtain for ballot access to the fixed figure of 10,000.
  • Reduce the number of votes a new political party must get in order to remain on the ballot the fixed number 10,000 for any statewide candidate.
  • Reduce the number of signatures an unaffiliated candidate for statewide offices needs to obtain to the fixed figure of 10,000.
  • Set a fixed number of signatures for unaffiliated candidates to run for U.S. House, the state General Assembly and local office.

For more on the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011, go to Free the Vote NC.

Partisan redistricting lets politicians pick their voters

The last time the state General Assembly tried to come up with a redistricting plan, the state Supreme Court had to do if for them. That could happen again.

When the Republicans were in the minority, they proposed that an independent non-partisan group handle redistricting and the Democrats rebuffed the effort. Now the party roles and positions are reversed. What remains constant is that third parties and unaffiliated voters will probably still be left out of the process.

Having Democrats and Republicans draw up the new districts is like playing a Duke-Carolina football game where the players act as referees. “We’ve seen the ugly result when politicians get to draw their own districts,” said Libertarian state chair Barbara Howe. “Let someone who knows the game but doesn’t have any players on the field sort it out.”

Howe said she believes an independent group can draw new General Assembly districts that will limit splitting counties and also meet U.S. Department of Justice guidelines. Mike Smith, a Davidson County libertarian did just that in 2002, but the plan wasn’t even looked at by legislators.

Smith’s plan then focused on population, compactness and followed recognizable boundaries. He said then that he believed most voters were more interested in simplicity and uniformity than in trying to ensure that each district has roughly the same number of people in it.

“By sticking to county lines, our plan will put voters with similar interests together and increase the number of candidates they can choose from,” said Howe. “More voters would participate in elections if their representation was determined for their benefit, instead of for the sole benefit of incumbent politicians.”

When political parties draw up the districts, you in effect have a system where elected officials pick the voters rather than voters picking the elected officials. That is the exact opposite of what the founders of our nation intended.

“Electoral gerrymanders aren’t just opportunities for political mischief,” said John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation. “They do real damage to self-government. When counties, municipalities, and other geographical communities are shredded into bits of thread and stitched into weird paisley designs on a map, it robs voters of basic information – who represents me? – and makes it harder to ensure effective legislative representation.”

The Locke Foundation and the N.C. Center for Government and Lobbying Reform favor an independent redistricting commission. But Hood said he believes the rules used for redistricting are more important that the process of redistricting.

He proposes that the two parties commit themselves to neutral, binding constraints such as compactness and respecting jurisdictional lines. Once the rules are in place, they should prepare and vote on the maps early in the legislative session. Finally, they should put these rules into a state constitutional amendment and submit it to the voters in 2012.

Rep. LaRoque to introduce ballot access reform bill

Rep. Stephen LaRoque (R-10) has agreed to sponsor an election law reform bill supported by Free the Vote North Carolina. The Electoral Freedom Act of 2011 would dramatically reduce the number of signatures required to a fixed figure for a new political party or an unaffiliated candidate to qualify for the ballot.

“I am proud to sponsor the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011,” said LaRoque. “North Carolina’s current ballot access laws make it very difficult for new political parties and unaffiliated candidates to get on the ballot. That’s not consistent with a representative form of government.”

“Our state’s election laws impose excessive and unreasonable requirements on new political parties and unaffiliated candidates that are far and above the standard prevalent in a majority of the other states,” LaRoque said. “I believe it’s time for North Carolina to follow their example and reduce those burdens.”

“We’re pleased to have Rep. LaRoque sponsor this bill,” said Jordon Greene, president and founder of Free the Vote NC. “North Carolina has some of the most restrictive ballot access laws in the United States. Our election laws deny citizens their right to vote for candidates of their choice, their right to run for office, and their right to freedom of association to form alternative political parties to place candidates on the ballot.”

“Together, these regulations fundamentally degrade the purpose of government, of our representative democracy, effectively denying citizens real representation, something the founders were adamant about,” Greene said.

Key provisions of the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011 are to:

  • Reduce the number of signatures a new political party needs to obtain for ballot access to the fixed figure of 10,000.
  • Reduce the number of votes a new political party must receive in order to remain on the ballot to 1,000 for that party’s candidate for president, governor or any other council of state office.
  • Reduce the number of signatures an unaffiliated candidate for statewide offices needs to obtain to the fixed figure of 5,000.
  • Set a fixed number of signatures for unaffiliated candidates to run for U.S. House, General Assembly and local offices in line with neighboring states.

For the text of the bill go here.

Free the Vote North Carolina press release

Bloody but unbowed

Libertarian candidates consider election defeats a learning experience, prepare for the next election.

Although the results of the 2010 election were a disappointment for North Carolina’s Libertarian candidates because they were not elected, several consider it a very good learning experience and preparation for future campaigns.

Dr. Mike Beitler, Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, said that the goal of his campaign was to let voters know there is an alternative to the “bloated, outdated two-party system.”

“The establishment parties will continue to drive our country off the cliff until the American people wake up to the reality that both establishment parties will continue to serve their lobbyist corporate masters to the detriment of the American people,” he said.

T.J. Rohr was the first-ever Libertarian candidate for district attorney. He ran in district 25 which covers Burke, Caldwell and Catawba Counties.

“Although I am disappointed that I was not elected, I am honored and humbled by the support I did receive,” he said. “I am also proud that so many people were open to the issues I raised in this election: focusing on serious crimes involving theft, violence, and fraud, and de-emphasizing non-violent drug offenses, while repudiating illegal and unconstitutional traffic checkpoints and the death penalty.”

Stephen Burr said that he hoped the victorious Republicans in the Union County commissioner’s race would work with the current board members to find solutions to the problems the county faces.

“Union County taxpayers are on the hook for $900 million in bond payments and interest over the next quarter century, with a looming budget crisis that will be brought on by not adequately planning for the coming plunge in property tax revenues, “ he said. Burr intends to remain active in the county and won’t rule out another run for the commission or other office in 2012.

Stephanie Watson, candidate for N.C. Senate District 16, noted that 2010 was the year the state Libertarian Party “turned our principles into action.”

“Our party’s candidates stepped forward, many running very active campaigns across the state with the hope of being elected.” she said. “It has been an honor to share this adventure with them. I’ve learned a lot as a first-time candidate that I hope to take with me into 2012, both for my own run and for our party’s race for governor.”

“Third party candidates are often thought to divide the vote of a major party, but this was clearly not an issue,” said Lon Cecil, who ran for U.S. House District 12. “As discussed in several forums with Congressman Watt, we have many economic and job problems that Congress will have to quickly address in the 112th session. It is only 24 months until the next elections”

In the still-to-be-decided 2nd Congressional District race, Tom Rose got more votes than the margin between incumbent Democrat Bob Etheridge and Republican Renee Elmers. The unofficial returns have the margin at 1,646 and Rose received 3,463 votes. Rose doesn’t speculate about whether his candidacy helped or hurt either, because he said he received support from both Democrats and Republicans.

“I’ve had Republicans, including one General Assembly candidate, tell me that they have voted for me, and have had Democrats and Republicans fed up with their parties making phone calls for me.”

“I do know that I convinced many Democrats to vote for me because they were upset with Etheridge but would not vote for the Republicans,” Rose said. “As amazing as it may seem, most of those who said this were over 60.”

Nationwide, the Libertarian Party extended its record of fielding more candidates than any other third party, more than 800 candidates. More than one million Americans voted for a Libertarian candidate for U.S. House and 15 of those candidates got more than five percent of the vote in a three-way race, a significant increase over past elections. That represents more than one percent of the vote total, more than any third party has earned since Henry Wallace’s Progressives in 1948.

Two U.S. Senate candidates received better than four percent of the vote in a three-way race, including party co-founder David Nolan who ran in Arizona against 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Watson runs typical libertarian campaign

Stef Watson has been running a typical Libertarian campaign for N.C. Senate 16. She’s taken clear, unequivocal and specific stands on critical issues and hasn’t spent much money.

On the issues, Watson says in her blog, “I’m the only candidate ready to take an active stance sponsoring or co-sponsoring legislation for meaningful annexation reform, helping to restore property owners’ rights across the state.”

She also makes an interesting observation about the spending sprees put on by other candidates.

The incumbent Democrat Josh Stein has spent more than $248,000 and the Republican Mike Beezley about $25,000, all to get a job that lasts two years and pays only $20,659 per year.

Watson said she’s spend about $1,400, mostly her own money. “I’ll be interested to see the dollar-spent-per-vote-received ratios for each of us in this race,” she said. While she doesn’t think many people will go to the pools to support either Stein or Beezley, or her for that matter, she does expect to benefit from the Libertarian candidate at the top of the ballot, Dr. Mike Beitler, who’s running for U.S. Senate.

If you are one of the Wakes voters who’ll have the honor of having the opportunity to vote for more than one Libertarian candidate, read “Here’s why you should vote for Watson?