Full and fair access to the electoral process is a right central to democracy
Coalition for Free and Open Elections
MINUTES, COFOE MEETING OF MARCH 18, 2006
The meeting was held at 12:30 pm on Saturday, March 18, in the law office of Harry Kresky in New York city. In attendance were:
1. Committee for a United Independent Party, Harry Kresky
2. Constitution Party, Jim Clymer
3. Green Party, Phil Huckelberry (representing national party) and George DeCarlo (representing NJ Green Party)
4. Libertarian Party, Richard Winger
5. Nader 2004 campaign, Mike Richardson
6. Reform Party, Tom McLaughlin
7. Socialist Party, Alice Kelsey
8. New Jersey Conservative Party, Steve Spinosa
Minutes of last year's meeting were summarized. New officers were elected to one-year terms: Chair Tom McLaughlin, Vice-Chair Jim Clymer, Secretary Phil Huckelberry, Treasurer Alice Kelsey.
The treasurer's report said COFOE has $4,848.04 in the bank.
A report was presented on the lawsuits that COFOE has assisted financially. The Illinois decision (challenging the 10% petition for independent candidates for state legislature, and the petition deadline of December of the year before the election) is pending in the 7th circuit. Our brief has been submitted; we are still waiting for the state's response. COFOE had previously contributed $1,000 to that case, called Lee v Illinois State Board of Elections.
The Ohio new/minor party case is pending in the 6th circuit, Libertarian Party of Ohio v Blackwell. The hearing was in early September 2005 and no decision has been handed down yet. It challenges the petition deadline for new parties, November of the year before the election. COFOE had earlier contributed $1,000 to this case.
The Board decided to contribute financially to two more cases: (1) $2,000 for the Ohio Independent candidate petition deadline case, Lawrence v Blackwell. The money will be used to pay for printing the cert petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, and for the U.S. Supreme Court filing fee. (2) $500 for the Pennsylvania minor party ballot access case, Rogers v Cortes. We are awaiting the U.S. District Court's decision. The issue is whether Pennsylvania can require qualified minor parties (which nominate by convention) to submit petitions for their nominees.
The Board did not discuss whether to continue requiring each organization that is represented on the Board to contribute $50 per year to COFOE. That policy has been followed in the past.
Harry Kresky reported on the legal dispute between the state officers of the New York Independence Party, and the party's county organizations in Kings, Queens and Bronx Counties. The state party is opposed to the political leadership of those three county parties, and disbanded them. The county parties are suing in New York state court, arguing that state officers of a political party cannot do that. Harry will draft a proposed resolution that the COFOE board will consider adopting.
A general discussion about fusion, and also about Instant-Runoff Voting, was held. Burlington, Vermont, held a partisan Mayoral election on March 7, 2006, and the Progressive Party nominee won, even though he had been outspent 8-1 by the Democratic nominee. Before the election, the press had assumed the Democratic would win. However, she did not campaign for 2nd place votes, whereas the Progressive Party nominee, Bob Kiss, campaigned among Republicans and asked them for their 2nd place vote, a strategy that seems to have worked.
Michael Richardson presented his research about the "forgotten" 9th amendment, part of the Bill of Rights. It says, "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." His electronic newsletter, Voter Voice, has a lengthy article on the 9th amendment in the February 2006 issue. There are similar provisions in the State Constitutions of 32 of the 50 states. Michael also discussed the pending lawsuit Igartua v United States, which argues that adult non-felon citizens may not be denied the right to help choose the president, just because they live in Puerto Rico. Michael filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court at his own expense, making the connection between the 9th amendment and the Puerto Rico case. (post-meeting note: the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case on March 20, two days after the meeting. Igartua will now appeal to the Organization of American States).
Michael also described a parallel case now pending in federal court in the Virgin Islands.
Phil Huckelberry discussed past and current attempts to build an organization in Illinois, which would function somewhat like an Illinois version of COFOE.
A description of ballot access cases now pending in courts around the U.S. (other than the COFOE lawsuits) was presented. There are ballot access cases pending in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia. There are lawsuits pending on whether parties may exclude non-members in Arizona, Mississippi and Virginia (the latter two cases were brought by one of the major parties). A lawsuit is pending in Iowa on whether voters may register into unqualified parties that regularly place nominees on the general election ballot. The plaintiffs are the Libertarian and Green Parties, and the ACLU is handling that lawsuit.
George DeCarlo and Steve Spinosa reported that the proposed New Jersey lawsuit still has not been filed, even though the plaintiff political parties (Conservative, Green and Libertarian) paid the attorneys a fairly substantial amount of money last year, for costs. The lawsuit will challenge several laws that discriminate against the unqualified parties (campaign finance, registration rights for non-qualified parties that weren't part of an earlier lawsuit, and ballot format) as well as the law restricting who can circulate petitions.
Michael Richardson reported that Oliver Hall, who recently graduated from law school, is working to create a foundation called the Center For Competitive Democracy, which will take an interest in ballot access for minor parties and independent candidates. Oliver Hall recently had an article on discriminatory ballot access laws published in a scholarly law journal, the Seattle Law Review.
The meeting was adjourned at 3 p.m. Next year's meeting location will not be chosen until early in 2007.