Full and fair access to the electoral process is a right central to democracy
MINUTES, COFOE MEETING OF MARCH 18, 2017
The meeting was held at 5:30 p.m., on Saturday, March 18, in Panera Bread Restaurant, 330 Fifth Ave., New York, NY. The meeting had been set to be in a different restaurant, Heartland Brewery, 350 Fifth Ave. However when we arrived at Heartland Brewery, a sign was posted on the door saying it was closed due to a power outage. We relocated to Panera Bread. That delayed the start of the meeting; it had originally been set for 5 p.m.
Greg Dorsey, independent, but authorized to represent the Reform Party
Harry Kresky, Independent Voting
Rob Richie, Fairvote
Charles Sherrouse, Green Party
Richard Winger, Libertarian Party
Elliot Traiman arrived at the original meeting place after the other attendees had given up on the original location and had moved to Panera Bread. Although the other attendees had posted a sign on the door of the original location, either Elliot didn’t see the sign, or else the sign had already disappeared by the time he arrived. Unfortunately, he therefore missed the meeting. But he e-mailed in his Treasurer’s Report the next day.
These officers were re-elected to one-year terms: Chair Tom McLaughlin, Vice-Chair Harry Kresky, Secretary Richard Winger, Treasurer Alice Kelsey, Assistant Treasurer Elliot Traiman.
The minutes of the last meeting, the March 2015 meeting, were approved after a spelling error of the name of one of the attendees was corrected.
Since our 2015 meeting, we appropriated $1,000 for Alabama to finally settle what the minor parties owed the state for court costs in the 2012 lawsuit, Stein v Chapman.. The attorney for that case, Oliver Hall, sent the COFOE money, as well as a Green Party contribution, to the state on March 17, 2017, and asked that the state agree the debt is paid in full, as a condition of accepting the money. The recent Green Party contribution was also $1,000. This was the second contribution that COFOE has given to help the Alabama plaintiffs. The Alabama government has now received a total of $5,900; the original court costs assessed against the plaintiffs had been $7,700. We should know soon whether the state will accept that the debt is paid in full.
Also since our 2015 meeting, we appropriated $1,000 for a proposed Arizona lawsuit challenging the law that requires almost twice as many signatures for a statewide independent as for an entire new party. But we never filed it so that money remains in our bank account. Rocky De La Fuente has his own federal lawsuit against Arizona on that point, so we don't need to do anything. His case got a very slow start and even now, almost nothing has happened. It is De La Fuente v Reagan, 2:16cv-2419. The amended complaint was filed in November 2016.
Also since our 2015 meeting, in October 2016 we appropriated $1,000 for a proposed Florida lawsuit, but it hasn't been filed yet. It would challenge the requirement that a qualified party must submit a petition of approximately 120,000 signatures if it is not recognized by the Federal Election Commission. This law had been passed in 2011 but not enforced because the Secretary of State said he has no official knowledge of which parties are recognized by the FEC. But at the end of August 2016, the Secretary of State said he will enforce it.
The basis for the proposed lawsuit is partly the Eleventh Circuit decision in Green Party of Georgia (2017), which said that requiring a petition of 50,000 signatures is unconstitutionally difficult for president, for both independents and minor parties. Florida is also in the Eleventh Circuit, so the decision is binding on Florida.
A separate basis for the proposed lawsuit is that FEC has never had any objective standards for which parties it recognizes as national committees. For example, the FEC recognized the Socialist Party in December 1980 after it had polled 6,898 votes for president the preceding month, and had U.S. House candidates on the ballot in two states. But it denied recognition to the Green Party in 1997, even though in the 1996 election the Green Party had polled 685,040 votes for president and had congressional candidates on the ballot in seven states. Furthermore, the FEC will never recognize a group as a national committee until after it has participated in at least one federal election, so when Florida lets the FEC determine which parties have easy ballot access for president, Florida is indirectly greatly discriminating against new parties, relative to older parties.
David Schoen has said he will file this lawsuit for the Party for Socialism & Liberation, whose presidential candidate polled 74,397 votes in the 2016 presidential election, far more than two parties that are recognized by the FEC, the Reform Party and the Socialist Party.
The Treasurer reported that we have $3,932.27 in the bank. The bank is Flushing Savings Bank, 33 Irving Place, New York NY 10003, #68431325. EIN 13 415 9421.
Under new business, Rob Richie presented two proposals that were the subject of discussion, but no formal action. First, he discussed policy choices involving a proposed state ballot measure based on folding the primaries into the general election, allowing candidates to indicate their preferred party, allowing parties to indicate their preferred candidates (with the agreement of such candidates), and using ranked choice voting.
Second, he shared the news that the Fair Representation Act is likely to be introduced in Congress this summer and explained that it would require states to elect U.S. House members with an American version of proportional representation for U.S. House elections via ranked choice voting in multi-winner districts. For instance, Texas, which has 36 districts, might be divided into eight geographically compact districts, and (depending on the population of each such super-district) each district would elect between three and five members.
Charles Sherrouse suggested that COFOE set up a list-serve so that the board members can more easily communicate with each other. The Board accepted the idea and Charles said he will work on creating the list-serve.
The Board discussed and accepted the idea of launching a Facebook page. Charles Sherrouse will be creating and monitoring the COFOE Facebook page.
The meeting ended at 6:50 p.m.
Coalition for Free and Open Elections