Members of the Green Party work daily recruiting candidates, educating voters, lobbying their local and state governments, serving on local boards and city councils, and lately, challenging obstructive and unequal election and campaigning laws in court. Below is a round-up of some the latest legal moves and victories won by state Green Parties across the country. Read on for news from Arkansas, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Connecticut about how Greens are working for better election laws.
The Green Party of Arkansas, with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against the Secretary of State of Arkansas. Even though the party elected a member to the state legislature and won more than 20% in several federal races, the state has moved to decertify the party for lack of support. The lawsuit states that the “state’s decertification statute violates rights guaranteed to [the Green Party of Arkansas] by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution”.
Mark Swaney, Coordinator of the Green Party of Arkansas, emphasized the importance of ballot access for the Green Party in Democrat-dominated Arkansas, noting that “we are quite literally fighting for freedom and democracy against a conservative Democratic party machine that can, and usually does, see to it that the people of Arkansas have no say whatsoever on election day”.
In May of this year, the New Mexico Green party filed suit against the state, which had ceased recognizing the Green Party as a qualified political party. The GPNM’s lawsuit claims, among other points, that “The State has no justifiable interest in limiting voter choices to the candidates of the major [Republican and Democratic] parties,” that the state has “no constitutional authority to limit the time available for minor party candidates to obtain petition signatures for the office of U.S. Representative,” and that state law “Unconstitutionally discriminates in favor of major parties and against minor parties in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution”.
The Green Party of Pennsylvania joined with the Constitution and Libertarian Parties of Pennsylvania to file a lawsuit challenging several aspects of election law. According to Ballot Access News, the lawsuit challenges “Pennsylvania’s unique system of charging candidates and parties for the costs of checking their petitions…It also challenges the careless way in which some counties count write-ins and others don’t, and the arbitrary manner in which the state tallies write-ins for some candidates and not others, and finally it challenges the requirement that a party have approximately 1,000,000 registered voters before it can be on the November ballot without having to petition for its nominees.”
This lawsuit is a result of Carl Romanelli’s disqualification from the race for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania’s 2006 election. After turning in many thousands of signatures to win access to the ballot, his petition was rejected and he was charged $85,000 by the state for attempting to qualify to run for public office. Carl Romanelli has continued to try to convince the court to drop this fee, last filing a new petition with the court in August of this year.
The hearing for the Green Party’s follow-up lawsuit is scheduled for later this month.
The Florida Green Party is uncovering a case of potential abuse of the political system through a lawsuit to uncover the backgrounds of the “Florida Five”. In 2008, five registered members of the Florida Green Party filed to run for state legislature, despite being unknown to the Green Party. Suspecting that these mystery candidates were acting in coordination with the Republican Party, Florida Greens filed lawsuits to probe the campaign finance records of the mystery candidates, in order to trace the source of their filing fees.
Earlier this month, the court began calling the five mystery candidates to depositions to begin piecing together the background behind their campaigns. With the court’s help, the Florida Green Party continues to probe the events of the 2008 elections and seek the truth about the candidates that appeared on the Green Party ballot line.
The Connecticut Green Party recently won a significant decision against Connecticut’s public campaign finance system, which the court ruled was unfairly awarding public finances to major party candidates while burdening the Green Party and other parties with inordinate obstacles to public funds.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled that Connecticut’s public financing scheme had created a “discriminatory burden” for minor parties and had unfairly inflated the public campaign funds that major parties were awarded. “We’re very pleased”, said Mike DeRosa, co-chair of the Connecticut Green Party, that “the court ruled that real campaign finance reform requires a level playing field.”