George Phillies: Situation on Massachusetts Libertarian ballot access

Posted at Liberty For All by George Phillies, candidate for LNC chair:

Recently — hey, I’m a candidate, did you expect my opponents to say nice things about me? — a number of bizarre rumors have arisen about Massachusetts Libertarian ballot access. Please note that I am one member of the state committee, our chair is David Blau, and our state committee has uniformly been unanimous on these questions. In particular:

#1) False rumor: Massachusetts Libertarians are about to lose ballot access.

Truth: This year, you can run for partisan office here on the “Libertarian line”. In 2012, you will be able to run for partisan office here on the “Libertarian line”. In every other future year, you will be able to run for partisan office here on the “Libertarian line”. That’s true no matter who we Massachusetts Libertarians run or do not run for office in 2010. There is no legal way to change this situation. [Ballot aside: In most town ballots, the candidate names appear in a vertical column, with the Party Designation in slightly smaller print on the line after the name.]

#2) False rumor: I declined an offer to run for Secretary of State as a Libertarian.

Truth: I am not legally eligible to run for Secretary of State. If anyone had asked — they didn’t — I would have told them so. [Why? I’m Libertarian State Treasurer, and our state law says that Treasurers of State-filing PACs may not be candidates for public office.]

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8 thoughts on “George Phillies: Situation on Massachusetts Libertarian ballot access

  1. Richard Winger

    George is absolutely right that Massachusetts election law is horribly unfair to small ballot-qualified parties. The law makes it very difficult for their members to get on their own party’s primary ballot.

    But George has not been supportive of a lawsuit to overturn that unfair ballot access law. Furthermore, because the Libertarian Party will lose its status as a qualified party this year (because the party isn’t running any statewide candidates in its own primary), the party will lose the ability to bring such a lawsuit in the future, because it won’t have standing.

    I am hoping the Green Party gets party status this year in Massachusetts. Then it can bring that same type of lawsuit in 2011.

  2. George Phillies

    On the important lawsuit, putting Barr on the Massachusetts ballot in 2008, I was the person who discovered the issue, organized the litigation, and personally co-signed the letter of intent on the suit, making me personally liable for the court costs if the other parties failed to cover them. I would have been a bit put out on writing checks that might yet end up in the tens of thousands of dollars, but I will.

    Readers should understand that Mr. Winger is supporting one of my opponents, which may explain the disjuncture between my remarks and his.

    In fact, I did eventually manage to convince Mr. Winger that he was supposed to communicate with our state chair, David Blau. David is not our attorney, but he is an attorney. He did present Mr. Winger’s ideas to our state committee. After discussion there was no support. In my opinion the issues *actually* proposed for litigation, which seem unlikely to make major changes in how hard it is to get on the ballot, were remote from issues we find important.

    David has been known to observe, not with respect to any legal matter before my state party, that lawsuits are very blunt tools.

  3. Richard Winger

    Minor parties and independent candidates have won 257 lawsuits against restrictive ballot access laws, since 1968. These were either victories striking down a ballot access law as unconstitutional, or interpreting them permanently with a favorable construction that differed from what state officials had construed them. If it weren’t for the courts, there would now be no possibility for voters to vote against the Democratic and Republican Parties in most states.

    George did do good work with the Massachusetts ballot access case filed in 2008, which has won, so far. That case is an ACLU case. I don’t know why he says he took a financial risk by helping get that case filed. He is on the ACLU board for Massachusetts, but I’m sure the ACLU board members are not personally liable for any lawsuit the ACLU sponsors. The ACLU is incorporated.

    Because George had a good experience with the substitution case against the Massachusetts Secretary of State, I am still puzzled as to why he is not in favor of a lawsuit to change the horrible requirements for a Libertarian to get on the Libertarian primary ballot.

  4. Brian Holtz

    What the above excerpt doesn’t mention is what George’s article says near the bottom: “In Massachusetts, it is *easier* to get on the ballot as a minor party candidate than as a major party candidate, for every office except President.”

    Richard Winger wrote at :

    “I?ve already explained why he is so opposed to having qualified status. When a small party is qualified in Massachusetts, it is very tough for its members to get on its primary ballot (although it is very easy for candidates to get on its presidential primary ballot). He is absolutely right about that. But the solution is to sue to overturn those restrictive laws. We can?t sue if we aren?t a qualified party. We wouldn?t have standing to sue.”

    1) When a MA party becomes “qualified”, is the extra difficulty for downticket candidates due just to restricting the pool of signers to party members, or does the required number of signers go up too?

    2) When a MA party becomes “qualified”, how much easier is it to get its presidential candidate on the ballot?

  5. paulie Post author

    IRT #1: It restricts the pool of signers, and moves the circulation period to a time of year that has colder weather on average. Unenrolled voters can still sign, but not voters enrolled with other parties, when you get major party status. This situation is so bad that it actually prevents a lot of Republicans (less than 15% of Mass voters) from getting on the ballot, even if they are the only one running for their primary.

    For example, in 2008 while I was in Mass doing ballot access for the LP (and later, Nader, CP, Marijuana decrim and ending the income tax), I also picked up a petition for a Ron Paul Republican for Congress. No other Republicans were trying to make the ballot in that district, yet we still barely made it.

  6. Richard Winger

    A ballot-qualified party gets its presidential nominee on the November ballot just by telling the Secretary of State who that person is.

    Other advantages of being a ballot-qualified party are that the party is listed on the voter registration form, and it gets its own presidential primary, and ballot access for candidates on to the presidential primary is extremely easy.

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