West Virginia State Senator Clark Barnes (R-Beverly) has introduced SB 417, to ease the definition of “political party.” The existing law, ever since 1916, has defined a political party as a group that polled at least 1% of the vote for Governor in the last gubernatorial election. SB 417 would define “political party” as a group that either polled 1% for any statewide race at the last election, or which has registration of at least one-twentieth of 1%. That works out to 608 registered members. A companion bill will probably be introduced in the House soon, but its registration threshold will be exactly 1,000 registered members.
If either bill passed, the Libertarian Party would automatically be back on the ballot, since it has over 1,000 registered members. The Constitution Party, which did the work of getting the bill introduced, probably could get its registration up that high fairly quickly. The Green Party is already ballot-qualified in West Virginia, although its name is the Mountain Party. It also has over 1,000 registered members.
If the bill were enacted, it would relieve minor parties of the burden of always feeling they must run a gubernatorial candidate. Sometimes minor parties would rather save their resources for lower level offices, but when ballot access depends on a party’s polling a certain vote in one high-profile race, they have no choice but to run in such elections. Thanks to Jeff Becker for the news.