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On April 18, the Florida Secretary of State’s omnibus election law bill was amended to require new political parties who wish to place a presidential nominee on the ballot to submit a petition signed by a number of voters, equal to 4% of the last presidential vote. For 2012, this would be 335,630 valid signatures. The 4% standard would need to be met in each of half the congressional districts in the state. The party would need to pay to have its petition checked. Under existing law, no signatures are needed for minor party presidential candidates.
The bill exempts parties that are recognized by the Federal Election Commission as national committees. However, the FEC will not grant national committee status to a new political party. The status is reserved for parties that have already organized, run a presidential candidate and congressional candidates in several states. This is why the Reform Party did not get recognized by the FEC as a national committee until after the 1996 election, and why the Green Party did not get FEC recognition until after the 2000 election.
The bill, if enacted, would violate the 11th circuit decision Bergland v Harris, 767 F.2d 1551 (1985), which suggested that Georgia’s former petition requirement of 2.5% (of the number of registered voters) for presidential candidates was probably unconstitutional. That decision is based on Anderson v Celebrezze, which said that states must have easier ballot access for president than for other office. The Florida bill, if enacted, would probably also violate the Florida Constitution, which says “The requirements for a candidate with no party affiliation or for a candidate of a minor party for placement of the candidate’s name on the ballot shall be no greater than the requirements for a candidate of the party having the largest number of registered voters.”
HB 1355 was also amended on April 18 to provide that no group may be qualified as a minor party in Florida unless it has a chair, vice chair, secretary, treasurer, all of whom are registered members of that party. This is a common-sense re-definition of “qualified political party”. Last year, one particular individual, for reasons known only to himself, filed paperwork for 40 new qualified parties, and under the existing definition of “qualified political party”, the state had no choice but to accept this paperwork, even though these were all parties with no registered members and only one officer. This amendment is retroactive, so all the existing qualified parties would be required to file new paperwork, showing that they have four specified officers, all of whom must be registered in that party. Parties would have six months to complete the new paperwork. UPDATE: the same provisions have now also been amended into SB 2086, except that SB 2086 requires a petition of 2% of the last presidential vote, not 4%.