Free & Equal: Ballot access reform bills in 16 states nation-wide

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CHICAGO (April 1) – In the coming weeks, legislators in at least 16 states will be working on legislation to curb unnecessary restrictions on voter choice. In some of these states, ballot access reforms have already made it into law.

On March 16, Nebraska became the first state this year to enact ballot access reform, according to Richard Winger’s Ballot Access News, eliminating “the county distribution requirement for statewide non-presidential independent candidate petitions,” when Governor Dave Heineman signed LB 399 into law.

Three days later, Senate Bill 403, the New Mexico omnibus election law bill passed the New Mexico Senate unanimously after being passed by the House with a unanimous vote. The bill contains provisions to extend the petition deadline for independent candidates by three weeks, and lower the petition signature requirement for new parties in mid-term election years.

In Illinois, Rep. Jim Watson (R-Jacksonville) introduced House Bill 2854, to allow candidates to pay a filing fee in place of Illinois’ discriminatory petitioning requirements, “[helping] Illinois in this time of financial crisis, while opening up the electoral process,” according to Christina Tobin, founder of the Free & Equal Elections Foundation, which is backing the bill. Free & Equal held a press conference recently with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, to highlight the national character of these reforms.

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