Vermont Progressive Party: Elections Bill Targets Progressives

From the Vermont Progressive Party website:

It seems that every couple years the legislature tries to make seemingly minor changes in election law that would dramatically impact our Party. As a small Party without large staff resources, our practices are often different from the two big parties. And while I doubt Democrats are intentionally trying to hurt Progressives with such legislation, the results could be damaging nonetheless.

This coming Tuesday a bill will hit the House floor proposing one such change to our election laws (H.477), and we need your help to prevent it from really harming the Progressive Party. Please contact your local representative and urge them to support the Pearson-Haas amendment to bill H.477. You can get contact info for your Rep here: http://legislature.vermont.gov/people/all/2016/House

Here’s the background on H.477 (http://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2016/H.477): an act relating to miscellaneous amendments to election law. The bill contains a number of small tweaks to the statutes surrounding elections. Most are nothing more than cleaning up out-dated language (“fill in the oval, don’t mark a cross,” etc). But Section 5– which changes the process for the nomination of candidates by Party committee– could have signifficant rammifications for candidates who want to run as Progressives in the future.

You may recall that, at our state committee meeting last June, we nominated Doug Hoffer and a few other statewide candidates to receive our ballot line. This was assuming nobody else won our Party’s primary. The bill would strike the option of using the nomination process to fill a vacancy in the case of “the failure of a major political party to nominate a candidate by primary.” So for example, in the case of Doug Hoffer, he is only permitted to enter one primary. He files in the Democratic primary and we give him our nomination either by giving him at least 250 write-in votes or the current process of a nomination by the state committee.

The same situation applies for all of our Legislative candidates (except me). Anyone who runs as a Progressive/Democrat faces the problem of being restricted from entering more than one primary. Rep. Sandy Haas, for example, enters the D primary with the active support of local Democrats who encourage her to prevent someone else from taking the D nomination. Sandy earns her P by nomination from our local party committee. This change would require Sandy to make sure she gets at least 25 Progressive write-ins during the primary election or enter the P primary and fend off a renegade D by organizing for a few hundred write-ins.

Until we have some kind of Instant Run-off Voting system that can better handle third-party options, a change like this one could really hurt Progressive candidates going forward.

I don’t believe the Democratic legislature means to target us, but they didn’t take any testimony from our Party (or the other parties) before crafting this bill, and this proposal impacts us uniquely. I think we can win an amendment on the floor, if you help reach out to your local Rep and explain that there is no good reason to change state law in a way that unfairly targets Progressives.

Please call your State Representative before this Tuesday (3/17) and tell them to support the Pearson-Haas amendment to the elections bill (H.477). We really need everyone’s support on this. Here’s the link again where you can look up your legislator’s contact info: http://legislature.vermont.gov/people/all/2016/House. Please call and email, and encourage your friends to do the same.

Thanks,

Chris Pearson
House Progressive Caucus Leader

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