TAMPA - A little-noticed provision of the state Legislature's controversial elections bill would make it extremely difficult for a new political party to put a candidate on the state presidential ballot – a provision some say is aimed at keeping a tea party candidate off the ballot.
The section says that a new party seeking a presidential ballot placement must be recognized by the Federal Election Commission as a national party, or must collect voter petition signatures equal to 4 percent of voters in the state's last presidential election – more than 335,000.
They must include 4 percent in each of at least half the state's congressional districts, a tough job in Florida's oddly shaped, gerrymandered districts. Getting FEC recognition is also problematic, said Richard Winger of San Francisco, an expert on ballot access laws who argues for easier access to ballots for non-major party candidates.
He said the FEC has no objective rules for recognition, but won't recognize a new party until after it has already run candidates for president and congress in several states.
That's why the Reform Party didn't get FEC recognition until 1997, following Ross Perot's run in 1996 as its candidate.
Winger said the provision appears aimed at keeping a tea party candidate off the 2012 Florida ballot. Peg Dunmire, chairman of a Florida party that says it represents the tea party movement, agreed.
"This is part of the assault to keep choice from the public," she said. "There's a concerted effort by the two parties to keep it a two-party system."From Ballot Access News:
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.”