From the Arkansas Statehouse...

No sympathy for the Green Party.

In Elections on 11 March 2009 at 1:22 pm

The Green Party and other third parties were dealt a blow today as two bills that would have made it easier for them to participate in elections failed to make it out of the House State Agencies Committee.

The better of the two bills would have reserved a spot on the ballot for a third party if it receives over three percent of the vote in races for president, governor, U.S. Senator, and certain state constitutional officers.  (For some reason the bill did not allow automatic access if a third party performs well in U.S. House races.) Currently a third party can only remain on the ballot if it gets three percent of the vote for president or governor. If it fails to do so, it must place its candidates on the ballot through a petition process.

ACLU staff attorney Holly Dickson argued that any party that gets over 200,000 votes in a U.S. Senate race, as Green Party nominee Rebekah Kennedy did against Mark Pryor in 2008, should be given an automatic ballot spot. The committee was unconvinced.

The vote was 8-10, with all but one of the ayes coming from Republicans. (Rep. Lindsley Smith, a Democrat, voted yes; Rep. Ed Garner was the only Republican to vote no.) Democrats likely made the political calculation that easier ballot access for Greens would drain votes from their party.

A second bill would have required debates funded with public money or conducted at public spaces to include third-party and independent candidates who are certified for the ballot. The bill proposal stems from the 2006 gubernatorial elections, when Green Party nominee Jim Lendall and independent candidate Rod Bryan found themselves excluded from a series of debates between Mike Beebe and Asa Hutchinson.

Rep. Steve Harrelson wondered whether the measure would cause debates to be moved to private locations. Rep. Ed Garner argued that it would prohibit private parties from holding debates at universities. Rep. Donna Hutchinson expressed concern that the bill would limit the state’s ability to contend for presidential debates.

The U.S. Supreme Court has previously found that the Constitution does not require that all candidates be included in a political debate, even if the debate is staged in a public space.

Both bills were sponsored by Rep. Richard Carroll, the only Green Party member in the legislature. Though Rep. Carroll said prior to the session that he is a Democrat in Green’s clothing, these proposals suggest he is fully behind the agenda of his current party.

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