Ballot Access Laws: Determining the Proper Standards for New Hampshire
Policy Problem Defined • What is the best way to set ballot access requirements? • Considerations: • Maximizing voter choice, democratic participation, and civic engagement • Keeping the ballot in a simple-to-understood format for voters • Minimizing or eliminating costs for new ballot creation. Must work with pre-existing vote-counting software (AccuVote)
Outline of the Presentation • 1) Review the current NH Laws in place • 2) Examine the constitutional dimensions of ballot access • 3) Compare NH Laws to those of other states • 4) Consider proposed changes in HB 48 (Rep. Pierce) • 5) Propose possible changes to NH ballot design • 6) Analyze other states who have modified standards
A Brief History of Ballot Access • Party Access vs. Candidate Access • Early Ballots -The Australian Ballot- Present Day • Supporters of Harsh Laws: Split the Vote • Supporters of Easy Laws: Maximize democratic choice especially when 44% of NH is independent. stop the polarization of politics.
Current NH Ballot Access Laws • Two official parties in NH • Definition of a Political Party • Signature Requirments • Rules for Signatories: registered voters, only one petition for each office to be voted for • Rules for Petitions: one page per signatory • Timeline: Must be dated in year of election and due in September of election year
Relative Difficulty of NH Access • Only New England State with two parties • Only U.S. state requiring candidates to submit a declaration of candidacy before the petition • Only state with one signature per page • U.S. median vote test is 2%; NH is 4% • Since its creation in 1996, NH petition has only been used once, by Libertarians in 2000
Lack of Academic Consensus • Do ballot access rules affect the ability of third parties to qualify on the ballot? • Maybe No: In years with toughest requirements their were more parties than in years with fewer restrictions. • Maybe Yes: Many statistical models illustrate that with more restrictions, the number of official third parties declines. • Our own regression agrees with the Yes hypothesis
Constitutional Implications of Harsh Ballot Restrictions • First Amendment right to political association • Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause • A) Signature Requirements: • Williams v. Rhodes (Ohio 15% standard) • Jenness v. Fortson (Georgia 5% standard) B) Filing Fees • Lubin v. Panish • Bullock v. Carter (Texas) C) Timeframe for Signatures Anderson v. Celebrezze (Ohio)
The Voter Confusion Argument • New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said in 2005 that “he had never seen any evidence that any voter in New Hampshire has been confused by the large number of names on the state’s presidential primary ballots” • NH has the most candidates on the primary ballot than any other state in the country (upwards of 30) • California voters encountered no trouble when faced with 135 candidates on a gubernatorial recall ballot.
The Proposed Party Standards • The New Definition of a Political Party: • A) At the preceding state general election received at least 2 percent of the total number of votes cast • B) Has its name placed on the state general election ballot by submitting nomination papers in accordance with RSA 655:40-a • C) Has at least 3,000 voters registered as affiliates according to the statewide centralized voter registration database.
The Proposed Party Standards Result: Libertarian party qualifies in 2003-2004 and in 2009-2010
Regression Modeling • Will allow us to estimate how many registered parties would exist in NH given specific ballot access percentages. • Regression 1: # of parties given % standard of qualification and % of third party voters • Regression 2: # of parties given % of petition signatures required and % of third party voters • Many assumptions made in the calculation
Restructuring the Ballot Design • Currently NH has a column style ballot with four mandatory vertical columns. It is longer than it is wide. • Lowering the ballot access requirements would likely give the libertarian party a column on the ballot. • Likely to require a fifth column on the ballot • Goal of Secretary of State: Continue to use the optical scan ballot and current AccuVote-OS technology • May be necessary to redesign the ballot
Ballot Formatting • Office Block vs. Column Style • Column Style Current N.H. Statute • Essential Question: How create more space for a new Column(s)?
Ballot Redesign Options • A) Shrinking the Font Size • B) Using a Double Page Ballot With Both Pages Wider Than They Are Long • C) Using Both the Front and Back of a One Sided Ballot that is Wider than It is Long
Most Probable NH Ballot Changes • Smaller Font Size • NH very helpful with visual assistance tools • Landscape vs. Portrait • Elongating Landscape Ballot to Max of 17” • 2 page ballot • Double Sided (Not preferable due to confusion.)
Case Studies • In 1999, the Florida state legislature changed its ballot access procedure. Instead of requiring three percent of registered voters to sign a petition, parties need now only pay a filing fee and submit a list of candidates. • In 1998, the Maryland state legislature reduced the number of signatures needed for ballot access from 3% of registered voters to 1%. Later in 2003, the Maryland State Court of Appeals ruled in Maryland Green Party v Board of Elections that any party may gain ballot access by submitting a petition with 10,000 signatures.
Conclusions and Future Goals • Continue to study the ballot design literature and use the case studies to make more detailed recommendations. • Complete our regression analysis to model how the number of political parties will change as standards change.