Saturday, June 24, 2017

NCGA Does the Right Thing. Sort of.

A Senate bill (SB656), already passed by the NC Senate, is now out of committee in the NC House, and scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, June 26.  The "committee substitute" bill is here, if you want to look at it.....

What would this mean? NC has had some really restrictive ballot access laws, since 1983. In particular,
it now takes about 110,000 (individually validated) signatures to get on the ballot ("access") and 2% of the vote in either the Prez or Gov races to stay on the ballot once on ("retention").

The bill, if it passes, and it's expected to pass, would change those rules as follows:
Access: 10,000 signatures
Retention:  Either the 2% rule for Prez or Gov votes in NC in previous election OR have "a candidate" on the ballot in 80% of the states.

Now, the Libertarian Party has been on the ballot continuously since 2008, when (ahem) I got more the 2% of the vote for Gov.  In 2012, Barbara Howe did it, and in 2016 Lon Cecil did it.  A number of Republicans blame the LP for the Republican loss of the Gov race in 2008 (implausible) and in 2016 (extremely plausible).

But the point is that the LP is already on, again, for 2020. My man Gary Johnson actually got 2.74%, 130k votes, the first time an LP Prez candidate has EVER secured ballot access in NC.  Whoo-HOO!

Okay, so here's the thing. The Republicans don't have many chances to look like they are for ballot access, or expanding electoral freedoms (which include voting for the candidate of your choice). AND, they are likely tired of having to lose some votes, enough in close races to change the outcome, to the annoying "third party" Libertarians.

You can have a double win, if you are a Republican strategist, by cutting the restrictions on ballot access! You get credit for having a more sensible and less draconian set of rules, more in line with other states (NC regularly makes, on merit, those "Worst Laws in the US" lists, when it comes to ballot access).

And you get the Greens on the ballot, diverting votes from the Dems! Is there a downside?

I don't really see one. An interesting question is whether Gov. Cooper will sign it.  If a goofball like me can figure this out, I expect Mr. Cooper will not need to have the effects explained to him. But it will be difficult to veto the thing, because it really does just bring NC back into compliance with pretty normal rules for party access. This is hardly a radical bill, it just also "happens" to help the Republicans at the ballot box.  (Here is a story from the right-leaning Carolina Journal, which doesn't mention the political angle--adding Greens takes away Dem votes--or, oddly, the new 80% retention rule added in the committee version).

EDIT: The reason the 80% (40 states) is important is that Stein was on the ballot in 44 states in 2016.  That means that, depending on the way the law is interpreted retroactively (and it seems to be retroactive, since it says "previous election"), Greens would be on the ballot for the 2018 midterm elections in NC.


Simon Spero said...

«Definition. – A political party within the meaning of the election laws of this State shall be either:one of the following:
(3) Any group of voters which shall have filed with the State Board of Elections documentation that the group of voters had a candidate nominated by that group on the general election ballot of at least eighty percent (80%) of the states in the prior Presidential election. To be effective, the group of voters must file their documentation with the State Board of Elections no later than 120 days preceding the North Carolina presidential preference primary.
A political party recognized as provided in this subdivision shall be eligible to participate only in the presidential preference primary as provided in Article 18A of this Chapter and the election of presidential electors as provided in Article 18 of this Chapter."»

1. The legislation appears to be entirely prospective, so there does not seem to be a serious question as to retroactive application.
2. The "80% of the States" rule only counts for the presidential race. There are reasonable sounding justifications for this, which we can obviously rule out.
The GPNC has historically had problems getting ducks in a row ("What if they don't want to get in a row?" "Dude, they're just metaphorical ducks." "Metaphors have rights!").

It is plausible that they would not complete petitioning in time for 2018. There may also be a calculation that there vote may be embedded in districts so Democratic that no Gerry could mander them relevant.

[Unrelated: has anyone ever tried to use existing systems for district construction with an objective function that maximizes the probability that an individual's vote could be decisive-a Downymander, maximizing proportion simulated elections where the margin of victory is exactly one? An unbiased Downymander that also maximizes entropy for outcome? Callisti!]

Brian Irving said...

Good analysis, but I'm not sure a new party would necessarily qualify as a recognized party in NC even if they fulfilled the requirements of being on the ballot in 40 states in a presidential election. That section seems to limit their ballot access to that year's presidentail race only. It may just add another inconsistency to NC's ballot access laws.