Two ballot access bills introduced in the VA legislature

ImageFrom Richard Winger of Ballot Access News:

Virginia State Senator John S. Edwards (D-Roanoke) has introduced SB 766, to lower the number of signatures for statewide candidates (whether in a primary or in a general election) from 10,000 to 5,000. The bill is similar to legislation that passed in 2013 that lowers the number of signatures for all presidential candidates from 10,000 to 5,000.

Between 1894 and 1935, independent candidates and the nominees of unqualified parties, for office other than President, didn’t need any signatures whatsoever to get on the November ballot. Between 1936 and 1970 they needed 250 signatures. Virginia did not suffer from an overcrowded ballot during those years. However, in 1970 the non-presidential statewide petitions were increased to 1% of the number of registered voters. That was lowered to one-half of 1% in 1971, and lowered again in 1998 to exactly 10,000 signatures. Thanks to Jim Lark for the news about SB 766.

Also from BAN:

Virginia Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) has introduced HB 1463. It eases the vote test for a group to obtain and retain political party status. The bill lowers the vote test from 10% to 4% at either of the last two statewide elections.

If the bill were to pass, the Libertarian Party would be ballot-qualified for 2016, because it got 6.52% for Governor in November 2013. In November 2014, for U.S. Senate, it did not get 4%; it got 2.43%.

Rasoul is in his first term.

The reason the existing Virginia vote test applies to the next two statewide elections, instead of just the next election, is that in 1990, the Democratic Party didn’t run anyone for U.S. Senate, which was the only statewide office up that year. After the election, the legislature quickly changed the vote test so that the Democratic Party would remain on the ballot. The 1990 precedent shows that when the legislature eases the vote test, it applies retrospectively. “Retrospective” means that when a bill takes effect, election administrators can look to past election returns to apply the new law.

The Virginia vote test is tied for being second-highest in the nation. The other 10% vote test states are Oklahoma and New Jersey. Alabama, at 20%, has the highest vote test. Thanks to Bill Redpath for this news.