NOTE: This time, I really truly am getting back in the blog business. I should have time on a fairly regular basis, and there is definitely plenty of material to cover.
At this time, however, I just want to reprint here the text of a new law passed in the recently ended 87th Texas Legislative session and signed by Governor Greg Abbott. At this moment, I cannot take the time to provide any serious analysis. Let's just say that it's time to Get Serious—that Greens and Libertarians in Texas who want their parties to continue existing will need to put in extra effort to devote more time, money, and energy to raising money or collecting signatures than we ever have. That is...unless these parties can convince a federal judge in a long-pending lawsuit that the fee requirement is unconstitutional.
SB 2093 closes an important loophole left by HB 2504 from the last session, which an appeals judge found when the Democratic Party of Texas filed a suit to kick Green candidates off the November general election ballot who did not pay the prescribed filing fees or petition signatures in lieu thereof (ignoring the much larger number of Libertarian candidates who also freeloaded onto the ballot). SB 2093 now specifies not only that third-party candidates must submit the requisite number of either filing fees or petition signatures, but when those should be submitted—i.e., when they apply to run.
I have left out all the strikethrough text in the final bill, excerpted from the old Section 141 of the Texas Electoral Code.
I could probably just link to it, but I decided that it would be better to download from txcourts.gov and then upload it here.
Last week the Texas Supreme Court granted mandamus relief to a group of Green-affiliated appellants, overturning the 3rd Appeals Court's decision that ordered the removal of kat gruene, Tom Wakely, and me from Texas ballots. Laura Palmer, as we noted last Thursday, took the lead on this round of litigation, with her co-chair Alfred Molison and the Green Party of Texas joining her as Relators. Click here and scroll down to see the complete list of Dramatis Personae.
In intra-GPTX correspondence, Palmer referred to the action as "our Hail Mary." (That's an American football metaphor, in case you're not familiar with it.) The reason it seemed like a last-minute desperation bomb was that the case would be taken up after the state's official deadline for publishing of ballots. Apparently some counties had already printed, and even sent, mail-in ballots. Indeed the Court's opinion acknowledges Democratic Railroad Commission candidate Chrysta Castañeda's contention that the case was already moot.
It's important to remember that this decision does not find the filing fee provision in HB 2504 unconstitutional. The federal case still pending may make such a finding, but that won't happen until June 2021 at the earliest. With all that in mind, at last night's Zoom meeting of the GPTX State Executive Committee, I floated the idea of a fundraising campaign for a dedicated fund to pay filing fees for Green candidates. I couched my pitch in phraseology like now that this party has reached the age of majority, it's time for it to grow up and act like an actual party. GPTX as currently constituted will turn 21 next spring. Palmer agrees with me on that.
One of the cool ramifications of the Supreme Court's opinion is that there is no need to pay filing fees when a candidate files. There is no deadline specified in the relevant sections of the Election Code for paying fees—or, one would assume, the petition signatures in lieu of fees. Greens, Libertarians, and any other parties that gain ballot access can wait until after their nominating conventions and pay only for the nominees. That would certainly help avoid what happened this past spring, when two people filed to run as Greens, paid their fees, and were subsequently defeated by None of the Above at the Green Convention. Under current law, the Secretary of State's Office would be under no compulsion to refund the fees to candidates who do not win nomination.
Below are a couple of excerpts from the opinion that I found important and revelatory, with citations included this time. (Emphasis: boldface mine, underlines theirs.)
To be entitled to mandamus relief, Castañeda was required to establish that the Green Party co-chairs had a ministerial duty to declare the candidates ineligible. See In re Williams, 470 S.W.3d 819, 821 (Tex. 2015) (holding that mandamus may issue to compel performance of a ministerial act). “An act is ministerial when the law clearly spells out the duty to be performed by the official with sufficient certainty that nothing is left to the exercise of discretion.” Id. (quoting Anderson v. City of Seven Points, 806 S.W.2d 791, 793 (Tex. 1991)). For the reasons explained below, Castañeda failed to prove the Election Code clearly spelled out the duty of the co-chairs to declare the Green Party candidates ineligible for their failure to pay the filing fee, and the court of appeals therefore erred in ordering their removal from the ballot.
This is from an email that arrived today from Hawkins/Walker:
Just before the clock ran out for challenges in Wisconsin, the Democrats filed a challenge on our petitions, saying that the address listed for Angela Walker was a false address.
The deadline for federal matching funds has just passed, but the campaign will not turn away your contributions of $2,800 or less just because it's not magically doubled.
Texas GOP Attempt to Knock Libertarians off the Ballot Fizzles
In related news, Texas Republicans tried some funky version of virtue signaling to show the world that they also want to uphold the law (HB 2504) by challenging Libertarian candidates who also didn't pay the new filing fees. (NOTE: The usual Houston Chronicle paywall.) But they waited until after the resolution of the Democrats' legal action to knock Greens off the ballot, by which time it was too late for the State Supreme Court to do anything. Not to spoil anything, but here are the very telling last two paragraphs:
Elliott Scheirman, a Libertarian running against Rep. Dan Crenshaw in Houston’s 2nd Congressional District, said the GOP suit is a “testament to the substantial growth and support” that the Libertarian Party has gained and proof that Republicans feel threatened.
This may look like a textbook example of GOP incompetence, but Kayleen observed (and I agree) that the GOP operatives know exactly what they're doing. As she put it, nobody has anything on the Republicans when it comes to voter suppression; it's a specialty of theirs.
And party suppression is voter suppression. Don't let anyone tell you it's not.
Plus, just about any district in which a Republican is running, including the district known as the entire state of Texas, is a safe district. Unlike the Democrats, who quake in their Luccheses at the prospect of facing opposition from the left, the GOP ain't worried about no Libertarian challengers.
Hey, looky here: World Socialist Website has an item up today about the nationwide effort to jack the Green Party.
As I noted in the most recent entry, this pattern is not strictly a Texas phenomenon. I was going to post something like a state-by-state rundown of Democratic party-suppression tactics, but wsws.org beat me to it.
Perhaps the most entertaining anecdote of the bunch concerns Montana. It brings me no joy, and too many flashbacks to Texas in 2010, to see that the Republicans there were found to have bankrolled the Greens' petition drive. Any situation in which Republicans assist Greens gives ammunition to Democrats who acrimoniously accuse us of being a Republican front group. At least here, the organization that approached the Texas Greens ten years ago with a large in-kind donation was coy about its partisan affiliation.
Despite wsws's fairly thorough summary, let me mention a few states and the Democratic chicanery happening in them. Let me also note, again, that I have no personal ill will toward MJ Hegar and Chrysta Castañeda, although the timing of their legal action leaves a mighty bitter taste—bitter as in old Pasadena's acrid mixture of emissions from refineries and a paper mill, not as in the pleasant bitterness of a well balanced India Pale Ale. Compounding that bitterness is the fact that, as wsws point out, "In a clear sign of their anti-democratic intentions, Democrats are not challenging the eligibility of Libertarian Party candidates, even though they have yet to pay the filing fees as well."
In last night's online meeting of the State Executive Committee of the Green Party of Texas, state co-chair Laura Palmer revealed that the Secretary of State's Office had some questions about katija gruene's occupying two places on the 2020 general election ballot. As a result, ms. gruene decided to stay in the statewide race for the Railroad Commission seat and drop out of the Texas House District 51 race.
The Texas Election Code does not state explicitly that one person cannot run for more than one office in the same election—or, at least, I have not found such language. However, no one person may serve in two elected offices in the event of winning both races. Hypothetically, if gruene could be elected to both positions in the event of a sudden Green Wave, she should not take a chance on a dual victory.
Possibly Moot Point
This is the paragraph where we remind readers that gruene is not officially on the ballot for either position, despite being nominated for both. She did not pay the new HB 2504 filing fees to run, nor did she submit petition signatures in lieu of the fees. The fee provision for candidates irrespective of party is in legal limbo, pending the lawsuits filed in hopes of overturning it.
In no particular order:
Presidential Nominating Teleconference?
According to the GPUS website, the Green Party's Presidential Nominating Convention is still scheduled to take place in Detroit. There is no information up about whether it will be conducted online. This is also a good opportunity to remind recently selected national delegates to register. Even if it happens online, the registration fee is still $100, which helps defray costs like renting space at Wayne State University; after all, at least some of the national co-chairs will still be traveling to Detroit.
Oral Argument Date Set in Ballot Access Lawsuit
The rap battle starts 23 June. This bit of information hit Ballot Access News before a lot of Texas Greens found out; I found out just yesterday. BAN refers to the federal lawsuit in question as Dikeman v. Hughs, which I guess is fair, given that 2018 Libertarian senatorial candidate Neal Dikeman is listed first among the plaintiffs. The outcome will determine whether Libertarians and Greens will still need to pay filing fees that go toward financing Democratic and Republican primary elections.
Yes, I'm late to the party on this item, but Green Party of Texas luminary Laura Palmer just posted the official press release last night. GPTX is one of several groups and individuals who are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the state of Texas over its unreasonable obstacles to the ballot.
News of the lawsuit appeared in the Houston Chronicle (paywall) more than a week ago. The Green and Libertarian Parties both received mention in the headline. The Texas Tribune got its version of the story out on 11 July, and RawStory picked it up the next day.
Palmer herself is listed as a plaintiff, sharing billing with the Libertarian, Constitution, and America's Parties of Texas. TSU law professor Thomas Kleven, who in 2016 ran for Congress in TX-18, also appears on the list.
But...HB 2504! Why Sue Now?
In light of HB 2504 becoming state law this year, guaranteeing Texas Greens a ballot line through 2026, why would GPTX press the issue via a lawsuit? Why would the Libertarians and Railroad Commission candidate Mark Miller, who pulled off a 5% coup in a four-way race in 2016, join in?
HB 2504, which we have examined in several recent posts, is now state law. The Green Party of Texas officially has access to the 2020 general election ballot. I tried to make this post look like straightforward news reporting, but I failed in that endeavor. I'm pretty doggone excited about it.
Individual candidates who wish to run as Greens will have to pony up filing fees or collect a goodly number of signatures on a petition in order to run for elective office; the amount of dollars or signatures varies according to the office sought.
There's potential confusion in reading the record. The legislative history for HB 2504 says "Effective immediately," but that is merely an indication that the bill's status as statute takes effect immediately. The provisions of the bill itself go into effect on 1 September 2019, at which time the Texas Election Code will be officially modified.
I'll try to find out whether the effective date means that a prospective Green Party candidate must wait until September to begin collecting signatures; that doesn't appear to be the case, as there's nothing to stop a candidate from raising funds right now.
To be continued.
Party-line vote yet again, 19-12. Start this video at about 5 minutes in to see it happen—though if you blink, you might miss it, because those senators legislate fast. On to the Governor's Mansion it goes.
Greenfolk: Assuming that Governor Greg Abbott signs HB 2504 as expected, get yourselves ready to collect dollars or signatures when you run for office. If you take the petition route, your magic numbers are 500 for districted races and 5,000 for statewide (or 2% of the vote for that office in the last election if that is a lower number).
The Secretary of State's Office provides a table of the fees and petitioning requirements for parties that nominate candidates via primary elections. When HB 2504 becomes law, candidates from so-called convention parties—e.g., Greens and Libertarians—will still be required to pay the fee or submit the signatures by roughly the end of August, even though their parties will have ballot access guaranteed.
Ballot access geeks, here is a half-hour of major geekage from this past weekend: video of the discussion of HB 2504 during Sunday's meeting of the 86th Texas Senate, starting at 2:46:21.
Several Democratic senators rose to ask questions of Senate sponsor Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola). The questions seem posed to stall the bill's progress, mostly because they (perhaps rightly) suspect the Republicans of engaging in political chicanery. The Republican majority had mostly made up its collective mind on this bill beforehand. As it upsets the Libertarian Party, their putative competitors for right-of-center votes, the Republicans appeared ready to ram the bill through.
As of now, the Senate has not officially adopted the bill, but it did pass second reading on a party-line vote (19-12). This bodes well for final passage.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.