The following was sent to us from Phil Huckelberry, Chair of the Green Party’s Ballot Access Committee. Every Green should read this and take action.
This is an urgent time for the Green Party. Specifically, right now is a time of great urgency for achieving ballot access and matching funds in 2012. Yes, the general election is more than seven months off, and even our national convention is three months off. But the urgency is here, and Greens need to understand that NOW is the time to get fired up about making a difference in 2012.
Merriam-Webster defines URGENCY as “the quality or state of being urgent”, and URGENT as “calling for immediate attention”. An EMERGENCY is “an urgent need for assistance or relief”, or “an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action”.
The distinction between an urgent situation and an emergency situation, then, is what attention is needed. If it’s truly an emergency, the “attention” needed is generally fast action, often in the form of some kind of “relief”. Think of the difference between going to Urgent Care and going to an Emergency Room. The situation doesn’t need to be an emergency to warrant a state of urgency. And, often times, a situation becomes an emergency because the prior urgency of the situation wasn’t sufficiently regarded. Everyone knows of a story where someone put off medical care, only to have the situation turn into an emergency.
I go through this long semantic distinction because we are experiencing a phenomenon right now which I have seen repeatedly in our party. At a time when we are confronting a series of urgent situations, the urgency is disregarded, because it does not feel like an emergency.
Every state has different laws about how parties and candidates can get on the ballot. In some states ballot access is very easy, or the Green Party has had it for so long that people don’t ever think about it. But in other states, oppressive laws designed to keep parties like ours from existing have meant that no Green Party candidate has ever been on the ballot in those states. The Green Party is more experienced than ever before, though, and we have the potential to put our presidential ticket on the ballot in states where people have never been able to vote Green. To accomplish this, we’ll need a lot of hard work, and a lot of money. And we need to be acting NOW.
The problem is that across the country there is an absolute lack of urgency on the part of state parties in achieving ballot access. Sure, there’s more activity in some states than others. But as of right now – I’m typing this on April 11 – there are about 15 states where we could be collecting signature right now, and yet the petition has not even been prepared yet!
Think back about the person who put off medical treatment and wound up in the Emergency Room. In the long run, that person probably absorbed far more expenses, and worse overall health, by not taking care of the situation early on. In much the same way, when state parties drag their feet on ballot access drives, it often sets up emergency situations down the road which cost more to fix than it would have cost if there was effective collaboration from the outset.
So achieving ballot access right now is truly an URGENT situation. In the majority of states, there are ballot drives which require immediate attention. That means that Green Party leaders everywhere have the responsibility to lead by example and prioritize these ballot drives – and not just the ones in their own states.
A common, gigantic misconception is that we can’t really think about ballot access in most places until we hold our convention and formally nominate a presidential ticket. The reality, though, is that several states impose deadlines which precede our national convention, or which are so soon thereafter that we couldn’t possibly start after the convention. BALLOT ACCESS CANNOT WAIT!
Our credibility as a party in the eyes of the electorate hinges largely on our being on the ballot across the vast majority of the country. In 2000, Ralph Nader made it onto 44 ballot lines. But since 2000, we haven’t been on the ballot in more than 32 ballot lines in any given year. Some state parties which failed to achieve ballot access in 2004 have not run a single candidate for any office in the last eight years. That’s how huge this issue is for the Green Party. Where we do not have ballot access, to a very real extent, we do not exist as a political party – even in the eyes of our own members.
2012 is shaping up to be different. We can be on 45 or more state ballot lines for the first time ever. Doing this would be the biggest accomplishment of the party as a national political force that we’ve experienced since 2000. For this to happen, we must all accept the inherent urgency of the situation!
In order to reach and exceed 45 ballot lines, we absolutely must achieve federal matching funds. And we must achieve matching funds as soon as possible. You can read here [a link will go here] an explanation of some of the rules of how federal matching funds work. Here is a short version:
There are two types of matching funds. There are primary matching funds and general election matching funds. General election matching funds, which could mean several million dollars for the Green Party come the year 2016, can only be achieved by our presidential ticket winning 5% of the vote this November. But winning 5% of the vote is not realistically possible unless our ticket is on at least 45 ballot lines. So before we can really talk about general election matching funds, we’ve got to get on the ballot everywhere first.
The goal right now, then, is to achieve PRIMARY MATCHING FUNDS. This is achievable not by the party itself, but instead by individual presidential campaigns. A campaign can achieve primary matching funds by receiving aggregate qualifying contributions of $5,000 or more in at least 20 different states, if this is done before the Green Party Presidential Nominating Convention (July 12-15 in Baltimore).
This is the most important thing for people to understand: ONLY DONATIONS GIVEN PRIOR TO THE NOMINATION COUNT! Donations after the convention are great, but they won’t count toward the threshold, and they won’t be matched! So for Greens, NOW IS THE URGENT TIME FOR FUNDRAISING!
And it’s not just about receiving the donations before the convention. The Federal Elections Commission has to verify that the threshold has been reached. So realistically, all of these contributions need to come in weeks in advance – probably no later than mid-June!
Besides that, the earlier we get over the top, the better, for three huge reasons. First, the earlier we get there, the longer a period of time we have in which donors can be told that funds are already being matched – that will make fundraising that much more effective at that point. Second, it only stands to reason that if you hit a fundraising threshold earlier, you’re going to do even better for fundraising along the way because there’s more time involved.
But the other reason for heightened urgency is this: the sooner we hit the threshold, the sooner the FEC will send tens of thousands of dollars in matching funds, a great deal of which will be applied to ballot drives which will end before the national convention. The difference between achieving matching funds at the end of May and the end of June is literally that the first $100,000 in matching funds will arrive a month earlier, in time for the last month of critical ballot drives in Illinois and Indiana. Indiana is one of those states in which the Green Party has never been on the statewide ballot – their only realistic shot lies in achieving matching funds as soon as possible!
The lesson here is that we cannot wait on ballot access, and that means that we cannot wait on matching funds. State parties simply have to get moving now.
Phil Huckelberry is Chair of the Illinois Green Party and Co-Chair of the Green Party of the United States Ballot Access Committee.
Jill Stein’s campaign has made a huge priority of ballot access and matching funds. These pages include maps showing state by state breakdowns of party ballot access and the campaign’s quest to reach the 20 state threshold for matching funds:
At this point the Stein campaign is the major force in establishing Green Party ballot lines across the country. The Utah ballot drive was entirely funded and administered by the campaign, and the New Mexico drive was largely funded and organized by the campaign.
Roseanne Barr’s campaign has also declared a priority of achieving Green Party ballot access across the country. Because of a self-financing limit her campaign may not be seeking matching funds. Her campaign website is: