Jill Stein's Ballot Access Campaign Gets Major Boost from Bernie Defectors
Green Party signature coordinators across the country are reporting an influx of Bernie Sanders supporters to the Greens' campaign. How far the new momentum will take the party in the 2016 election is yet to be seen. The first order of business is to get the Greens recognized on state ballots, or at least to get Jill Stein, the presumptive presidential nominee, recognized as an independent presidential candidate.
As of August 1
Several ballot access deadlines hit this week. In addition to the 24 states where Greens have party status, signature coordinators in Kansas, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have turned in enough signatures to get Jill Stein on their state's ballot. South Dakota is the only state, with a deadline this week, that reported insufficient signatures. State coordinator, Jay Pond, said that though they missed the presidential ballot, they will be working hard on down ballot campaigns.
Deadlines Coming Up
States with deadlines by August 15 include Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. Of these, only New Hampshire is in question. According to Tom Yager, the co-chair of the national Greens Ballot Access Committee, New Hampshire does not have an organized party, but Rick Lass, the ballot access coordinator for Stein, says they have people in New Hampshire, and have collected 2,000 of the 3,000 signatures needed.
Alaska had no party until a few months ago, when a defector from the Sanders campaign, Orren Wilkinson, moved into the Stein camp and started organizing. He said that an anonymous person, paid for by the Stein campaign, singlehandedly collected all of the 5,000 signatures needed to get Stein on the ballot. Wilkinson said that he is expecting more defectors from Sanders and the Democratic Party to join him this election season.
Alabama counted 4,600 of their required 5,000 signatures on August 1. Connecticut also confirmed that they have already met their signature requirements.
End of August
By August 31, 8 more states will hit their signature petition deadlines: Iowa, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. Of these, Greens are sure that they will have Stein on the ballot in Iowa, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Utah.
Idaho, Montana, and Virginia are extremely optimistic about their campaigns, and expect to have Stein on the ballot.
Wyoming is challenging, Yager said, because signature campaigns have a low validity rate. Lass says two seasoned Greens, and two Bernie defectors are leading a team of 25 volunteers to get Wyoming their 3,302 required signatures.
Tennessee only needs 275 signatures to get an independent candidate on the ballot. Despite this low requirement, Greens are challenging (and have been for several years) the "onerous requirement" of 40,000 signatures to get party status. Kate Culver, the Greens co-chair in Tennessee, said they don't want their candidate listed as an independent, because independents are lumped together on the ballot, and their candidate loses ground from party recognition.
Culver remarked that the average acceptance rate for signature petitions is 70%. Collectors across the country aim to exceed signature requirements to be safe. Where totals are close to state requirements, the Greens may fall short due to invalid signatures. Such was the case in Nevada, where Greens turned in well over the 5,000 requirement, but did not gain access to the ballot, due to a high number of invalid signatures. Greens are currently challenging the invalidated signatures in Nevada.
Closing out the Ballot Campaign
The rest of the states in question, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Kentucky, have until September 9 to finish their signature petitions. Rhode Island has already met its signature requirements.
North Dakota, a state with historically little Green organization, has 5 Sanders defectors working on behalf of Greens, according to Lass. Lass is confident that North Dakota will get their 4,000 required signatures by September 5.
Kentucky representatives are also confident that they will finish strongly, and get Stein on the ballot.
States That are Out
States that have not made it on the ballot include South Dakota (as mentioned earlier), Indiana, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.
Indiana and North Carolina are running write-in campaigns, but Oklahoma cannot. Yager says it is highly likely that Greens will join a lawsuit in Oklahoma to challenge ballot access laws.
Benefiting from Bernie
According to Lass, Greens are reaping benefits from "the way that the DNC treated Bernie." He said that people who were voting for the first time got frustrated with the behavior of the Democrats, "from Debbie Wasserman Shultz, to the Nevada Caucus," and that the Greens were ready for the defectors.
"Greens have been building for years, with a similar message," he said.
Rick Lass, and every other ballot coordinator contacted, without exception, remarked that there are many people coming into the Green Party from the Sanders campaign.
"At least 6 state coordinators are Berners," Lass said. He said more are regional directors, and more still are coming in as volunteers.
This Year is Different
Lass has been involved with the Greens since 1995, and says this year feels different to him.
"There is so much energy, " he said. "People are excited about changing the system."
The next goal for Greens, he said, after getting on the ballot in as many states as possible, is to get Jill Stein into the presidential debates. Lass believes that putting Stein on the stage with Clinton, Trump, and possibly Gary Johnson will open up the peoples' eyes to the fact that there are choices outside the two-party system, and that there is justification for changing our electoral system to grant greater access to would-be candidates.
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