Richard Winger: “California’s Faulty Rules for Presidential Candidates Running Outside the Two Major Parties”

Richard Winger, author of Ballot Access News, has written this guest post:

California public officials are proud of the state’s protection for voting rights, but there is one area of voting rights in which California procedures are among the most restrictive in the nation.

The procedure for an independent presidential candidate requires almost 200,000 signatures, to be collected in 105 days.  The petition can’t start to circulate until after the presidential candidate has chosen his or her presidential elector candidates, because the names of the candidates for elector, with their addresses, must be printed on each petition sheet.  By contrast, in most states, the names of the presidential elector candidates don’t appear on the petition; instead the presidential candidate certifies their names after the petition is submitted.

Most states let independent presidential petitions circulate as early as the candidate wishes.

No presidential candidate has been able to comply with the California independent procedure for 30 years.  Ross Perot was the last candidate who used them, in 1992.

There is no election-administration reason to require almost 200,000 signatures.  There is no instance in which a state ever required more than 5,000 signatures for all procedures to get on the ballot (for presidential candidates running outside the major parties), and in which that state had more than nine presidential candidates on the November ballot.

Significant presidential candidates who failed to get on the California general election ballot, due to the state’s restrictive rules, include Evan McMullin in 2016, Ralph Nader in 2004, Eugene McCarthy in 1976, Norman Thomas in 1948 and 1944, and Congressman William Lemke in 1936. In Anderson v Celebrezze, the U.S. Supreme Court said states should have more lenient rules for presidential candidates than for candidates for other office.  California has it backwards.  The California rules for candidates for non-presidential partisan office only require 65 signatures plus a filing fee, and that does cause over-crowded ballots for Governor and U.S. Senator.  It makes no sense to require a gubernatorial candidate to submit only 65 signatures and yet to require a presidential candidate to submit almost 200,000 signatures.          

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