Friday, August 04, 2006

Exclusion Coverage

Here are links to media reports on the issue of Libertarians excluded from the ballot.

South Bend Tribune report, by Martin D'Agostino.

Muncie Free Press report.

Indiana Legislative Insight is subscription only. Here is a quote from their report:

The LPIN asserts that it filed the notice via e-mail, although the statute bars such filing via FAX or e-mail, and the Election Division notes that the filing failed to identify any specific office. Division authorities informed the LPIN well ahead of the August 25 deadline for listing all candidates to be voted upon in November “in order that the LPIN may pursue a judicial remedy if they desire to do so.”

Secretary of State challenger Mike Kole (L) complains that with the statute, which became effective in late March, “the Legislature passed a law that was designed to trip us up, and succeeded.” Kole adds that “We never had to do this notification before. It was just one more hoop placed in front of the Libertarian Party, and we missed it. Some of the now disqualified candidates were going to supply the only opposition to an otherwise unchallenged incumbent.
A real service this bureaucracy provides to the people of Indiana. Can you imagine what it would be like if Coke and Pepsi wrote all the laws regarding the manufacture of soft drinks? That would be called collusion. With our elections, the Republicans and Democrats write the election laws. Why isn’t that called what it is? It is collusion. And, what about due process and equal protection
under the law? Apparently, if Republicans and Democrats collude to exclude a minor party, those arcane notions can sail right out the window.”
WIBC 1070-am online report link.

Though, we did not miss the deadline for filing. The LPIN State Chair was required to give notice of intent to fill vacancies post-convention. The rules for the Rs & Ds allow them to appoint by caucus of precinct committeemen, or to appoint by county chair. Ls are not allowed appointment by these two methods.

Fort Wayne Libertarian Jeannette Jaquish reports that local NPR affiliate, WBOI-FM, aired coverage of the press conference with quotes from me. No link available on WBOI's website thus far.

At the Statehouse, from left: Steve Keltner, who would have challenged Brian Bosma in Indiana House District 88; Kole; Scott Wise, who would have challenged in US House District 3; and Jo Coleman, who is still on the ballot for Indiana House 25.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

News Conference Notes

Today's news conference on the Statehouse steps went well. The media attendance was light, though it seemed we may have been competing with an event inside, as reporters stepped out qucikly to get a news release, and then rushed back inside.

Speaking with WIBC 1070-am reporter Eric Berman, outside the Statehouse. From left- Tom Mulcahy, now ex-candidate for House District 96; Kole; Wayne Kirk, Hamilton County vice chair; Kim Brand, now ex-candidate for House District 53; Eric Berman.

I discussed the specifics of what happened to cause us to lose 11 quality candidates, such as Andy Wolf, who would have provided the only opposition to incumbent Scott Pelath, a Democrat, in House District 9; or Tom Mulcahy, who would have provided the only opposition to incumbent Gregory Porter, a Democrat, in House District 96. Bottom line- the two parties wrote a law that was intended to trip us up, and did trip us up. Should we have caught it? Yes, so shame on us. But far more shame on the Indiana Republicans and Democrats for putting the effort into this, for the purpose of their comfort, at the expense of the voters of our state.

I made the case for wider ballot access to all parties. Hoosiers deserve the widest choices possible. Let the voters decide whether or not to elect a Libertarian, instead of having the Elections Division and the Legislature take the choice away. Top rhetorical quotes:

"It is troubling to me that we have sent Indiana soldiers off to Iraq to fight and die to give the Iraqi people full minority party ballot representation, while here we are at home being denied the same thing by Indiana's Republicans and Democrats. There is something very wrong with this."

"If the two biggest oil companies got together to write laws that excluded their next smallest competitors, it would rightly be called collusion. Indiana's election laws are written by Republicans and Democrats who do everything they can to stifle ballot competition, in disregard for the interests of a stronger representative government and fuller citizen participation."

Thanks to Ben Ruben for the picture!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Press Conference Thursday Morning

I will take to the steps of the Indiana Statehouse Thursday morning at 10 am for a press conference. There I will let the people of Indiana know that they have been ripped off by the Indiana Legislature and the Indiana Elections Division, with the result being that 11 Libertarian candidates have been removed from the ballot.

The Legislature inserted a law into the Election Code that was designed to trip up the Libertarian Party. It worked.

The Division, which did not enforce this law in 2004, is now enforcing it. The Division could have chosen not to enforce, as it did in 2004. Is there any real harm in having 11 Libertarian candidates on the ballot? Some of them provide the only opposition to incumbents.

It seems that, so far as the Legislature and the Division are concerned, what is most important is the comfort of the Republican and Democratic Parties, and not the health of representative government.

So, we'll make the case. Watch for the story to be covered statewide.
Report From LaPorte

Another trip to LaPorte County, another successful trip!

The LPLP headquarters gets a beautiful new purple banner in the window. Fred Lutterman is dressed as Samuel Adams and helped point me in the right direction. Photo: Chuck Timm.

Next stop, Rolling Prairie and the Nowhere Bar to kickoff the official election season. Nowhere Bar owner Ted Pfauth toasts to Sam Adams, naturally. Photo: Vicky Kelver.

Ted Pfauth happily accepts a bumper sticker from me. Funny enough, I have yet to have a single small business owner tell me, "No- I really don't think that describes me". Photo: Karen Wolf.

Local radio stations were announcing the "100 Days to Victory" party being thrown by the local Libertarians, and it prompted calls to the Nowhere Bar from local Rs & Ds, so owner Ted Pfauth brought on two extra servers to handle to extra business. He was glad he did.

About 20 Libertarians came to get in gear for the upcoming election, and to have a good time together. We packed the back tables and end of the bar. Our event even drew a Republican candidate for Sheriff, and we had him speak to the Libertarians, who aren't running a candidate for Sheriff. Smart man- he knows that Libertarians hold a 10-15% base in the county, and that will be more than the difference on November 7.

Ted also spoke to our group. He shared his concerns about the tax burden he shoulders as a small business owner, and also spoke of the issues he hopes make the legislative agenda in 2007. At the top of the list is the issue of the 'cherry master' machines. Pfauth and other bar owners want them legalized and regulated, whereby they can have them in their establishments, make a profit on them, and the state can collect a tax windfall that, according to Pfauth, would outstrip the revenues generated for the state by the Hoosier Lottery. I told Ted he and the Indiana Licensed Beverage Association can count on my support in this regard.

Big thanks to LPIN District 2 rep Greg Kelver and LaPorte County Chair Doug Barnes for staging the event; to Fred Lutterman for sweating it out in the Samuel Adams costume; to the candidates who were there- Lutterman, Mike Sanders, and Andy Wolf (yes, I know...); and to the many photographers who supplied me with the photos!

Three trips to LaPorte County in three weeks. I'll look forward to the next visit!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Election Follies, Part Ten

Secretary of State is Indiana's ballot status race. For any political party, their candidate for Secretary of State must earn at least 2% to win automatic ballot access for the following four years. Automatic ballot access is important, for it means the parties are spared the need for petitioning in order for its' candidates to appear on the ballot.

Petitioning is expensive, and frankly, not very fulfilling. It's a lot of work, and you really aren't getting to talk about your issues. Ballot access was valued at $80,000 by Brad Klopfenstein when he was Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Indiana. He made his estimate on a purely paid petitioning effort. We can ask Bill Stant and the Greens what its' value is.

I am the Libertarian candidate for Indiana Secretary of State. I am running for many reasons. Among them is for continued Libertarian automatic ballot access. I want to make sure Libertarian candidates go straight to talking issues, passing petitioning. If this is important to you, please donate via this link today.

There are other ballot status thresholds that are tied to a party's outcome in the Secretary of State race, such as Major Party and Minor Party status. A political party is declared a Major Party when its' candidate for SOS earns at least 10%.

Major Parties particpate in the primary elections. Major Parties have representatives on the Indiana Elections Commission. Minor Parties are excluded from the primaries and the Elections Commission.

Obviously, being represented on the Elections Commission is a big deal. The Commission decides how rigorously enforce Indiana Code and impose fines. If your party isn't on the Commission, you have to worry if you get hauled before them.

The Republicans and Democrats use the Primary Elections to find out who their likely true-blue (or true-red) supporters are. Indiana is not a registration state, where voters declare their political affiliation. I wish it were. I would know who all these people who vote Libertarian are, and I could communicate with them directly. Rs & Ds communicate directly with those voters who take a partisan 'R' or 'D' ballot at the Primary. Nice little advantage they have created for themselves, but it isn't just bad for Indiana's Minor Parties.

It's bad for the voters. Most voters are not partisans. They're independents. They scratch vote across the three parties. When campaigning, I hear a great many tell me that they vote for the best candidate and not the party. I believe them. So, this majority is fairly alienated by a Primary Election that requires the voter to take only either a partisan 'R' or 'D' ballot, the act of which is a declaration that, under threat of perjury, the voter intends to cast the majority of their votes for that same party in the November General Election.

Scratch voters haven't made up their minds in May. They are waiting to see the character of the candidates emerge on the trail. They stay away from the polls in May. Here's the proof: The turnout in 2006 for the Primary was merely 19% statewide. That's 19% of registered voters, not of eligible adult citizens. That's embarrassing.

It's time for the General Assembly to look at the mechanics of the partisan ballot. It's time to eliminate the perjury clause. It's time to make voter information available to all parties, by making Indiana a registration state.

It's also time to re-evaluate what it means to be a Major Party statewide in Indiana.

I believe that a Major Party is one that fully participates in the elections statewide. A Major Party should therefore run a candidate in every race that is on the ballot for statewide office, for Federal office, and for Indiana House and Senate. If a party is truly a Major Party, it has the resources and the wherewithal to run a candidate in each of these races, otherwise it is just packing it in and doing a disservice to the voters.

The Indiana Democrats are a joke party if they can't or won't run a candidate for US Senate. They should be stripped of their Major Party status immediately.

To be fair, no party would be a Major Party under my listed criteria, as the gerrymandering of districts has made it so both Democrats and Republicans pack it in for a significant number of Indiana House and Senate Districts. You want to brag on your Major Party status? Give the voters representation in every district. Otherwise, join the Libertarians as Minor Parties.

Libertarians are laughed at when we fail to post candidates for high posts. Very well. Let's now laugh at the Democrats and Republicans, because they are as guilty as anyone.

Major Party status is currently set with the comfort of Republicans and Democrats in mind, and discomfort for the Libertarians and all other parties similarly in mind. That's what happens when election laws are written by Republicans and Democrats. If two oil companies wrote the laws on oil production, distribution, and sale, we would call it collusion. Guess what Indiana election law is?

It is important that we have competitive elections in Indiana. It allows for issues to be vigorously discussed until November instead of until May. It means greater turnout at the polls. It means more people paying attention to what government does. It means more accountable elected officials. In sum, it means a better representative government.

Until Rs & Ds have to work to earn their Major Party status, we will continue to see lazy efforts by them, whereby they surrender 40% of the seats each to one another, and fight over about 20% of them to see who gets the majority in the Indiana House. Until the Indiana Legislature changes the rules to make it tougher on the Rs & Ds, the people of Indiana will continue to be ripped off by those parties, and the voters will stay home.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Sweating in Nashville

Every candidate knows that Fair Season in July and August, and that it's going to be hot under those canvas tents. Today was ridiculous, as temperatures in Brown County reached 97 degrees, with humidity to spare. Isabel and I were soaked the whole time, and fortunately, so was every hand I shook. It was great to see Al Cox and Duncan Adams. I was disappointed not to run into Eric Schansberg, who is attending every county fair in the 9th Congressional District.

I had a nice chat with Bill Stant, the erstwhile Secretary of State candidate for the Green Party. Bill reports that it is pretty certain that his effort to get on the ballot via petition fell short. This is disappointing to me in that I support full ballot access, regardless of party. I would rather have the voters of our state decide to vote for a candidate, or not, rather than have that power sit with the Republicans and Democrats, the Indiana Election Division, or anyone besides the voters.

Interestingly, it occured to me that I have seen Bill on the trail more than the incumbent or the Democrat. It looks like we have invisible candidates from the "major" parties. Quite a disservice to the voters.

At any rate, I am looking forward to tomorrow's indoor, air conditioned event at the Nowhere Bar at Rolling Prairie!
On The Trail

There are two events planned for the early part of this week.

Monday: I will be in Brown County, in support of local candidates Al Cox and Duncan Adams- two people who know the Constitution, and would govern accordingly. The event is the Brown County Fair, and I will be there from 6-8pm.

Tuesday: The LaPorte County Libertarians are hosting a "100 Days to Victory" party, at the Nowhere Bar in Rolling Prairie. August 1 is also the 230th anniversary of a notable speech by Samuel Adams. It may be that a few of this American patriot's namesake beverages are tipped in his honor! It will be a meet-and-greet event for candidates on the November ballot in LaPorte County.
Election Follies, Part Nine

I have had a few local (Fishers) people ask me if after I run for Secretary of State, is it my plan to run for Fishers Town Council in 2007. I always respond in the same way.

Let's not put the cart in front of the horse. I am running to win the election for Secretary of State. I have no plans for future elections beyond 2010, when I would wish to run for re-election.

But, let's consider the question purely as an exercise. What would running for Fishers Town Council, or any Indiana town council, mean?

Just as shown in Part Nine when considering the gerrymandering that is the at-large nature of the election of County Commissioners who ostensibly represent districts, many elections for Town Council are similarly gerrymandered by an at-large vote of the entire town, even though the candidate is only representing a district.

Even if the incumbent thoroughly alienates the voters of her district, so long as that incumbent is of the town's dominant political party, they can reasonably go to the bank on that majority, knowing that the voters will vote more against opposition party labels than for the incumbent.

Besides- you can go door-to-door in a district. It gets to be a stretch to do the same in the whole town.

Here's the kicker- the Town Council can choose whether or not its elections will be at-large for all seats or by district. It merely has to write an ordinance that chooses direction. Guess which way the ordinance will go if there is a 100% majority on that council, and the possibility of changes in the near future due to changing demographics? Give yourself a pat on the back if you said "at-large". Here's the law, per Indiana Code 36-5-2-5:

IC 36-5-2-5
Representation by district, at large, or both

Sec. 5. (a) The legislative body has:
(1) one (1) member for each district established under:
(A) IC 36-5-1-10.1; or
(B) section 4.1 or 4.2 of this chapter; or
(2) the number of members provided for when the town adopted an ordinance under section 4.1 of this chapter abolishing town legislative body districts.
(b) The legislative body shall provide by ordinance
that its members:
(1) are to be elected by the voters of the district in which they reside;
(2) are to be elected at large by the voters of the whole town; or
(3) are to be elected both by districts and at-large.

(c) If a town legislative body adopts an ordinance under this section providing that its members are to be elected both by districts and at-large, the ordinance must:
(1) specify which seats on the legislative body are elected by the voters of a district and which are elected by the voters of the whole town; and
(2) provide that the ordinance is effective on January 1 following its adoption.
As added by Acts 1980, P.L.212, SEC.4. Amended by Acts 1982, P.L.33, SEC.27; P.L.11-1988, SEC.13; P.L.7-1990, SEC.63.

(Emphasis supplied.)

At-large votes make for safe, unresponsive incumbents who need not fear challengers from minority parties in towns that are dominated by one political party. You can't expect the Town of Fishers, dominated by Republicans, to change the ordinance. It would mean having to really work for re-election, and it might mean having an elected Libertarian.

After all, Phil Miller won election in the City of Greenfield in 1999, defeating an incumbent Republican who happened to be the GOP county chair. In the City of Greenfield, elections are not voted on at-large citywide, but strictly by district. Phil went door-to-door in the whole district, and made his case. He won wearing the Libertarian label.

It is time for the Indiana Legislature to repeal the at-large provisions made available in IC 36-5-2-5. It is time to end the gerrymandering of the at-large municipal vote which assures victory to the dominant party. It is time to give the people competitive elections in Indiana's municipalities.

As Indiana Secretary of State, I will lobby the Legislature for these changes.