Arizona tells how they got it done
by Claudia Ellquist, Co-chair of the Arizona Green Party
Citizens concerned about the state of the country and the world have long used blogs, 501c3s, and lobbying groups, to reach politicians from the over-represented parties. But those politicians have under funded good works, ignored good ideas, dismissed citizen demands, and cloned their successors. In the end, when one has done oneís best good deeds, had a say on the Internet, written, called and lobbied recalcitrant lawmakers, and rated the offerings from the over-represented political parties and found them to be more of the same, what does one do? There is only one effective challenge left: organize as a political party and meet the other parties at the ballot box.
Our national candidates have it right: The Green Party is no longer the Alter≠na≠tive. It is the Imperative.
It isnít easy, but it is necessary. As of today, the Green Party can possibly get ballot lines in 38 of the 51 states (including the District of Columbia). Every state has different challenges about getting and maintaining ballot lines, so there is no one-size-fits-all plan for achieving it. But to not seek ballot status is to reduce the Green Party to another chat room. So here are a few words about how Arizona succeeded.
1 > We built capacity in the off time, hosted the GP-US Annual National Meet≠ing, ran local candidates and published critiques of ballot measuresóall to show Greens and potential Greens that a targeted effort could lead somewhere, that we are part of a bigger organization, and that there is a reason to act.
2 > We counted the cost and created a plan: What were the legal requirements? (Look at statutes and ask the Secretary of State and other groups that are petitioning.) How much would it cost to print the petitions? (Get bids from printers.) After the easy signatures, what events could we go to for more signatures? †Who would keep the calendar, the volunteer list, and email the reminders? (It should be one person in each community.) What resistance would we likely encounter, and how would we deal with it? (Donít waste time arguing, have a FAQ sheet for sincere questions. But donít pass stuff outóthose who take lit, do not sign.) How many signatures a week, gathered by steady effort, establish that we are serious, and not wasting peopleís time? (Goal plus cushion, divided by time allotted.) Where to go for allies? (Out-of-town caravans/paid circulators/petitioners for initiatives, or candidates as the ìflip sideî rubber banded to the back of their primary petition.) Who keeps count, and what protocol prevents double-count? (No petition is added in until it is in hand.)
3 > Then a core of us committed to overcoming our societal barriers, approaching strangers, smiling charmingly, and asking for a favor in the name of democracy. The line I found to be quick and persuasive was: ìHi, would you sign our petition so that the Green Party can have our candidatesí names appear on the ballot, and YOU will have MORE CHOICES on ELECTION DAY.î Many signers were frowning their reluctance, until I got to the part about them and their choices. †Working in pairs was best. I set personal weekly goals to get me out the door even if nobody else could go on the night there were long lines at the concert hall. I publicly thanked my colleagues, by name and with numbers every week to keep our pace and feel the progress.
4 > We made shamelessly frequent requests for financial support and for more petitioners. We provided home stays for out-of-town Greens and saw they were hydrated, fed, thanked and made to feel part of a full-push effort. We were right there with them to back them up when they ran into snags and successes. In the end these Greens made the margin of difference and much thanks goes to them.
5 > Giving back: We recruited local candidates, so everybody would ride the shared coattail. We gave money back to the GP-US Ballot Access Committee to help the next state. We sent a carload of petitioners to Texas and planned to send a crackerjack signature solicitor to Utah.
We did all this because we are more than an alternative. The Green Party is The Imperative.