Arizona Greens triumph in federal court
Win to have extra ballot access restrictions prohibited
by Claudia Ellquist, Arizona Green Party Co-chair
The Arizona Green Party (AzGP) prevailed this month in federal court in a lawsuit for a preliminary injunction against threatened barriers towards the Green campaign for ballot access in 2010. With focused determination for gaining ballot access, Arizona Greens were recently able to get added restrictions relinquished on petition deadlines and who could gather signatures. Though these restrictions were mere technicalities for the state, it made an already difficult ballot drive for the Green Party nearly impossible.
This past January, Federal Court Judge Susan Bolton ruled to prohibit the Arizona Secretary of State from refusing petitions circulated by nonresident supporters of the Arizona Green Party. At the same time, she also restored the March 11 deadline, voiding the published February 25 substitute. As Arizona changed the date for the primaries in the middle of the election cycle, Greens were able to prove this imposed undue hardship on independent parties who needed the extra time to get signatures.
In addition, ambiguous wording of Arizona petition rules and poorly written petitions supplied by the Board of Elections were getting petition pages thrown out, especially those from petitioners who resided out of the state. Greens were able to demonstrate the impact this had on gaining ballot status. Judge Bolton got the Secretary of State to agree to accept petitions under these conditions.
Even with the restored deadline and petitioning help from out of state, it will be difficult but not impossible for the Arizona Green Party to gain ballot access this year. The AzGP now has over 16,000 of the 20,449 valid signatures required, and expects an 80 percent validity rate. Also, there is currently a small fund to pay for the help of professional signature gatherers; however, it is not sufficient yet to cover all the anticipated expenses. AzGP is making a leap of faith that the needed money will come.
What is it like to gather signatures in Arizona? In addition to the weather being better than elsewhere, the response is fairly positive. Mostly petitioning at events where there are large groups, people are asked if they are a registered Arizona voter. There are a lot of “snowbirds,” so it is not an idle question, and it gets them thinking about the role of being a citizen and a voter. Petitioners follow up, along with the expectant smile, with “This petition is about giving permission for the Arizona Green Party to run candidates on the ballot for the 2010 elections, so YOU can have more choice.” About half those asked will sign. Recognizing the need for choice, signers often express surprise that the Green Party doesn’t have ballot status already, or have it automatically, “everyone should be allowed to run.î Many actually know about the Green Party, and support its goals. Or they don’t know about the party and ask for information, which means another person is set on the path to voting Green.
Despite the unfair difficulties in getting signatures, it is a way to start a conversation about the Green Party, and show its role in democracy. This is done by listening to what people think, showing how Green they already are, and getting them to vote – with their signature – for our existence and importance. Legislators doubtless saw signature gathering as a way to wear the party down, but it actually gets Greens out of the habit of talking among themselves and out talking to the public.
This May is the twentieth year Greens have been in Arizona. AzGP has been on the state ballot five previous times. This is the first attempt by the state party to have consecutive ballot status, and on a non-presidential year. With Clean Elections funding in Arizona, a Green Party candidate, once on the ballot, collects a set number of $5 contributions (207 for a state senator). This $1035 becomes over $25,000 to run their campaign. It is a tremendous pay-off in being able to get the message out.
And that message is desperately needed. Arizona Greens have incumbents at every level, who have run out of money. So schools and healthcare and parks and libraries all suffer. But Arizona, being mostly desert, also has a closer connection to Peak Water than many places. Sustainability is critical, and even those who see the disaster coming are not taking the steps needed to prevent it. A Green voice needs to be heard, and heard at the polls.
The Arizona ballot drive cannot succeed without help from outside the state. Like Greens everywhere, Arizona Greens need solidarity with the rest of the country to prevail. In addition to financial donations, there is a great need for petitioners, and with Arizona Greens working at capacity, more petitioners will have to come from out of state.
Come to Arizona. We’ll find you a bed and feed you, if you can get yourself here. Or donate your Frequent Flyer miles, or your money, or your local Green Party’s money. Times are hard, but that means our voice, and our solidarity, matter more than ever.
Please contact us immediately if you or someone you know can come, before the March 11 deadline. Please send the largest possible check that you, your state Green Party, or your local Green Party, can write.
Mail it to Arizona Green Party, PO Box 6014, Tucson AZ 85703, with a memo line “Ballot access.”
Contact the Arizona Green Party at firstname.lastname@example.org