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Ballot Access Electoral Reform Historic

Arkansas Greens win ballot access for special U.S. House election


Sarah Marsh becomes state’s first Green state or Congressional candidate

By Ed Tarvin
Green Party of Arkansas
Volume 5, Issue 3
Summer 2001

For the first time ever, Arkansas Greens will have a Congressional candidate – Sarah Marsh – after Federal District Judge George Howard ruled September 13th that she must be placed on the ballot for a November 20th special election.

The northwest Arkansas congressional seat became open when Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, resigned to head the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in the Bush Administration. The special election was called to fill the seat. Marsh, 25, was the plaintiff in the ballot access lawsuit, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She argued that under state law, the Green Party had no way to qualify a candidate for the special election, because even though the party had nominated her, state procedures for qualifying minor-party candidates would keep her off the ballot. Under Arkansas law, the signatures of 3% of the voters in the most recent gubernatorial or presidential election must sign petitions for a party to be recognized by the state. Minor parties can only gather signatures during the 150 days before the first Monday in May of an even-numbered election year. For this year¹s special election, that would mean the Green Party couldn¹t begin to gather signatures until early December 2001 < two weeks after the special election.

Arkansas Assistant Attorney General Jeff Priebe argued that it was the Green Party¹s fault for not going through the signature gathering process during the previous electoral cycle of 1999/2000. ³They should have known the Arkansas statutory scheme for becoming a recognized party,² Priebe said. ³They chose not to.²

Judge Howard responded with disbelief, asking, ³How would they have known that Representative Hutchinson was going to resign? Are you saying they should have indulged in conjecture and speculation in a nation of the people, by the people and for the people?

The Green Party of Arkansas did qualify Green presidential candidate Ralph Nader individually for the ballot in 2000. But they failed to achieve ballot status for the state party as a result of that candidacy, by not receiving the legally required minimum of 3% in the state¹s presidential race (Nader received 1.46% in Arkansas). The Attorney General¹s office argued that the Green Party had therefore already lost its opportunity to qualify for the 2001 ballot by failing to achieve the 3% in 2000.

The Judge rejected this and declared Arkansas¹ special-election system unconstitutional, saying the party¹s due-process rights were being violated. He rejected the overall assertion that the state¹s interests required a strict policy to avoid confusion for voters in special elections. Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said the ruling is ³a wonderful victory for democracy. It enables people who have a minority viewpoint to express their views and to have those views voted on by the people. It also gives the people the opportunity to choose the candidate which represents their interests.² A recent graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and now an architect in Fayetteville, Marsh becomes the first Green candidate for any partisan state or federal office in Arkansas, other than national candidate Ralph Nader. This is particularly significant because Arkansas is the only state in the U.S. in which no Oleft¹ political party has ever had a candidate for U.S. House of Representatives on the ballot, unless one considers the People¹s Party of the 1890¹s a ³left² party. Even then, it would be over a century since then.

In the November general election, Marsh will face the winners of the Republican and Democratic primaries on October 20th. Responding to the World Trade Center and Pentagon tragedies, she plans to make peace and avoiding going to war a major campaign issue. Within the district, issues around the poultry industry are critical for Marsh. She supports increased rights for poultry workers, while at the same time, seeks to minimize the environmental impacts of the farms themselves.

With a burgeoning local Hispanic population Marsh is also addressing issues of immigration. She calls for a form of ³amnesty ³ for all those illegal aliens who arealready in the country to be followed by a revision of the immigration laws to provide for a system of fairness and rationality. This contrasts with what Marsh calls the racist, anti-immigration stance of her likely Republican opponent.

Even though Marsh¹s candidacy is the first for state or federal office for Arkansas Greens, the party harbors high hopes of a good showing. According to Green and Marsh campaign spokesperson Carol Tarvin, ³The Democrats have not even run in this district in the last two elections, which creates a political vacuum. At the same time, while Republicans have held this seat for three decades, in recent years the district¹s demographics have changed considerably. Many people are moving in from other states (particularly California) and there have also been major increases in the local Hispanic population. All this bodes well for the Green Party. Then we add into this potential electoral base the progressive students and community associated with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. We like our chances.²

Greens have been running for municipal office in Arkansas since 1990, when Katherine Adam received 49.5% for Fayetteville City Council, narrowly losing by 97 votes out of 9807 cast. Since then, three Arkansas Greens have held elected office. Stephen Miller of Fayetteville was elected to a Ward 1 City Council seat there three times between 1992 to1996. Randy Zurcher, also in Fayetteville, was elected in Ward 2 in both 1996 and 2000. Paul Kelly of Little Rock joined them by joining the Green Party while already in office, on the City Council there between 1998 and 2000

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