GOP chairman opposes easing ballot access for independents

Gadsden Times – Montgomery Bureau

MONTGOMERY — First it was Democrats who killed making it easier for independent candidates to gain ballot access. Now the Republican Party has joined that chorus.

GOP Chairman Bill Armistead last week asked Republican House and Senate members to oppose a GOP senator’s bill that would lower ballot access requirements for independent candidates.

Armistead sent letters to Republicans urging them to oppose the bill by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster. He said Monday that easier ballot access would allow “various people to pop up” and potentially influence the outcomes of election in a two-party state.

“They really can’t win, but they can take away from others,” Armistead said Monday.

Ward’s bill would lower the number of signatures required for independent candidates to gain ballot access from 3 percent of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election to 1.5 percent. His bill could be on Tuesday’s Senate calendar.

Ward’s bill also says ballot access could be gained in a statewide election with as few as 5,000 signatures, but he said the bill will need amending. His previous bills required signatures of 1.5 percent of the number voting in the previous governor’s race.

Ward first started trying to reduce the number of signatures for ballot access in 2008, when he was in the House. He said Democrats who were in control of the Legislature until 2010 wouldn’t let the bill out of committee.

In the 2010 election, 1.486 million people voted for governor. The 3 percent requirement would mean gathering signatures of 44,825 people to gain ballot access but 1.5 percent would require only 22,413 signatures.

Armistead’s letter said the GOP steering committee unanimously voted to oppose Ward’s Senate Bill 15. “Passage of this legislation would drastically change the election process in the state of Alabama and would be detrimental to the Republican Party,” Armistead wrote.

He said it’s “entirely possible” that someone could promote a third-party candidate in a close race and cause the candidate who would have finished second in a two-person race to win.

Ward said a Libertarian or Constitution Party candidate wouldn’t affect Republican voting any more than a Green Party or a Ralph Nader-type candidate would hurt Democrats.

“This doesn’t protect Democrats or Republicans,” Ward said. “I’m a conservative Republican, but to say we should be proud to have the strictest ballot access in the country, I don’t think so.”

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