Many candidates want Texans’ signaturesDozens of candidates ? from the proposed Green Party slate to first-time politicians ? are fanning out across the state with petitions, seeking signatures from Texans who didn’t vote in the recent Republican or Democratic primaries.
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Many candidates want Texans’ signatures
By ANNA M. TINSLEY
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER
Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Strayhorn aren’t the only ones looking for independent-thinking Texans.
Dozens of candidates ? from the proposed Green Party slate to first-time politicians ? are fanning out across the state with petitions, seeking signatures from Texans who didn’t vote in the recent Republican or Democratic primaries.
The unusually large split from the two-party system in Texas could cause a logjam this summer at the Texas secretary of state’s office, which must validate each signature by September and let candidates know whether they qualify for the November ballot.
“There are more high-profile petitions going around this year,” said Scott Haywood, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. “This is a new situation for all of us out there. It’s unique.”
Gubernatorial candidates Friedman and Strayhorn are among 28 independents who filed paperwork this year with the secretary of state to make them eligible to run for office. To get their names on the November ballot, the statewide candidates have until May 11 to gather at least 45,540 signatures from registered Texas voters who didn’t vote in the recent Democratic or Republican primaries.
The Constitution Party, the Green Party and other parties have until May 30 to gather the same number of signatures to put their slates of candidates on the ballot. Libertarian candidates are already qualified under state law, because at least one Libertarian candidate accrued at least 5 percent of the vote in a statewide race in 2004.
“We want the opportunity to participate in the political process,” said Bryan Malatesta, state chairman of the Constitution Party of Texas. “We just want the right to be in the game.”
Getting on the ballot
That’s not an easy feat for candidates not affiliated with the Democratic or Republican parties, which pick their candidates during the primary elections.
Minor-party and independent candidates generally must gather signatures on petitions showing they have enough support to get on the ballot, but they cannot begin collecting those signatures until after the primaries.
Independent candidates began their work March 8, the day after the primary.
Those seeking statewide office have the biggest hurdle, but those seeking offices such as state or U.S. representative must get 5 percent of the votes cast in that district for all gubernatorial candidates in the 2002 general election or 500 signatures, whichever is less, according to state records.
“It’s tough to get access,” said Linda Curtis, chairwoman of Independent Texans, a group of independent and split-ticket voters.
But Curtis said it helps that Friedman and Strayhorn are shining a light on the difficult process for independent candidates.
“Most people who declare independent don’t have the resources like Kinky and Carole do to get attention and media coverage,” Curtis said. “It’s a good situation for independent voters.”
Under state law, however, minor parties could not start collecting signatures until Wednesday. Their petitions are due in late May.
Last week, officials with the Green and Constitution parties sent a news release complaining that their candidates aren’t posted on the secretary of state’s Web site, which can make it more difficult to collect signatures.
“This is absolutely hard to do,” said Ramsey Sprague, the ballot access coordinator for the Green Party of Texas, which promotes grassroots democracy, social justice, nonviolence and environmentalism. “This is one of the hardest states to get on the ballot because when you average it out, you have to get several thousand signatures each day.
“Other states have more time,” he said. “But we are confident that, one way or the other, we will get on the ballot. We’re really excited because we have some great candidates.”
The Green Party must collect signatures on a petition to put 22 candidates on the ballot.
Members will hold “Free the Vote” events to gather signatures around Texas, including one from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday in Fort Worth at the Trinity Park shelter at the corner of Stayton and Seventh streets. While Greens are required to have more than 45,000 signatures, they are trying to get more than 70,000 to ensure that they qualify for the ballot, party officials said.
The slate of candidates came from nominations this year and will be whittled down through various conventions, ending with a statewide convention June 10-11 in Austin.
“Our message is, ‘Don’t forget about us with everything else going on out there,’ ” said Sprague, of Fort Worth.
The Constitution Party of Texas, which wants the U.S. to be governed under biblical law, has one petition for its six candidates.
“It’s a tough hurdle, placed there by the two major parties, because they don’t want the competition,” Malatesta said. “But we’ll make lemonade where we have to. If we succeed, the state will have also forced us to build our party to a greater strength than ever before.
“So that may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.”
Constitution Party chapters will hold events and rallies to gather signatures. The party’s candidate slate will be formalized during a convention June 10 at Washington on the Brazos State Park, Malatesta said.
As for the Libertarians, they must winnow down a list of 214 candidates during various conventions, culminating with a statewide convention June 10-11 in Houston. The only people who can vote for candidates at the conventions are those who did not vote in the primary elections.
“We have more candidates than ever ? a record number ? because we focused on candidate recruitment,” said Wes Benedict, executive director of the Libertarian Party of Texas, which advocates limited government and economic and individual freedom. “But there’s not as much news getting out about Libertarians.
“The secretary of state is advertising that people go to the primaries and vote,” he said. “That’s advertising two parties and not providing information about Libertarians. ... We’ll be the only fiscal conservatives on the ballot this November.”
Watch what you sign
State officials caution voters to remember what they sign.
Anyone who signs a petition for an independent candidate may also sign a ballot access petition for a minor party. And voters may sign petitions for more than one independent candidate, as long as they are not running for the same office, Haywood said.
Duplicate signatures mean that the second one will be invalid. Anyone who voted in a Republican or Democratic primary election ? or a runoff election ? is not eligible to sign any petition.
Haywood, of the secretary of state’s office, said that although the department has until September to let candidates and parties know if they’ll be on the ballot, they hope to have the results earlier, possibly by mid-July.
Minor parties and independents are now focused on energizing voters and gathering signatures.
“There are plenty of options for people who sign Kinky’s or Strayhorn’s petitions,” said Sprague, of the Green Party. “They can sign ours as well.
“People need to get registered to vote and get ready.”
IN THE KNOW Seeking office
There is no central clearinghouse that lists all the parties and candidates trying to get on the November ballot. In addition to Republicans and Democrats, however, those known to be seeking ballot access include:
Nearly 30 independent candidates, each of whom must gather enough signatures to qualify for ballot status. Among those are independent gubernatorial candidates Kinky Friedman ( www.kinkyfriedman.com ) and Carole Keeton Strayhorn ( www.carolestrayhorn.com ).Candidates seeking statewide office must gather at least 45,540 valid signatures; those seeking offices such as state or U.S. representative have to get 5 percent of the votes cast in that district for all gubernatorial candidates in the 2002 general election or 500 signatures, whichever is less. A list of independent candidates is at www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/2006_primary.shtml . For information on Independent Texans, go to www.indytexans.org .
More than 200 Libertarian Party of Texas candidates. The party is on the ballot this year, because of votes accrued in past elections, but needs attendees at its convention who did not vote in the primaries to whittle down the number of candidates. A list of these candidates is available at www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/2006_primary.shtml . For information on the party, go to www.lptexas.org .
More than 20 Green Party of Texas candidates. The party must gather at least 45,540 valid signatures from Texans who did not vote in the Republican or Democratic primaries. For information on the party, go to www.txgreens.org .
Six Constitution Party of Texas candidates. The party must gather at least 45,540 valid signatures from Texans who did not vote in the Republican or Democratic primaries. For information on the party, go to www.cptexas.org .
Source: Star Telegram research