Socialist Workers Party Suffers Exclusion from the Florida Ballot Because it was Too Forthcoming

The Socialist Workers Party presidential ticket is not on the Florida ballot this year, because the party said in an August 23 letter to the Florida Secretary of State that the party is not recognized by the Federal Election Commission as a “national committee.” In 2011, the Florida legislature had passed a law saying qualified parties cannot be on the ballot for President unless (1) they are recognized by the FEC as a “national committee”; (2) or, they submit a petition signed by 1% of the registered voters, which would be 112,174 valid signatures.

However, last year, the Florida Secretary of State told Americans Elect that the Secretary of State has no official knowledge of which parties are recognized by the FEC as a national committee, and therefore the state would not enforce the FEC recognition rule. So, if the SWP has merely said nothing to the Secretary of State about its status with the FEC, its presidential ticket would now be on the Florida ballot.

An attorney for the SWP, Michael Krinsky, wrote a letter to the Secretary of State, making arguments why the FEC recognition rule should not be imposed. However, he did not mention the best argument. That argument is that the FEC will not recognize a new party as a “national committee”, but will only grant that recognition after a party has gone through one federal election. It is true the FEC recognized the Natural Law Party in October 1992, just prior the the Natural Law Party’s going through its first federal election. But the FEC only did that because the Natural Law Party confirmed the large number of congressional candidates it had placed on the ballot in 1992, and that could not have been done in time for the party to have qualified for the Florida ballot, if the existing law had existed back then.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Williams v Rhodes, and also in Communist Party of Indiana v Whitcomb (concurring opinion of four justices) that states cannot discriminate against new parties, relative to old parties. Therefore, the Florida election law relating to FEC recognition is unconstitutional, and cannot be enforced.

Another reason the FEC standard is unconstitutional is that the FEC has utterly no objective standards for deciding what a party must do to be recognized as a “national committee.” In 1975 it recognized the Libertarian Party, even though the party’s presidential candidate had appeared on the ballot in only two states in 1972, and the party had congressional candidates on the ballot in only one state in 1972 and only in four states in 1974. In December 1980 the FEC recognized the Socialist Party even though its presidential nominee had been on the ballot in only seven states and the party had congressional candidates on the ballot in only two states. But in 1998 the FEC refused to recognize the Green Party, even though it had placed its presidential nominee in 1996 on the ballot in 23 states (and that candidate had placed fourth in the election), and even though it had congressional candidates on the ballot in eight states.

3 comments

  1. I can understand the argument about the FEC not having objective standards.

    But I don’t understand the argument that “the FEC will not recognize a new party as a ‘national committee’, but will only grant that recognition after a party has gone through one federal election.” The Socialist Workers Party has been around for decades and entered every Presidential election since 1948. Even if they had never run anyone for Congress in the off-years (which, in fact, they have done), they would have gone through 16 Federal elections already.

  2. Richard Winger · · Reply

    #1, that’s a good point. The second paragraph would be more useful to an old party like the SWP.

  3. Richard Batson · · Reply

    Richard… I worked in Florida in 1998 (?) for a state Initiative or Referendum that allowed parties and independents to gain ballot access via paying a fee rather than gaining petition signaures. I’m embarrased to admit that I don’t recall the number or name of the act, fourteen years later and living across the country. Could you tell me the number of the initiative, and whether it is still on the Florida “books”? Thanks.

    Vancouver, WA 98684

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: