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History of Revision 11, How Florida Libertarians Reformed Ballot Access

Posted by Pinellas Libertarians on August 13, 2005 at 7:00 AM


Just a decade ago Florida Libertarians had some of the toughest ballot access laws. The Libertarian Party of Florida helped ease the way for third party candidates being on the Florida Ballot. It was no easy task either (read 1998 article below) but the hard work paid off with the win of Revision 11 -- that eventually yielded nearly 2 million votes for Libertarians.




Original LP News Article from November 1998


Florida LP lobbies for Revision 11



November 3 initiative would reform the worst ballot access laws in the nation

After two years of lobbying, testifying, coalition-building, and proselytizing, Florida Libertarians have their fingers crossed that state voters will pass a measure this November to liberalize the Sunshine State's restrictive ballot access laws.





Libertarian Party members Tom Regnier (back row, second from left) and Tom Smith (back row, far right), show their support for Revision 11 at a meeting of Floridians for Fair Elections. Also present: Representatives from the Reform, Natural Law, Green, and American Reform parties.

Revision 11, an initiative that would dramatically reduce ballot access barriers for third parties, "is the most important issue facing the Florida LP today," said Tom Regnier, state party Vice Chair and coordinator of the pro-Revision 11 campaign.




And, as the final days trickle away before November 3, when Florida voters will have their say -- and as state Libertarians continue their relentless pro-Revision 11 campaign -- the odds are looking good, said Regnier.



"We have a good chance of getting the voters to voice their approval," he predicted -- thereby reforming the "most difficult ballot access procedures of any state in the country, worse than in Russia or South Africa."



If passed, Revision 11 would make Florida ballot access requirements the same for all candidates, whether major party, minor party, or independent. Currently, smaller parties like the Libertarian Party must collect signatures from tens of thousands of voters to get on the ballot, while Republicans and Democrats merely pay a filing fee.




For example, getting a candidate on the ballot for a Congressional race requires more than 11,000 signatures, and a new party has to gather over 240,000 signatures to appear on the ballot for a statewide race -- a hurdle that has never been overcome since the laws were passed in 1931.


"Florida has the dubious distinction of having one of the most discriminatory ballot-access laws in the country," noted the Orlando Sentinel in an editorial. "The Sunshine State imposes the highest filing fee and requires the most petition signatures, by percent of population, of any of the 50 states for candidates to get on the ballot."



Richard Winger, publisher of Ballot Access News, put it even more starkly.

"Florida easily has the most restrictive ballot access laws for minor parties and independent candidates of any state," he said.




As a result, "Florida has more uncontested political races than any state," said Regnier. "In the last 20 years, about half of State House races and about a third of State Senate races were uncontested. This year, 18 of Florida's 23 races for U.S. Congress will have only one candidate."


The restrictive laws hit Florida's most active third party -- the Libertarian Party -- especially hard, he said.



"We are able to run political candidates only infrequently," he noted. "Yet, political campaigns are the best way to put a party in the spotlight as far as the press and the public are concerned. In order to [run more] political campaigns, we need to be able to get on the ballot more often."


To achieve that goal, Florida Libertarians launched a ballot access reform campaign in 1997. Their first target: The state's Constitution Revision Commission, which meets just once every 20 years to hear public testimony and recommend changes to the Florida Constitution.




Libertarians attended all 12 CRC meetings around the state in July, August, and September 1997. Their message: The urgent need to reform Florida's unfair ballot access laws.

"Libertarians from all over the state showed up at the hearings to recite the facts and figures on how Florida's restrictive laws have closed the political process to all but the two major parties and deprived voters of political choice," said then-State Chair Nick Dunbar.




The Libertarians' lobbying paid off on December 12, 1997, when the CRC unanimously approved a proposal -- later titled Revision 11 -- to guarantee that ballot access requirements for minor and independent candidates would be no more difficult than for "major party" candidates.

But getting Revision 11 on the ballot was just the first step: Since then, Florida Libertarians have been campaigning to get it passed.




The Florida LP helped found Floridians for Fair Elections, a coalition of independent parties and other groups seeking fair ballot access laws. Libertarians also unleashed a blizzard of letters-to-the editor, appearances on radio talk shows, bumperstickers, and mailings to newspaper editorial boards. In their campaign, Libertarians have been stressing basic issues of fairness and democracy.


"Revision 11 embodies a basic principle of democracy -- that the electoral process should be as open as possible so that the American ideal of rule by the people can be fulfilled," said State Chair Brian Collar. "[Revision 11 will also] increase voter interest and participation [by] increasing competition. Instead of having voters who are drowning in apathy, we'd have clear sailing for the democratic process."





The lobbying seems to be bearing fruit, said Regnier: Revision 11 has already been endorsed by the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Gun Owners of America, the League of Women Voters, the Cedar Key Beacon, Common Cause, the Tallahassee Democrat, and columnists at the Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel.



State party leaders say they plan to continue their campaign right up to Election Day -- buttressed by a final barrage of pro-Revision 11 radio ads on the Rush Limbaugh show.



And, as the days dwindle away, they've got their fingers crossed that Florida residents will help make political history.




"We've come a long way on this. There's just one more step," said Regnier. "Now it's up to the voters. If they say yes to Revision 11 in November, Florida will lose the distinction of having the harshest ballot access requirements in the free world!"



Revision 11 Wins with 64% of Vote



Excerpt from a December 1998 LP News Article -- LP candidates win 17 races; set Congressional vote record



In one of the biggest victories of Election '98 for the Libertarian Party, voters in Florida overwhelmingly passed Revision 11, a constitutional amendment that will level the ballot access playing field for third parties.



The measure, which was supported by the LP of Florida with a radio advertising and publicity campaign, passed with a whopping 64% of the vote.





"Our thanks go to the many Florida voters who [voted] 'Yes' on Revision 11," said Brian Collar, Florida LP State Chair. "They've shown they want more choices on the ballot, and we in the Libertarian Party will do all we can to oblige them. Look for us on the Florida ballot in the next election."