Currently, the parties say, it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain ballot access.
Ahead of the 2020 election cycle, a group of Texans, along with a number of nonmajor political parties, have sued the secretary of state’s office, alleging that Texas election law discriminates against third-party and independent candidates vying for a spot on the general election ballot.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Austin, plaintiffs argued that current state law would give nonmajor political parties in 2020 just 75 days to obtain over 80,000 valid signatures to gain ballot access — and that the cost of doing so could cost more than $600,000.
Currently, third parties like the Green Party and the Libertarian Party can secure a spot on the general election ballot by either having at least one candidate who wins more than 5% of the vote in a statewide race during the previous election cycle, or by collecting a certain number of required signatures. That 5% threshold will soon be lowered to 2% of the vote in one of the past five general elections once a measure that passed the Texas Legislature this year takes effect Sept. 1.
Candidates unaffiliated with a political party, meanwhile, are allowed access to the general election ballot as long as they file the required paperwork and gather a certain number of signatures, which depends on which office they’re seeking.
For both third-party and independent candidates, signatures must come from registered voters who did not vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries or participate in another party’s convention that year.
“Collecting signatures by hand is inherently time-consuming, labor-intensive and expensive,” Mark Miller, a plaintiff in the case and a two-time Libertarian candidate for Texas Railroad Commission, said in a news release. “And collecting 80,000-plus valid signatures in the limited time allowed under Texas law is all but impossible without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire paid petition circulators.”
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs suggested that Texas could modernize its signature petition procedure to help alleviate the burden they say has been placed on them. Plaintiffs pointed to Arizona, which they said has a secretary of state who recently implemented an online platform to allow voters to sign nomination petitions electronically — instead of in person and on paper.
Plaintiffs argued Texas’ current election code violates their First Amendment and 14th Amendment rights “by imposing discriminatory and severely burdensome requirements on independent candidates and minor political parties that seek access to Texas’ general election ballot.” They asked the court to either declare the provisions they’re taking issue with unconstitutional, or to enjoin the secretary of state, which is an office that’s currently vacant, from enforcing them.
The secretary of state and the deputy secretary of state have 21 days to either file a response to the complaint before them or file a motion to dismiss it. A spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.
‘Disqualifying’: Pete Buttigieg faces backlash for praising right-wing Tea Party movement in resurfaced 2010 video
"I believe we might find that we have a lot in common," Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said during an event hosted by Citizens for Common Sense.
South Bend, Indiana Mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is facing backlash over a resurfaced video from 2010 in which he offered words of praise for the right-wing Tea Party movement and expressed a desire to find common ground.
During an October 2010 forum in Indiana hosted by the Tea Party-affiliated group Citizens for Common Sense, Buttigieg—then a candidate for Indiana state treasurer—told the audience that "there's some, especially in my party, who think the Tea Party's a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party."
Sanders becomes fastest presidential candidate in history to reach 4 million individual donations
"This is damn impressive," said progressive strategist Rebecca Katz.
Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign announced Tuesday morning that it reached four million individual contributions faster than any presidential candidate in history, a milestone the campaign touted as evidence that the Vermont senator is surging with less than 80 days to go before the Iowa caucuses.
"This is what momentum looks like," Faiz Shakir, Sanders' campaign manager, said in a statement.
Optimistic Democrats are lining up to run for Texas’ high courts in 2020
The depth of the bench for non-marquee statewide races, like the state’s two high courts and the Railroad Commission, is a measure of how high Democratic hopes have soared ahead of the 2020 election.
For Brandon Birmingham, a state district judge in Dallas, the 2020 race for Texas Court of Criminal Appeals started on election night 2018.
As he watched Beto O’Rourke win more votes than any Texas Democrat ever had in a statewide race, Birmingham — who won reelection that night with 100% of the vote in his countywide district — began to mull his own chances at winning Texas. Within weeks, he’d reached out to the state Democratic Party. By December, he’d sat down with party officials over breakfast in Dallas to discuss a possible run.