So you’ve decided your state Legislator is a bum and you’re going to do something about it by running for office, eh? If you don’t have a wad of cash lying around, good luck.
If you can’t cough up hundreds of dollars to pay a candidate-filing fee, you do have the option of trying to collect signatures, says Linde Knighton, co-chair of Washington’s Progressive Party. But the process is a labyrinth that she and a coalition of the state’s third parties – including the American Heritage Party, the Constitution Party, the Freedom Socialists, and the Libertarians – are working to change in a bill they’re writing for next year’s Legislature.
Under current election law, Knighton says, independent and third-party candidates have to place a notice in a daily newspaper advertising a specific date, time and place at which they will collect signatures. Never mind if the candidates’ own parties nominated them – the state requires a faux nominating convention at which 100 valid signatures must be collected for county and legislative seats or 1,000 for higher offices – all in one place, at one time, on the correct form, in black ink, with no hash marks or illegible names.
That means having to collect double the number needed just to pass muster, she says.
It’s a ridiculous system that Knighton says Democrats and Republicans cooked up to keep competition off the ballot. To fix that, the third parties are currently drafting legislation that they plan to float before lawmakers starting in September. The bill would allow their own nominating conventions to be recognized and allow unaffiliated candidates to have more time to get the signatures – two weeks for local offices and three months for statewide bids.
The coalition expects resistance from the major parties, who, Knighton says, typically argue that voting for a third-party candidate is a waste. She disagrees. “If enough of you vote for your favorite third party, then they’ll win,” Knighton says.
But, first, they have to get on the ballot – something that the state House’s Government and Tribal Affairs Committee has invited coalition members to tell them about in a hearing scheduled for July 23 in Olympia.