Sunday, August 26, 2012

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: Johnson's Creative Ballot Access

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Aug. 26 2012

Fomer Gov. Gary Johnson
Back when former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson first began toying with the idea of aborting his bid to win the Republican nomination for president and run instead on the Libertarian Party ticket, he said one of the advantages of doing that was that the Libertarian Party would be on the ballot in all 50 states.

Johnson went on to change parties and to win the Libertarian nomination. But though he’s getting closer seemingly every day — he’s on about 40 state ballots at last count — Johnson still is struggling with getting on all of them. Some states are harder than others, but in a couple of instances, Johnson has figured out ways to get around restrictive state laws that discourage minor parties.

"Have you heard what’s going on in Oklahoma?," he asked me during an interview last week. “I’m on the ballot there on the Americans Elect ticket,” he explained.

Remember Americans Elect? It was a well-funded (if secretly funded) Internet-based effort that supposedly was going to involve some sort of online “convention” in which clear-sighted Americans would throw off the shackles of the two-party system, cut through the poisonous campaign rhetoric and nominate a serious, thoughtful moderate candidate for president.

Just a few months ago, some political pundits and strategists from both sides expressed fear that Americans Elect could become a real force.

Instead, it fizzled. When it came time for the online primary, not enough people had gotten behind any candidate to pull it off. But while they never got a nominee, Americans Elect did win a spot in at least 25 states, including New Mexico and, more importantly, including Oklahoma.

Earlier this month Americans Elect organizers in the Sooner State submitted to the State Board of Elections the names of Johnson and his running mate, retired California Judge Jim Gray.

There’s a little bit of irony there. Many months ago in conversations with Johnson, the former governor poo-pooed Americans Elect, dismissing it as a vehicle for New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who perennially is rumored to be considering a presidential bid.

But wait. There’s more. And this one’s even better.

“Have you heard what’s going on in Michigan?” Johnson asked me.

Michigan, like many states, has a “sore losers” law, used to prevent candidates who lose in a primary to switch parties and try again in the general election. That would exclude Johnson, whose name appeared on the Republican Michigan primary this year — months after Johnson switched parties. “I never asked to be on that primary ballot,” Johnson said.

He found out at the last minute that he had to sign a form to take his name off the ballot. Johnson told that Michigan declined his campaign’s request to remove him from the ballot because his paperwork was stamped at 4:03 p.m. — three minutes past the deadline.

So Johnson is suing the great state of Michigan to allow him to run there as a Libertarian.

Johnson and Johnson
But in case that doesn’t work, Johnson has another plan.

It turns out there’s a Libertarian Party member in Texas who has run for several offices who has volunteered to help. His name is Gary E. Johnson. Reportedly, Johnson met Johnson while in line for their credentials at the Libertarian Party convention in Las Vegas, Nev., in May.

The Texas guy’s middle name is “Edward,” while our Gary’s middle name is “Earl.” But if New Mexico Gary loses the court case, Texas Gary has agreed to step in so the name “Gary E. Johnson” will appear on the Michigan ballot.

“And if he wins in Michigan, he’s agreed to give me his electoral votes,” the former governor told me.

Whatever you think of former Gov. Johnson and his politics, you have to give him credit for creative problem solving.