Pinellas Florida Libertarians & Activists

A generation of Florida Libertarian Activism in Pinellas County Archived at - www.PinellasLibertarianActivistClub.web.com

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Blog of Pinellas Libertarian Activists News and Libertarian related news and articles, with focus on key newspaper and media items.

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Activists focusing on State Initiatives, Call Program

Posted by Pinellas Libertarian Activists on February 17, 2011 at 2:01 AM Comments comments (210)

Some 200 people in Pinellas are involved in an informal call program, and others in a network on state initiatives after a successful pilot since 2004.

 

Call program participants are anonymous but share successes in targeting state or Federal legislative proposals that they view as harmful to rights using voluntary concepts. The group has several facilitators who target legislation and manage a phone tree, or support initiatives suggested by DownSizeDC.

 

Others meet with a variety of groups on state initiatives. Ongoing focus: Medical marihuana, transparency, and tax issues.

Pinellas Libertarians Activist Club New Web Design

Posted by Pinellas Libertarian Activists on July 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (1)

 

 

We've had an active Pinellas Libertarian group for over ten years and have hundreds of photos to show what we've been doing here over the years.

Ongoing upgrades mean more items...Tell a friend about a friend about our new website!

 

http://PinellasLibertarianActivistClub.webs.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Pinellas Libertarians Succeed in Getting Paper Trail for Florida Voters after Governor Charlie Crist signed House Bill 537

Posted by Pinellas Libertarian Activists on May 23, 2007 at 4:34 AM Comments comments (1)

 

Pinellas Libertarian Host, Libertarian Party of Pinellas County of Florida Chair Michael Gilson speaks out for Election Reform 

 

Governor Charlie Crist Signs Legislation

Creating a Paper Trail for Florida Votes

 

May 23, 2007

 

The two year challenge to establish paper trail ended in victory for the Election Reform Coalition of Pinellas County when Governor Charlie Crist signed House Bill 537 that establishes a paper trail for all votes cast in Florida elections. Having a paper trail was among the top recommendations in the ERC PInellas' 2005 Report. The election-reform legislation will provide optical scan machines for counties that do not already have them for Election Day voting and early voting sites.

 

Governor Crist said, "When Floridians cast ballots in an election at any level - local, state or federal - they can leave the polling place knowing that their vote has been counted and recorded and can be verified."

This victory is the result of two years hard work by individuals and organizations that worked together to form the non-partisan Election Reform Coalition in Pinellas County Florida.

 

A special thanks to these key members and activists who helped organize the public forums; Create our Report and Action Plan; Interviewed at major newspapers and radio shows; Promoted the coalition at public events, government meetings; Talked to the Supervisor of Elections; Traveled the state and sent copies of our report to legistlators.

 

Arlin Briley, Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party, Michael "MG" Gilson, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Pinellas County, Mike Henkel and Mark Kamleiter Co-Chairs of the Green Party of Pinellas County, Bill Bucolo, Ed Helm, Pea Trombley, and Carrie Wadlinger. Other group activists: The Citizen's Vote Verification group with Leonard Schmiege and Gyan Hardman, Pamela Haengel of Voting Integrity Alliance of Tampa Bay (VIA).

 

Article Originally published at:

http://www.ercpinellas.org/

 

 

 

 

Creative Loafing: Libertarian Election Reform Progress

Posted by Pinellas Libertarian Activists on August 31, 2005 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (2)

Inside the Black Box

Pinellas voting-reform advocates look north, wistfully.

 

 

BY WAYNE GARCIA

Published August 31, 2005

 

 

 

 

Imagine you call a public official at his office. He's not in, but his secretary gives you his cell phone number. When you reach him, he's happy to talk. Want to discuss the way he's doing his job? Of course. Got complaints or an idea? He's listening.

 

 

 

 

Sounds like a far-off place, where bluebirds sing atop candy mountains.

Now imagine he's a county elections official. You want permission to hack into his office's computer system to test the security of the voting process?

 

Sure, he replies. That may sound more psych ward than Disneyland, but it's not.

It's Tallahassee.

 

That's where you would find Ion Sancho, the maverick supervisor of elections for Leon County.

For many activists in the elections reform business, Sancho is a hero and a model of what Florida elections could become. Open, reliable and fair to everyone who wants to vote. Willing to question even his choice of voting technology. Even willing to engage the election reformers whose conspiratorial tones frighten most supervisors.

 

"The citizens control the elections," Sancho said. "We administer it for them."

Members of the Pinellas Election Reform Coalition wish there were more elections supervisors like Sancho. Founded in January, the coalition of civic activists and Pinellas political parties (not including Republicans) has studied the Pinellas voting system and held public forums.

 

"We didn't want this to turn into some finger-pointing expedition," said Michael Gilson, chairman of the Pinellas Libertarian Party and a member of the Coalition. "We also sensed there was a great deal of discontent out there. We got quite an earful from the public."

 

The group issued its findings in a report that is available online at www.ercpinellas.org 

 

The coalition called for three major changes:

 

  • Install a voter verifiable paper ballot system, "to preclude lost votes and bolster confidence." The touch-screen voting machines now used in Pinellas (as well as Hillsborough) do not provide for a paper receipt or trail.
  • Form a Citizen Advisory Board to work with Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clarke, a Republican.
  • Amend the Florida Constitution to provide for nonpartisan redistricting and instant runoff voting, in which voters would cast additional ballots for their second or third choices, with those extra votes counting only if one candidate does not achieve a majority win.

 

Advocates say instant runoffs would cut down on negative campaigning and boost issue-oriented discussion, since candidates who attack strongly would not be likely to receive those secondary runoff votes.

 

 

Those recommendations so far have fallen largely on deaf ears.

 

 

Reforming the way Florida votes is a tricky job. Like reforming the reapportionment process, it is viewed with suspicion by some as too partisan or too conspiracy-oriented.

 

 

Pinellas Republican Chairman Tony DiMatteo was asked to participate in the coalition and declined.

"All the anti-Republican guys are in that," DiMatteo said. "They are hiding behind the name of nonpartisan when they are not. Why would I want to get involved with those guys? I'm not neutral."

 

 

The coalition's organizer, after all, is Arlin Briley, who is also vice chairman of the Pinellas Democratic Party. Other representatives are from the Green Party, Libertarian Party, Democracy for America, NAACP of St. Petersburg, National Organization for Women, Pinellas Progressives and the Florida Consumer Action Network. Most are left-leaning groups.

 

 

Then there are the complaints that election reform is populated by strange computer geeks who draw conspiracy lines that stretch from Florida's disputed 2000 presidential election to somewhere near the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza. There is no doubt that some of the tech conjectures argued by elections reformers are tough to swallow.

 

 

But if you get beyond all that, this group has a point to make. In the end, we are using relatively new voting technologies that raise lots of questions about accuracy and security (not to mention cost), some unresolved or not even contemplated. Is voting in Florida secure? Can it be hacked? The answer under the current system, Briley said, is "it's impossible to know."

 

 

Clarke disagrees. The Pinellas election chief has experienced human errors that marred - but did not ultimately impact the outcome of - several elections. (Disclosure: In my previous career as a political consultant, I worked in her first political campaign in November 2000.) Clark believes some in the reform group are well-meaning, but she is upset with the Coalition for failing to acknowledge positive information about her office's security efforts in its report.

 

 

Her displeasure with the Coalition peaked in June, when she sent it a letter after seeing its initial report. "Previously, my staff and I have been very open in meeting and sharing information with various Coalition members, only to be dismayed that all or part of the information provided was not included in your report or discussed at your public forums," she said in the letter, adding that she would communicate only in writing with the Coalition in the future.

 

 

Clarke said she doesn't oppose a paper trail for her touch screen machine per se, but points out that the state has not certified any system for that and all of the options she has seen proposed by elections reformers are deeply flawed themselves.

 

 

Clarke also points to her willingness to meet with leaders from other parties to go over voting concerns. She meets regularly with Pinellas Democratic Chairwoman Carrie Wadlinger, and even recently agreed to allow Wadlinger to bring along Briley to future meetings.

 

 

Which brings us back to her colleague to the north, Sancho. He is a strange cat for Florida elections supervisors. He is not registered in any party. He holds a law degree. He never worked in the supervisor's office before running in 1988.

 

 

He was the first in the state to install a precinct-based optical scanning voting system that alerts voters if they vote improperly, allowing them to fix their ballots. It leaves a paper trail, too.

 

 

A British reporter called him earlier this year with a challenge:

 

 

Would he allow experts from Black Box Voting.org, based in Renton, Wash., to try to hack into his system as a test?

 

 

He said yes. And the results (posted on his website at www.leonfl.org/elect) surprised him. He was glad to learn that the two experts could not hack into his system from outside the office. But when he gave them access to the most sensitive parts of his operation (a notion that some elections expert scoff at as unrealistic), he discovered he was less secure than he thought. Using the simple Microsoft Windows-based Notepad program, Black Box Voting.org was able to change the results of an election he administered for a public school. Those elections reformers also showed how the individual memory cards on each optical scanning voting machine - manufactured by Diebold - could be reprogrammed without leaving a trace.

 

 

Diebold's reaction? Its lawyer called Sancho reckless, and said allowing outsiders access to their machines was "very foolish and irresponsible" because the hackers could have left bugs behind to influence future elections.

 

 

What did Florida's other 66 supervisors of elections think of Sancho's actions?

" I had a mixed reception from my brethren when I did this test," he said, adding that some already believed he was "not a team player."

 

 

"Some of them view me as a traitor," he said. "Many people in the elections field resent citizen involvement in the voting process. They view this as a zero-sum game. If the other side is winning, we're losing."

That analogy makes Sancho's blood boil.

 

 

"There is no other side," he said. "Those are American citizens concerned about the efficacy of the voting process. How is that the enemy?"

 

 

Political Whore votes early and often.

He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by telephone at 813-739-4805.

 

 

 

Libertarian Student Political Debate at St. Pete College Florida

Posted by Pinellas Libertarian Activists on March 25, 2004 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

St. Petersburg College student David Enfield promotes Florida Libertarian success via Florida Liberty Newsletter to the debate attendees.

 

St. Petersburg College student David Enfield spoke at a St. Petersburg College student political debate educating students about Libertarian ideas and providing attendees with information about the Libertarian Party.

The St. Petersburg College Student Political Debate had representatives from various political parties including the Libertarian Party.

Attendees were able to ask political questions and they got a wide spectrum of answers from the diverse political panel.

Outreach speakers are at nearly every college and many high schools locally through the year. Contact the Pinellas Libertarians at www.PinellasLibertarians.org for a speaker.

Pinellas Leads in Helping Florida Libertarians line up 87 Legislature Candidates

Posted by Pinellas Libertarian Activists on July 8, 2002 at 4:22 AM Comments comments (2)

 No matter where you are in Florida, chances are good you'll see a Libertarian candidate on the ballot in November.

 

That's because the party known for its disdain of government is taking advantage of a redistricting loophole and morphing into a signature-gathering machine to round up as many legislative candidates as possible.

It's called "Operation Full Slate."

 

"What we have for the first time is a ballot with a third party presence," said Michael Gilson-DeLemos of St. Petersburg, secretary of the state party.

 

The party, which claims 10,000 supporters statewide, has registered 86 candidates for state House races and one for the state Senate.

 

In 2000, two Libertarians ran for state House and none for the Senate.

Libertarians hope to use the ballot to win more voters to their cause of limited government and expansive personal freedom.

 

"We're the people who stand for civil freedom and economic freedom," Gilson-DeLemos said. "The right wing tends to characterize us as left wing and the left wing tends to characterize us as right wing."

That's because the Libertarian philosophy seems to take a little from both sides.

The national party's Web site (www.lp.org) includes an essay calling for abolition of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Another mocks a Georgia lawmaker who wants to ban people from answering their doorbells in the nude.

 

A news release announces: "Case of 240-pound aerobics instructor illustrates why anti-discrimination laws must be repealed." Another warns that President Bush's opposition to arming airline pilots "is great news for terrorists."

 

There also are arguments for lifting the trade embargo against Cuba and against tighter regulations in the wake of the Enron scandal: "Markets aren't perfect, but marketplace errors encourage positive responses. Those burnt in the Enron failure have learned important lessons, as has almost everyone else in the business world."

Though it remains on the fringe of mainstream politics, the Libertarian Party of Florida has surprised state elections officials with its organization this year.

 

Because the final lines for legislative districts haven't been approved by the courts, candidates have an easier time getting on the ballot. House candidates need signatures from 445 registered voters instead of the usual 1 percent of voters in a legislative district, typically closer to 1,000.

 

Because those 445 voters can live anywhere in Florida -- not just in the district where the candidates are running -- the party is rounding up about 500 volunteers to sign petitions for candidates in as many House districts as possible.

 

"We're all working together," said Jon Kueny, a New Port Richey Libertarian challenging Rep. Heather Fiorentino, R-New Port Richey. That helps party members limit the cost of their campaigns, in keeping with the Libertarian philosophy of limited spending.

 

But should the machine fail to get enough signatures for a candidate, the candidate will petition the state to waive the alternative qualifying fee on the grounds that it is an undue burden, Kueny said.

"We're not going to try and raise money. We're not even going to try and open a bank account," Kueny added, referring to the majority of Libertarian candidates. Some Libertarian candidates certainly will raise and spend money. But others, like Kueny, are relying on the party to gather signatures and print generic campaign fliers.

The party's presence on the ballot is more likely to draw conservative voters away from the Republicans than it is to draw liberal voters from the Democrats, said University of Florida political historian and provost David Colburn.

 

"The national evidence suggests that Libertarians take more votes from Republicans, but they also bring new voters to the ballot box who have not voted in previous elections," Colburn said.

Libertarians appear to be alone among the minority parties in taking advantage of the redistricting loophole.

Roger Simmermaker, chairman of the Reform Party of Florida, said the party has divorced itself from the national party and now must decide whether to remain independent or to affiliate with another group. That takes time away from candidate shopping, although the party still might run a candidate for governor, Simmermaker said.

 

"We've got a little bit of internal direction seeking right now," he added.

The Green Party, meanwhile, isn't established enough to orchestrate a mass production of candidates, said Julia Aires, vice president of Florida Greens. So far, three Green candidates have registered for state House seats and none for the Senate. But the Greens support what the Libertarians are doing and hope to benefit from it, Aires said.

 

"Any of the smaller minority parties getting out there is good for the Greens," Aires said.

Libertarians

 

The number of registered voters who identify themselves as Libertarians has nearly tripled in Florida in the past 10 years. Here is a breakdown for the Tampa Bay area and statewide:

 

 

Pinellas: 1,037

Hillsborough: 808

Pasco: 264

Hernando: 63

Citrus: 95

Statewide: 9,462

 

 

-- Source: Tampa Bay area supervisors of election

 

 

By ALISA ULFERTS, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times

published July 8, 2002

Voters Get Libertarian Choice

Posted by Pinellas Libertarian Activists on June 27, 2002 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (1)

Pinellas Libertarian Michael Gilson featured in St. Pete Times Article

Michael Gilson-De Lemos said he believes people should have "a Libertarian choice."

Voters in the newly drawn House District 53 do now that Gilson-De Lemos has announced his candidacy for the St. Petersburg-area seat in the state House of Representatives. "A Libertarian can bring some fresh air into the system," Gilson-De Lemos said.

 

 

Voters also will have a Democratic choice, incumbent Rep. Charlie Justice, and a Republican choice, Ken Feck. Gilson-De Lemos, 47, said public bodies notice a change in their political discussions when joined by a member of the Libertarian Party, which emphasizes freedom and limited government.

 

 

As a legislator, he said, he would investigate alternatives to government, such as home schooling and privatization. "If people believe that there is some area where government is not making any sense or where they would like to see a difference, a different approach, then they should consider me," Gilson-De Lemos said.

 

 

 

Gilson-De Lemos, 47, is a retired management consultant who was born in Washington, D.C. He said he has lived in Florida full time since the mid 1990s and off-and-on since 1986. A graduate of Regents College, he is married and has three children who are being home-schooled.

 

 

http://www.sptimes.com/2002/06/27/TampaBay/Voters_get_Libertaria.shtml

 

By CURTIS KRUEGER, Times Staff Writer

St. Petersburg Times

originally published June 27, 2002

Drug laws only make things worse

Posted by Pinellas Libertarian Activists on August 7, 2001 at 8:47 AM Comments comments (0)

Sound, balanced policy lessens illegal drug use Series: LETTERS

 

[SOUTH PINELLAS Edition]

St. Petersburg Times - St. Petersburg, Fla.

Date: Aug 7, 2001

Start Page: 7.A

Section: EDITORIAL

 

Drug laws only make things worse

 

Re: U.S. versus them, July 29.

 

The Libertarian Party's principle-based position on the war on drugs has not changed in more than 30 years. Like most Americans, Libertarians demand to be safe at home and on the streets. Libertarians would like all Americans to be healthy and free of drug dependence. But drug laws don't help; they only make things worse.

The professional politicians scramble to make names for themselves as tough anti-drug warriors, while the experts agree that the war on drugs has been lost, and could never be won. The tragic victims of that war are your personal liberty and its companion, responsibility. It's time to consider the re-legalization of drugs.

Some Americans will always use alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or other drugs. Most are not addicts; they are social drinkers or occasional users. Legal drugs would be inexpensive, so even addicts could support their habits with honest work, rather than by crime.

 

Organized crime would be deprived of its profits. The police could return to protecting us from real criminals, and there would be room enough in existing prisons for them.

It's time to re-legalize drugs and let people take responsibility for themselves.

 

Criminal laws only drive the problem underground and put money in the pockets of the criminal class. With drugs legal, compassionate people could do more to educate and rehabilitate drug users who seek help. Individuals have the right to decide for themselves what to put in their bodies, so long as they take responsibility for their actions.

 

From the mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke, to conservative writer and TV personality William F. Buckley Jr., leading Americans are now calling for repeal of America's repressive and ineffective drug laws. The Libertarian Party urges you to join in this effort to make our streets safer and our liberties more secure.

 

Daryl Henegar, (Libertarian) Pinellas Park

Pinellas & Florida Libertarians A Hit At ISIL

Posted by Pinellas Libertarian Activists on August 26, 2000 at 8:26 AM Comments comments (0)

"GO, Pinellas!" L-R: Dr. Jim Lark, USA LP Chair; J., Wollstein, SIL Founder; Dr.M. Ruwart , Author;

LIO's MG; V.Miller, ISIL Founder; Dr.R.Stewart, Costa Rican LP Co-Founder (www.libertario.org);

M.L. Goutscher, Canada LP Muse; Prof. Hubert Jongen, Europe Co-founder (www.libertarian.to)

 

 

 

Florida activists learned of Costa Rica LP's E-mail strategy, then played an important role at the International

Society for Individual Liberty (ISIL, www.isil.org) London, Canada conference. 200 + activists and guests

studied ideas on a Libertarian world agenda and Libertarian success in Costa Rica, Native Reserves, to Somalia and Russia. LPF's Michael "MG" Gilson, discussed LIO findings and the Florida IMP program of member ideas, teams, systems analysis. "A hit with the activists!" said conference facilitator Mary Lou Goutscher, who is developing new Libertarian outreach seminars.

 

Later, LPF Activist Wayne Harley shared ideas about better team building he and other Florida activists are using. New USA LP National Chair Dr.Jim Lark , who'll be using System ideas to improve LP activist support, praised Florida activists who provided over 600 suggestions in the pioneering State program. Native American activists there joined the movement asking to use the program. And Costa Rican activists, who have elected a Libertarian Senator there and are developing a Libertarian independent area,gave a heartfelt "Arriba, Amigos!" to the LPF. "We don't forget one of our founders was a former LPF Chair, or the bold example of Florida activists," said Movimiento head Dr. Rigoberto Stewart on their behalf.

 

 

Harry Browne Presidential Campaign Visits Florida

Posted by Pinellas Libertarian Activists on March 24, 1999 at 12:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Harry Browne with Pinellas Libertarian Michael Gilson

 

  

MARCH 22-24 1999 -- Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party's 1996 Presidential nominee, brought his as-yet-unofficial campaign for the year 2000 to Florida for a whirlwind three days of speeches and fund-raising. Visiting Tampa, West Palm Beach, and Orlando for a day each, Mr. Browne drew a total of about 175 Libertarian faithful and raised over $15,000. About a third of the people who attended had never been to a Libertarian Party event before.

 

  

Mr. Browne said that his 1996 campaign spent $3 million, which was not enough to give it the visibility it needed to compete with the Democrats and Republicans. But current national membership in the party is three to four times as great as it was at this time four years ago. The party's growth in membership means a bigger base for fund-raising and would make at least a $10 million campaign possible. Such an increase would mean that the campaign could run national television commercials at the beginning rather than just at the end, attracting more attention from the public and the press and thus generating more excitement, more new members, and additional contributions. This could bring the Libertarian Party a whole new level of public awareness and acceptance and would improve our chances of having our candidate appear in the Presidential debates. Such increased visibility, Mr. Browne suggested, could possibly lead to a Libertarian being elected President in the year 2004.

 

 

Mr. Browne argued persuasively against some of the "magic bullets" that have been suggested to put the LP on the map such as running a well-known celebrity or a billionaire for President. He said that the only thing that would induce such people to run on the LP ticket is for the LP to have a large enough organization to support their campaign. That's why party building and increased membership are so important for the party.

 

 

 

Before he ran for President in 1996, Harry Browne was a highly respected investment advisor and best-selling author. He received nearly a half million votes, the second highest total ever for a Libertarian Party Presidential candidate.

 

 

Pinellas, International Libertarian Co-Founder and Visionary Leader Michael Gilson Speaks at Libertarian Party of Florida Convention

Posted by Pinellas Libertarian Activists on March 23, 1999 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Pinellas Libertarian Michael Gilson was one of many prominent Libertarian speakers at the 1999 Libertarian Party of Florida Annual Convention and Business Meeting.  

Michael Gilson chats with Pinellas Libertarian Dan Skinner at the 1999 Libertarian Party of Florida Convention in Palm Beach Florida. 

Authors David Bergland and Ward Connerly with Michael Gilson

History of Revision 11 -- How Libertarians Reformed Ballot Access in Florida

Posted by Pinellas Libertarian Activists on January 1, 1999 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

 

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."


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