Texas has some of the most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation, but things got a bit better yesterday when Governor Greg Abbott signed into law House bill 2504, which was passed by the legislature in May. This law lowers the threshold needed for a party’s candidates to remain on the ballot. The previous law required a party’s candidates to obtain at least 5% of the total votes in any statewide race in order to automatically qualify to have its candidates on the ballot in the next election. That 5% threshold has now been lowered to 2% and applies to any of the past five elections. The full text of the bill can be found here.
In 2016, Green Party candidate for Railroad commissioner, Martina Salinas, the best performing candidate that year garnered just over 3% of the vote in her race. Under the old law that disqualified the Green Party for the 2018 ballot. A petition process in 2018 to get back on the ballot fell short of the over 47,000 signatures needed.
However, things changed after the 2018 election. Not only did the Democrats make a strong showing but the Libertarian Party performed poorly and came short of the 5% threshold. These results worried Republicans in the legislature. They wanted to find a way to both siphon off votes from Democrats and prevent disgruntled Libertarians from challenging Republican incumbents in the 2020 primaries. Some would say that HB 2504 is another example of how the Texas Legislature under Republican control engages in tampering of the electoral system, which in the last legislative session included nefarious voter suppression bills such as SB 9, which ultimately failed to pass this time around.
Machinations aside, though, HB 2504 keeps Greens on the ballot. Only now we will be required to pay filing fees when our candidates declare their intention to run for office. For example, the filing fee for candidates for US senate is $5,000, $3,750 for governor, $3,125 for US representative, etc. Petition signatures can also be submitted in lieu of fees, however since most candidates hire paid signature collectors, this often is more expensive than simply paying the fee.
The corporate two-party duopoly is afraid of a truly plural multi-party democracy. We know that Republicans want to maintain a stranglehold on all statewide offices in Texas. We also know that Democrats will try their hardest to sideline Greens as irrelevant, spoilers candidates or as leftwing extremists that are serious about governing. And while many liberals and centrists continue to disparage the Green Party, for decades we have been advocating for issues that are now mainstream, such as universal single-payer healthcare (aka Medicare for all) and a robust climate action plan (aka the Green New Deal). Many voters know this, and that is why despite attempts by the two major parties to suppress our participation, Greens in Texas and across the nation have garnered tens of millions of votes over the years. As voters across the globe voice their discontent and distrust of current politicians and their inability to address the very real threats of global warming on human society and on our planet, Greens are emerging as a political force, particularly in the countries of the European Union. It is with continued efforts from the grassroots that we can accomplish the same here in Texas.
HB 2504 is our opportunity as Texas Greens to become a force for change. Our state is facing so many dire challenges — from continuing disparities in health and education, entrenched economic inequality, the ever-worsening climate crisis, the injustices of our immigration system, and the toxic effects of corporate control over our government. Neither major party is willing or able to take on the entrenched business and political interests that are standing in the way of progress because they are funded by those same interests. As Greens we only accept donations from individuals and never from any corporations or business interests. We need your support beginning now to help put our candidates on the ballot and make them competitive. Please stay apprised of our efforts as we will call on your support in the near future.