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Nevada Senate Bill 292 and the Democratic Party’s Anti-Democratic Hypocrisy on Voter Rights – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

Nevada Senate Bill 292 and the Democratic Party’s Anti-Democratic Hypocrisy on Voter Rights – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

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Gennady Stolyarov II


While the Democratic Party often postures as championing voter rights and opposing voter suppression, it frequently engages in voter-suppression tactics of its own, particularly aimed at restricting voters’ ability to choose minor political parties on the ballot. Senate Bill 292, advanced by prominent Democratic Legislators despite overwhelming public opposition, is a case in point.

SB292 is sponsored by former Nevada Democratic Party Chair, now Senator, Roberta Lange. Many have already identified the flaws with SB292’s attempt to implement “straight-party-ticket” voting – an option that discourages thoughtful consideration of individual candidates on their merits. But the largely overlooked Section 2 of SB292 would be much more insidiously damaging in shutting minor political parties out of realistic ballot access by imposing a requirement that petition signatures gathered by minor parties seeking ballot access be “equally apportioned” among the four Congressional districts in Nevada.

The number of petition signatures required in Nevada is already immensely high; one percent of the voters for U.S. Representative at the last general election must sign a minor party’s petition for the party to qualify for ballot access. No party has been able to meet this onerous threshold since 2011. Yet, even if a party is able to surpass it through herculean efforts, the requirement of equal apportionment would mean that the Democratic Party could challenge the minor party’s petition if just one more signature comes from one district than from another. For example, even if a minor party were spectacularly successful and somehow gathered signatures from all the registered voters in Nevada’s most populous 3rd Congressional District, the Democrats could attempt to disqualify that petition on the technicality that an “equal” number of signatures from the other, less populous districts were not attained. SB292’s Section 2 would empower Democrats to thwart every minor party’s petition forever.

Because of the additional coordination required to even attempt to gather petition signatures “equally” by petition district, rather than simply trying to gather as many signatures as possible, one would expect the petitioning effort to be more time-consuming than previously. However, Section 2 of SB292 reduces the time available to a minor party, moving the compliance deadline from the third Friday in June to June 1, thereby further lowering the probability of meeting all requirements. The United States District Court for the District of Nevada in 1992 already struck down a slightly less burdensome deadline of June 10 in the case of Lenora B. Fulani et al. v. Cheryl A. Lau, Secretary of State. A June 1 deadline could be challenged on the same grounds, but the proponents of SB292 wish to impose it regardless.

In Nevada, prominent Democratic Party Legislators seem determined to limit voters’ options at the ballot box. The Green Party, whose nominee finished fourth in the past three U.S. Presidential elections, failed to qualify for ballot access in Nevada in 2012, 2016, and 2020, because of the unreasonable existing petition threshold and significant Democratic Party efforts to disqualify petition signatures in 2016. Nevada is also one of only five states that lack a write-in option, further reinforcing the imperative to relax ballot-access requirements instead of imposing additional ones. At present, minor political parties without access to vast funds, such as the all-volunteer Transhumanist Party, are shut out by intentional barriers to entry imposed at the behest of the major parties.

Do Democrats in power only wish to improve the ease of voting for Democrats, while excluding other options by establishing insurmountable barriers to ballot access? Or will enough Democrats take a stand for their stated principles, support genuine voter choice, and thwart anti-democratic legislation such as SB292?

Senate Bill 292 will be heard at 4 p.m. Pacific Time on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, at the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections. This will be our last chance at direct input to the Legislators regarding this bill. Follow the link above and click on the button to “Participate” in order to register for call-in information. You can also e-mail your written comments to . Be civil and respectful but firm in your opposition to this attempt to severely limit voter choice!

Gennady Stolyarov II is the Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party and the Chief Executive of the Nevada Transhumanist Party.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Second Letter in Opposition to Nevada Senate Bill 292 – Sent to the Senate Committee on Finance – May 4, 2021

U.S. Transhumanist Party Second Letter in Opposition to Nevada Senate Bill 292 – Sent to the Senate Committee on Finance – May 4, 2021

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Gennady Stolyarov II


Note: Senate Bill 292 (SB292), which would make it essentially impossible for minor political parties to compete at the ballot box or even attempt ballot access, continues to be rapidly advanced in Nevada. It was authored by a former Democratic Party Chair who would like to require the number of signatures to be impossibly “equally apportioned” by petitioning district, move the deadline for submitting petitions to an earlier June 1 date, and institute straight-line party-ticket voting that shuts out other options and discourages individualized decision-making.

After SB292 passed on a party-line vote (3 Democrats in favor, 2 Republicans opposed) out of the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections, I drafted a letter to the Senate Committee on Finance, where the bill is headed next, in opposition to SB292. The text of this letter appears below. 

I urge all Nevadans and Transhumanist Party members, as well as those who are sympathetic to other minor political parties, to submit their opinions in opposition to SB292 here: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/81st2021/Be sure to reference the amended, “April 16, 2021” version as the bill you are opposing – so as to signal that even the recently amended bill continues to pose serious problems. If you would like your comments to be published, you can also submit them via e-mail to SenFIN@sen.state.nv.us

The Senate Committee on Finance will meet this Wednesday, May 5, at 6:30 p.m. Pacific Time to hold a public hearing on this bill. Meeting information will be updated on this page: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/81st2021/Bill/7895/Meetings. If you can dial in during the time period for public testimony and lend your voice in opposition, that would be greatly appreciated. Focus your testimony on the adverse fiscal impacts of this bill, as that is what the Committee will be primarily considering. Please feel free to reference any of my arguments below for inspiration. Remember to be civil and respectful but firm in your opposition!

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, May 4, 2021


May 4, 2021

Re: Opposition to Amended Senate Bill 292 (First Reprint)

Dear Chairman Brooks and honorable members of the Senate Committee on Finance:

As Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party and Chief Executive of the Nevada Transhumanist Party, I strongly urge you to oppose Senate Bill 292, which would deprive all minor political parties in Nevada of the opportunity to fairly compete at the ballot box or to even viably attempt such competition.

My comments today will focus on the adverse impacts of Section 2 of the amended (First Reprint) Senate Bill 292, especially the adverse financial impacts to the State of Nevada which are germane to the purview of this Committee.

At a time of great fiscal strain to the State of Nevada, which is just beginning to recover from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and immense economic hardship for the people of this State, it is highly imprudent to impose additional costs upon the State or any of its agencies for the doubly imprudent and entirely deleterious purpose of raising the barriers to ballot access for minor political parties.

While the amended bill no longer raises the petition-signature threshold from 1% to 2% of the Nevada voters who voted in the last election, it does still, via Section 2, Subsection 2, Paragraph (c), seek to impose an impossible “equal apportionment” requirement for the petition signatures and would also move the deadline for submitting petition signatures from the current third Friday in June to June 1.

The “equal apportionment” requirement renders it essentially impossible for a minor political party to qualify via the petition process and also unnecessarily burdens the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office.

Currently, to verify the validity of a petition signature, the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office simply needs to consider an individual petition signature and whether it belongs to a registered voter in the State of Nevada. With Section 2 of SB292, the Secretary of State’s Office would have the additional burden of verifying that the signatures are “equally apportioned” among the four petition districts in Nevada. This could lead to a significant expenditure of time and resources beyond what can be formally budgeted for – because the added workload would be sporadic, punctuated, and inherently unpredictable given the difficulty in anticipating when (i.e., during what election season) a minor party would seek to qualify for ballot access, as well as how many minor parties would seek to qualify. The potential for significant additional costs to the State of Nevada will be illustrated below via a discussion of how the bill would burden the State by encouraging a multitude of major-party challenges to any minor-party petitions that are submitted.

Nevada has four petition districts, corresponding to the U.S. Congressional Districts. The 3rd Congressional District is the most populous, with a population of 857,197 as of 2019. All three of the other Congressional Districts have populations below 800,000. Suppose that a minor political party were spectacularly successful in gathering petition signatures and managed to collect them from the entire population of registered voters in the 3rd Congressional District. (For this example, I assume that the proportion of registered voters to the general population is the same in each Congressional District.) The very fact that this minor political party could accomplish such a feat would ironically render it impossible for that party to qualify for ballot access, because the other petition districts simply do not have enough registered voters to match the number of signatures gathered from the 3rd Congressional District in that case.

Moreover, the “equal apportionment” requirement renders it almost effortless for a major party to initiate challenges to petitions submitted by minor parties, simply by counting the signatures from each district and noting any difference whatsoever in the numbers of signatures, even if the difference is literally one signature! Even if the total number of signatures is well above 1 percent of the registered voters statewide, if the number of signatures gathered in one petition district were 10,000, and the number of signatures gathered in another petition district were 10,001, that also, by itself, would be sufficient to technically fall out of compliance with the requirement of “equal apportionment”. Note that the text of the amended NRS 293.1715(2)(c) would not allow any room for deviation from a strictly “equal” apportionment. There is no mention of a possibility for the apportionment to be made “approximately equal” or “reasonably equal” or “equal within a tolerance of X%”; the text would mandate strict equality of petition signatures by district, and it appears to enable major parties to seek to disqualify any minor party’s petition on a technicality. Given that different circulators of petitions are likely to operate in different petition districts, it is virtually certain that different numbers of signatures will be gathered by each team of circulators. This is so because the precise coordination at the level that would be needed to achieve exactly equal numbers of signatures among all four districts and to stop gathering signatures in a perfectly choreographed fashion once such equal numbers were attained, would be essentially impossible to achieve.

While it would be easy for major political parties to challenge a minor party’s petition under these circumstances, the experience would be made more difficult for the Secretary of State’s Office and the judicial system of the State of Nevada, because more challenges could be expected to be initiated than otherwise. Responding to a contested matter always involves an added, indeterminate, potentially immense expenditure which, I reiterate, has no compelling public benefit behind it.

Moving the deadline for petitions to June 1 would both unduly burden minor political parties and expose the State of Nevada to additional costs from potential legal challenges.

Because of the additional coordination required to even attempt to gather petition signatures “equally” by petition district, as contrasted with simply trying to gather as many signatures as possible, one would expect that the petitioning effort would be more time-consuming than previously. However, Section 2 of SB292 reduces the available time for a minor party to comply with the added burdens, thereby further lowering the probability of successfully meeting all of the requirements. This disenfranchises the citizens of Nevada who would like to see more options at the ballot box.

Moreover, the United States District Court for the District of Nevada already struck down an even somewhat less burdensome deadline of June 10; this occurred when the Judge in the case of Lenora B. Fulani et al. v. Cheryl A. Lau, Secretary of State (“Fulani v. Lau” – Case CV-N-92-535-ECR) issued a preliminary injunction on October 1, 1992, to require the State of Nevada to include Lenora Fulani and other independent and minor-party candidates on the ballot despite those candidates not having been able to gather the required number of signatures by June 10 of that year. In issuing the preliminary injunction (which effectively decided the case, since the election took place in November of the same year), the Judge wrote “that plaintiffs have shown likely success on the merits, that the balance of hardships tips in their favor and that they will suffer irreparable injury if their names are not put on the 1992 ballot” (Fulani v. Lau, p. 14). The Judge explained that

The character and magnitude of plaintiffs[‘] injury caused by the June 10 filing deadline shows a burden on their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The deadline burdens the rights of nonmajor parties[‘] candidates by excluding late[-]forming parties and forcing candidates to circulate petitions before most of the voting population has thought about the elections. Although this date is not as early as others which have been struck down as unconstitutional, most other states require the petitions be submitted several months later. Also, no evidence suggests that candidates who lack an established national affiliation are easily able to access the ballot. (Fulani v. Lau, p. 11)

If the United States District Court found that a June 10 petition-filing deadline is burdensome to non-major parties’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, then, logically, a June 1 deadline would be even more burdensome. Such a deadline would indeed serve to thwart any but the most amply funded minor political parties, if those parties choose to begin gathering the signatures extremely early in the year, whereas new minor parties, as well as minor parties that rely largely or exclusively on volunteer efforts and grass-roots organizing, would find themselves hobbled by lack of time. SB292 is seeking to institute in Nevada law a deadline more stringent than the one which the District Court has already overturned. SB292 would also entrench the role of money in politics and cost money to the State in doing so.

If SB292 is enacted with the June 1 deadline, then any number of parties adversely affected by that deadline could file a legal challenge with Fulani v. Lau as a precedent. The State of Nevada could be exposed to the costs of a legal proceeding, along with associated attorneys’ fees. The costs of responding to such a legal challenge are again indeterminate but potentially immense. Comments submitted separately to this Committee by Mr. Richard Winger discuss situations in other States where such early petition deadlines were struck down and those States were left with the expenses of the associated proceedings. To emphasize, this is not an outcome that I would wish for the State to experience in any manner; as a citizen of this State, I, too, would be adversely affected by continued needless expenditures on legal contests at a time when the State needs to devote all available resources to the economic recovery and to the genuine well-being of its residents.  This is why I urge this Committee and the Legislature more generally to refrain from proceeding with SB292 and to avert such an outcome.

Senate Bill 292 is bad policy, counterproductive in all respects, and the fiscal burdens and risks it imposes upon the State have no offsetting benefits. Indeed, Senate Bill 292 exacerbates a highly polarized political situation to the detriment even of major-party officeholders.

Senate Bill 292 would achieve the opposite of establishing a fair, level playing field for political candidates and parties.  Unfortunately, Senate Bill 292, if enacted, will only serve to exacerbate today’s political trench warfare by solidifying the bifurcation of the contemporary American body politic into two blocs that have each become increasingly monolithic and radicalized internally, and increasingly hostile toward the other, with no room between them to pursue unconventional and innovative solutions that can bridge partisan divides. This anticipated effect of SB292 is likely not anyone’s intention; however, the two-party system in the United States has a built-in downward spiral of incivility, hostility, and division which has, over the past year, crossed the line from mere acrimony into deadly riots and insurrections from extreme exponents of both sides of the partisan gulf. Any Legislator interested in stable and sensible governance should seek to avert an intensification of this scenario, and there is a vital role for a vibrant minor-party ecosystem in helping to prevent it.

How does Senate Bill 292 exacerbate political polarization? It does so by making it effectively impossible for minor political parties to even attain ballot access – in the ways described above. This bill would make it clear to voters that minor parties are not just long-shot participants but are effectively shut out of the process altogether. Thus, many people who would have otherwise given a minor party a chance would be shunted into one of the major political parties that is barely more aligned with their views than the other major political party. This would reinforce the bifurcation of America into two distinct blocs which are engaged in an ever-intensifying struggle with one another, to the detriment of any actual progress on policy and any actual solutions to the many pressing problems (including fiscal problems) facing our State, country, and world. Bifurcation of the American body politic creates an “us-versus-them” dynamic, where anyone who is not part of one’s own bloc is automatically considered to be “the enemy” and whose ideas are automatically disregarded. The record increase in independent and nonpartisan voters already shows many Americans to be disillusioned by the toxicity and acrimony that characterize the electoral tactics of the major parties and their most vocal adherents. Without minor parties for them to seek alternatives in, these Americans will either be reluctantly dragged into the deleterious fray they have always wished to avoid, or try to refrain from political participation altogether – in which case the fray will still find them, as extremists from the major parties have increasingly been demonizing conscientiously apolitical Americans as well.

The antidote to polarization is hyper-pluralism, which is precisely what a vibrant minor-party scene would facilitate. In a hyper-pluralistic body politic, there is no clear “enemy” for any constituent, because different smaller parties will align with one another on different issues; one’s adversary on one issue could be an ally on another, and so it is worthwhile to remain on at least respectful terms with everyone. It is for this reason that parliamentary democracies, which allow for proportional representation and numerous political parties competing on each ballot, are generally far less roiled by partisan strife than America’s uniquely contentious two-party system. But Nevada does not even need to adopt a parliamentary system to achieve a similar outcome; it just needs to allow minor political parties to compete on the ballots. Note that we are not even asking for the minor parties to win (which would still be difficult enough on its own), but merely to be allowed to compete!

Allowing quick, easy ballot access for minor political parties is the low-cost ­option to the State of Nevada as well. The less time and effort need to be spent validating petition signatures or enforcing restrictions, the more savings result for the State of Nevada.

Even the possibility of competition motivates both incumbent officeholders and major-party candidates to be more responsive to the needs of their constituents. Furthermore, minor parties can be fruitful repositories of ideas for major-party politicians to draw upon; the Transhumanist Party would be delighted to have any of its platform reflected in legislation advanced by major-party lawmakers. Ideas from minor parties tend to sufficiently depart from the prevailing major-party packages that they avoid triggering contentious and mutually intransigent debates about “wedge” issues and so may actually lead to solutions that most major-party policymakers are willing to entertain. Incumbents and major-party candidates can even derive much valuable campaign intelligence from election results involving minor political parties. A strong showing for a minor party indicates a set of issues that voters are interested in and that the incumbent or major-party candidate would do well to address while in office or on the campaign trail. Having a wealth of ideas from minor parties to draw upon will also improve the State of Nevada’s fiscal situation, since minor parties – which, out of necessity, have significant experience running low-budget or no-budget operations – will often develop creative ways to reduce expenditures without compromising the quality of service and benefits that the State provides to its residents.

By shutting minor parties out of viable political participation, Senate Bill 292 would only accomplish the illusion of stability for leading figures of a major political party. In reality, one cannot have a stable or tranquil political experience in a general environment marred by ideological polarization and all of its attendant ills. Depriving people of legitimate alternatives will only alienate them further and feed into the undercurrents of frustration and perceived disenfranchisement that permeate American politics today. Minor political parties are a major safety valve of American politics and can act to effectively channel dissent and discontentment into constructive avenues of mutual improvement and enhanced justice.  In the Federalist No. 10, James Madison, at the onset of the American Republic, noted that the advantage of a large representative republic is precisely in “the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest”. The American Founders, who feared precisely the scenario of two dominant factions vying for power at the citizens’ and the Republic’s expense, saw the “greater variety of parties” as an important safeguard against such an outcome. The Transhumanist Party echoes the Founders’ wisdom and would urge the Legislature to consider reforms in the opposite direction from those proposed in SB292 – namely, the elimination of all ballot-access requirements and the ability of any candidate or political party to compete fairly for office on the same terms as any other. After all, if a minor-party candidate is unpersuasive to the voters and the major-party candidates remain more popular, what is there truly for a major party to fear from allowing participation for all? But in the absence of such truly progressive reforms, we urge that the Legislature at least refrain from taking steps that would further limit electoral competition.

Removing ballot-access restrictions, rather than maximizing them, is the fiscally prudent, the consequentially best, and the morally just option. Please reject Senate Bill 292.

Sincerely,

Mr. Gennady Stolyarov II

Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party

Chief Executive, Nevada Transhumanist Party

https://transhumanist-party.org

Amended Nevada Senate Bill 292 Continues to Place Impossible Burdens on Minor Political Parties – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

Amended Nevada Senate Bill 292 Continues to Place Impossible Burdens on Minor Political Parties – Article by Gennady Stolyarov II

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Gennady Stolyarov II


The anti-minor-party Nevada Senate Bill 292 has advanced out of the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections on a party-line vote (3 Democrats in favor, 2 Republicans opposed). An amendment from the bill sponsor was included in the bill; Amendment No. 230 is an incremental improvement but maintains essentially insurmountable barriers for minor political parties. While the amended bill no longer raises the petition-signature threshold from 1% to 2% of the Nevada voters who voted in the last election, it does still seek to impose an impossible “equal distribution” requirement for the petition signatures and also moves the deadline for submitting petition signatures from the current third Friday in June to June 1.

Section 2 of SB292 is the most onerous for minor political parties. The provisions further limiting ballot access, relative to the already significant requirements, are found in the new language that the bill sponsor, Nevada Senator and former Nevada Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange, wishes to insert in NRS 293.1715(2)(c), stating that to qualify for ballot access, a minor political party must:

(New proposed wording above is in bold blue italics, wording proposed to be deleted is in red strikethrough.)

While various other problems exist with SB292, particularly with the concept of straight-ticket, party-line voting – which aims to absolve voters of the essential responsibility to study individual candidates and their stances on the issues – the present commentary will focus on the most egregious flaws with Section 2 of the bill: requiring that the petition signatures be “apportioned equally among the petition districts” and moving the deadline for submitting petition signatures to June 1 preceding the general election.

The bill sponsor appears to be of the impression that removing the previously proposed doubling of the number of petition signatures required would alleviate the most visible added burden on minor political parties. Yet the remaining requirement of equal apportionment is actually far more burdensome and more insidiously so. It requires several more steps in one’s thought process to discern the burden – hence, the bill proponents may believe it to be a viable option to insert such a provision without significant portions of the public noticing or voicing their objections. Therefore, it is important to elucidate the immense problems with the “equal apportionment” criterion.

Nevada has four petition districts, corresponding to the U.S. Congressional Districts. The 3rd Congressional District is the most populous, with a population of 857,197 as of 2019. All three of the other Congressional Districts have populations below 800,000. Suppose that a minor political party were spectacularly successful in gathering petition signatures and managed to collect them from the entire population of registered voters in the 3rd Congressional District. (For this example, we will assume that the proportion of registered voters to the general population is the same in each Congressional District.) The very fact that this minor political party could accomplish such a feat would render it impossible for that party to qualify for ballot access, because the other petition districts simply do not have enough registered voters to match the number of signatures gathered from the 3rd Congressional District in that case.

Moreover, the “equal apportionment” requirement renders it almost effortless for a major party to challenge petitions submitted by minor parties, simply by counting the signatures from each district and noting any difference whatsoever in the numbers of signatures, even if the difference is literally one signature! Even if the total number of signatures is well above 1 percent of the registered voters statewide, if the number of signatures gathered in one petition district were 10,000, and the number of signatures gathered in another petition district were 10,001, that also, by itself, would be sufficient to technically fall out of compliance with the requirement of “equal apportionment”. Note that the text of the amended NRS 293.1715(2)(c) would not allow any room for deviation from a strictly “equal” apportionment. There is no mention of a possibility for the apportionment to be made “approximately equal” or “reasonably equal” or “equal within a tolerance of X%”; the text would mandate strict equality of petition signatures by district, and it appears to me that the Democratic Party proponents of the bill did this intentionally to be able to disqualify any minor party’s petition on a technicality. Given that different circulators of petitions are likely to operate in different petition districts, it is virtually certain that different numbers of signatures will be gathered by each team of circulators. This is so because precise coordination at the level that would be needed to achieve exactly equal numbers of signatures among all four districts and to stop gathering signatures in a perfectly choreographed fashion once such equal numbers were attained, would be essentially impossible to achieve.

Moreover, suppose a minor political party represented a set of positions that resonated to a greater extent with a particular segment of the Nevada population – for instance, young urban professionals, ranchers, miners, university students, residents of rural areas. Each petition district has considerably different proportions of these demographics than the other. For instance, the 1st Congressional District is 99.90% urban, so a hypothetical party that focused on representing the interests of ranchers or rural residents would find quite limited support there.  Some city dwellers might, of course, sign a petition for such a party’s ballot access on principle, because they support inclusion of all political parties on the ballot; however, from a sheer probabilistic standpoint, the number of such people would be fewer than the number of people in rural areas who would be willing to sign that party’s petition. Even if the hypothetical party representing rural interests only intended to run candidates in rural areas, it would still need to receive an equal number of signatures from each urban-heavy petition district in order to qualify for the ballot. Therefore, regional parties or parties representing specific constituencies would essentially be permanently barred from ballot access by the “equal apportionment” requirement.

Because of the additional coordination required to even attempt to gather petition signatures “equally” by petition district, as contrasted with simply trying to gather as many signatures as possible, one would expect that the petitioning effort would be more time-consuming than previously. However, Section 2 of SB292 reduces the available time for a minor party to comply with the added burdens, thereby further lowering the probability of successfully meeting all of the requirements.

Moreover, the United States District Court for the District of Nevada already struck down an even less burdensome deadline of June 10; this occurred when the Judge in the case of Lenora B. Fulani et al. v. Cheryl A. Lau, Secretary of State (“Fulani v. Lau” – Case CV-N-92-535-ECR) issued a preliminary injunction on October 1, 1992, to require the State of Nevada to include Lenora Fulani and other independent and minor-party candidates on the ballot despite those candidates not having been able to gather the required number of signatures by June 10 of that year. In issuing the preliminary injunction (which effectively decided the case, since  the election took place in November of the same year), the Judge wrote “that plaintiffs have shown likely success on the merits, that the balance of hardships tips in their favor and that they will suffer irreparable injury if their names are not put on the 1992 ballot” (Fulani v. Lau, p. 14). The Judge explained that

The character and magnitude of plaintiffs[‘] injury caused by the June 10 filing deadline shows a burden on their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The deadline burdens the rights of nonmajor parties[‘] candidates by excluding late[-]forming parties and forcing candidates to circulate petitions before most of the voting population has thought about the elections. Although this date is not as early as others which have been struck down as unconstitutional, most other states require the petitions be submitted several months later. Also, no evidence suggests that candidates who lack an established national affiliation are easily able to access the ballot. (Fulani v. Lau, p. 11)

If the United States District Court found that a June 10 petition-filing deadline is burdensome to non-major parties’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, then, logically, a June 1 deadline would be even more burdensome. Such a deadline would indeed serve to thwart any but the most amply funded minor political parties, if those parties choose to begin gathering the signatures extremely early in the year, whereas new minor parties, as well as minor parties that rely largely or exclusively on volunteer efforts and grass-roots organizing, would find themselves hobbled by lack of time. SB292 is seeking to institute in Nevada law a deadline more stringent than the one which the District Court has already overturned.

There is still time to express opposition to Senate Bill 292, particularly to the requirement that petition signatures be equally apportioned and the earlier June 1 deadline for submitting such signatures. SB292 is already one of the most actively commented on and least popular bills of the 2021 Legislative Session, with 209 public opinions expressed in opposition and only 4 in favor.  You can submit your opinion in opposition to SB292 here and also e-mail the Senate Committee on Finance, where SB292 will be headed next, at SenFIN@sen.state.nv.us, as well as e-mail the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections at AsmLOE@asm.state.nv.us. The Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections would be the committee where SB292 would be heard if it were to pass in the Senate. Please express your concerns civilly and politely but make it clear that you do not agree with any attempts to further limit minor-party ballot access. Also, please spread this article to as many constituencies as possible! People of nearly all political persuasions should be able to agree on the importance of voter choice and to abhor the injustice of intentionally restricting candidates and parties from even being available for voters to consider.

Even the current ballot-access thresholds in Nevada are unduly stringent; the last time a minor political party qualified for the ballot through petitioning in Nevada was in 2011, when the Americans Elect organization was able to submit the required number of signatures. It is time to pursue reforms in the opposite direction from Section 2 of SB292; it is time to repeal all petitioning requirements for ballot access and allow voters the choice of any candidate or party whom they wish to support. At minimum, it is essential to oppose the placement of any further obstacles along the path to ballot access. All provisions of SB292 related to minor political parties should be amended out of the bill upon further revision. Please add your voice to this important effort to preserve electoral choice and to oppose one major party’s efforts to monopolize Nevada elections.

Gennady Stolyarov II is the Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party. 

U.S. Transhumanist Party Letter in Opposition to Nevada Senate Bill 292

U.S. Transhumanist Party Letter in Opposition to Nevada Senate Bill 292

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Gennady Stolyarov II


Note: Senate Bill 292, which would make it essentially impossible for minor political parties to compete at the ballot box or even attempt ballot access, is being rapidly advanced in Nevada. It was authored by a former Democratic Party Chair who would like to double the petition-signature requirement for ballot access, require the number of signatures to be impossibly “equally apportioned” by petitioning district, and institute straight-line party-ticket voting that shuts out other options and discourages individualized decision-making.

In an urgent, almost last-minute action, I drafted a letter to the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections in opposition to that bill. The letter, as submitted to the Committee, can be found here

I urge all Nevadans and Transhumanist Party members, as well as those who are sympathetic to other minor political parties, to submit their opinions in opposition to SB292 here: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/81st2021/

The Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections will meet this Thursday, April 1, at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time to hold a public hearing on this bill. Meeting information will be updated on this page: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/81st2021/Bill/7895/Meetings. If you can dial in during the time period for public testimony and lend your voice in opposition, that would be greatly appreciated.

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, March 31, 2021


March 31, 2021

Re: Opposition to Senate Bill 292

Dear Chairman Ohrenschall and honorable members of the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections:

As Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party and Chief Executive of the Nevada Transhumanist Party, I strongly urge you to oppose Senate Bill 292, which would deprive all minor political parties in Nevada of the opportunity to fairly compete at the ballot box or to even viably attempt such competition.

The Transhumanist Party is an alliance of over 3300 members who advocate for transcending the flaws and limitations of the human condition through technology and for putting science, health, and technology at the forefront of American politics. We advocate initiatives and reforms that will improve the human condition for as many people as possible, with as much beneficial impact as possible – and without regard for scoring political points or defeating “the other side”. In the realm of electoral policy, we advocate for such measures as ranked-preference voting, electronic voting, proportional representation, all-inclusive debates, elimination of ballot-access requirements, and limitation of lobbying by politically connected special interests, while increasing the influence of advocacy by intelligent laypersons. We hold that all contemporary societal, political, and material problems can be solved if we look away from the political trench warfare of today and up toward a far brighter future.

The Transhumanist Party is resolutely opposed to Section 2 of SB292, which would double the number of required petition signatures from 1 percent to 2 percent of the voters who voted in Nevada in the last preceding general election. The 1-percent threshold would already be exorbitantly costly to parties with small or non-existent budgets, at a typical cost of $4 or more per petition signature. A 2-percent threshold would be essentially unattainable. Even more onerous is the requirement in Section 2 that the petition signatures “must be apportioned equally among the petition districts” – which is essentially impossible to fulfill. If a minor party gathers one more signature, or perhaps two fewer signatures, from one petition district than from another, does that make the apportionment of signatures unequal and thus disqualify the entire petition? Moreover, if a minor political party represents constituents who are predominantly located in one part of the State, is this party to be permanently barred from ballot access just because its constituents are not evenly spread throughout the petition districts? All residents of Nevada have legitimate political interests and a need for representation, no matter whether those interests are geographically localized or dispersed. Clearly, the requirement for equal apportionment is an artificial hurdle that is designed to be essentially impossible for minor parties to surmount. With such a requirement in place, it would become easy for a major political party to challenge and disqualify any number of petition signatures gathered by a minor political party after great expenditures of time, effort, and resources. Major parties could therefore suppress minor-party participation through tactics of attrition. To add to the burdens, Section 2 would reduce by about three weeks the time available to gather the doubly high, equally apportioned petition signatures. How impossible is it possible to make ballot access? And is that the question that good public policy should really be striving to answer? There is no compelling benefit to the people of the State of Nevada from being deprived of options to consider at the ballot box; indeed, limiting their choices only makes an illusion out of claims that our electoral system is democratic or representative.

The Nevada Transhumanist Party has been registered with the Secretary of State since August 31, 2015, and has maintained compliance with all requirements for a minor political party without ballot access. In early 2020 the Nevada Transhumanist Party was engaged in significant internal deliberations about attempting a petitioning effort to achieve ballot access; while the current threshold pursuant to NRS 293.1715 (1 percent of the total number of votes cast at the preceding general election for the offices of Representative in Congress) appeared to be quite daunting to a small, all-volunteer organization which refuses all special-interest funding on principle, we were nonetheless willing to give it an earnest attempt. Then COVID-19 arrived, and the resulting lockdown measures essentially prohibited petitioning for ballot access, even as the petitioning requirement itself was not lifted. This effectively prevented any minor political party from safely attempting to qualify for ballot access, and thus entrenched the ability of incumbent major political parties to operate without available alternatives. We thought the 1-percent signature requirement was onerous, but potentially attainable with immense effort. A 2-percent signature requirement, on the other hand, would be impossible for any political party except those with immense budgets funded by large donors. Whatever happened to limiting the influence of money in politics?

The Transhumanist Party also opposes the provisions of Sections 1 and 4 of SB292, which would establish straight-ticket party voting in Nevada. While the straight-ticket voting would technically apply to both major and minor political parties, the overwhelming benefit would accrue to major political parties, who are more likely to have candidates in the vast majority of races. Moreover, straight-ticket voting would discourage voters who are normally inclined toward one political party from even considering minor-party, independent, or nonpartisan candidates in individual races where those candidates might more strongly align with those voters’ views. Every voter is an individual and does not always adhere to the entire package of ideas in a major-party platform. This individuality and diversity of opinions should be respected, and each voter should accordingly be motivated and encouraged to research all of the individual candidates and issues and make an informed decision, rather than just delegating his or her nuanced preferences to a monolithic party line.

Straight-ticket voting is even disadvantageous for many candidates of major political parties, and I urge members of the Legislature to oppose it even if solely on the grounds of their personal self-interest. Consider this: if you are a Legislator from either major political party who nonetheless wishes to reach out to constituents from the other major political party – to build bridges and find common ground – straight-ticket voting will act to your detriment, because it will encourage voters who typically align with the other major political party to vote for that party’s candidate no matter what – even if you are a bridge-builder and the other candidate is an extremist who alienates much of his or her own constituency.

The Transhumanist Party also opposes Section 3 of SB292, because it would limit by more than three weeks the time available for a minor party to respond to a challenge of its qualification to place the names of candidates on the ballot. If, by some fantastical confluence of effort and luck, the minor party does manage to gather the newly required number of signatures, the amount of time available to defend them from the inevitable major-party challenge would be further narrowed to often render such a defense untenable.

Senate Bill 292 would achieve the opposite of establishing a fair, level playing field for political candidates and parties.  Unfortunately, Senate Bill 292, if enacted, will only serve to exacerbate today’s political trench warfare by solidifying the bifurcation of the contemporary American body politic into two blocs that have each become increasingly monolithic and radicalized internally, and increasingly hostile toward the other, with no room between them to pursue unconventional and innovative solutions that can bridge partisan divides. This anticipated effect of SB292 is likely not anyone’s intention; however, the two-party system in the United States has a built-in downward spiral of incivility, hostility, and division which has, over the past year, crossed the line from mere acrimony into deadly riots and insurrections from extreme exponents of both sides of the partisan gulf. Any Legislator interested in stable and sensible governance should seek to avert an intensification of this scenario, and there is a vital role for a vibrant minor-party ecosystem in helping to prevent it.

How does Senate Bill 292 exacerbate political polarization? It does so by making it effectively impossible for minor political parties to even attain ballot access – in the numerous ways described above. This bill would make it clear to voters that minor parties are not just long-shot participants but are effectively shut out of the process altogether. Thus, many people who would have otherwise given a minor party a chance would be shunted into one of the major political parties that is barely more aligned with their views than the other major political party. This would reinforce the bifurcation of America into two distinct blocs which are engaged in an ever-intensifying struggle with one another, to the detriment of any actual progress on policy and any actual solutions to the many pressing problems facing our State, country, and world. Bifurcation of the American body politic creates an “us-versus-them” dynamic, where anyone who is not part of one’s own bloc is automatically considered to be “the enemy” and whose ideas are automatically disregarded. The record increase in independent and nonpartisan voters already shows many Americans to be disillusioned by the toxicity and acrimony that characterize the electoral tactics of the major parties and their most vocal adherents. Without minor parties for them to seek alternatives in, these Americans will either be reluctantly dragged into the deleterious fray they have always wished to avoid, or try to refrain from political participation altogether – in which case the fray will still find them, as extremists from the major parties have increasingly been demonizing conscientiously apolitical Americans as well.

The antidote to polarization is hyper-pluralism, which is precisely what a vibrant minor-party scene would facilitate. In a hyper-pluralistic body politic, there is no clear “enemy” for any constituent, because different smaller parties will align with one another on different issues; one’s adversary on one issue could be an ally on another, and so it is worthwhile to remain on at least respectful terms with everyone. It is for this reason that parliamentary democracies, which allow for proportional representation and numerous political parties competing on each ballot, are generally far less roiled by partisan strife than America’s uniquely contentious two-party system. But Nevada does not even need to adopt a parliamentary system to achieve a similar outcome; it just needs to allow minor political parties to compete on the ballots. Note that we are not even asking for the minor parties to win (which would still be difficult enough on its own), but merely to be allowed to compete! Even the possibility of competition motivates both incumbent officeholders and major-party candidates to be more responsive to the needs of their constituents. Furthermore, minor parties can be fruitful repositories of ideas for major-party politicians to draw upon; the Transhumanist Party would be delighted to have any of its platform reflected in legislation advanced by major-party lawmakers. Ideas from minor parties tend to sufficiently depart from the prevailing major-party packages that they avoid triggering contentious and mutually intransigent debates about “wedge” issues and so may actually lead to solutions that most major-party policymakers are willing to entertain. Incumbents and major-party candidates can even derive much valuable campaign intelligence from election results involving minor political parties. A strong showing for a minor party indicates a set of issues that voters are interested in and that the incumbent or major-party candidate would do well to address while in office or on the campaign trail.

By shutting minor parties out of viable political participation, Senate Bill 292 would only accomplish the illusion of stability for leading figures of a major political party. In reality, one cannot have a stable or tranquil political experience in a general environment marred by ideological polarization and all of its attendant ills. Depriving people of legitimate alternatives will only alienate them further and feed into the undercurrents of frustration and perceived disenfranchisement that permeate American politics today. Minor political parties are a major safety valve of American politics and can act to effectively channel dissent and discontentment into constructive avenues of mutual improvement and enhanced justice.  In the Federalist No. 10, James Madison, at the onset of the American Republic, noted that the advantage of a large representative republic is precisely in “the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest”. The American Founders, who feared precisely the scenario of two dominant factions vying for power at the citizens’ and the Republic’s expense, saw the “greater variety of parties” as an important safeguard against such an outcome. The Transhumanist Party echoes the Founders’ wisdom and would urge the Legislature to consider reforms in the opposite direction from those proposed in SB292 – namely, the elimination of all ballot-access requirements and the ability of any candidate or political party to compete fairly for office on the same terms as any other. After all, if a minor-party candidate is unpersuasive to the voters and the major-party candidates remain more popular, what is there truly for a major party to fear from allowing participation for all? But in the absence of such truly progressive reforms, we urge that the Legislature at least refrain from taking steps that would further limit electoral competition. Please reject Senate Bill 292.

Sincerely,

Mr. Gennady Stolyarov II, FSA, ACAS, MAAA, CPCU, ARe, ARC, API, AIS, AIE, AIAF

Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party

Chief Executive, Nevada Transhumanist Party