November 13, 2008 in 2008 Fall
by Claudia Ellquist, Arizona GP CoChair
Citizens, concerned about the state of the country and the world,† have long used blogs, 501c3s,† lobbying groups, and candidate- endorsement PACs† to reach politicians from the over-represented† parties. But
those politicians have underfunded good works, ignored† good ideas, dismissed citizen demands, and cloned their successors.† In the end, when one has done one’s best good deeds, had a say on the† Internet,
written, called and lobbied recalcitrant lawmakers, and† rated the offerings from the over-represented political parties and† found them to be more of the same, what does one do? There is only† one effective
challenge left: organize as a political party and meet† the other parties at the ballot box.
Our national candidates have it right: The Green Party is no longer the Alternative. It is the Imperative.
It isn’t easy, but it is necessary. As of today, the Green Party can possibly get ballot lines in 38 of the 51 states[including the District of Columbia]. Every state has different challenges about getting and maintaining ballot lines, so there is no one-size-fits- all plan for achieving it. But to not seek ballot status is to reduce† the Green Party to another chat room. So here are a few words about† how Arizona succeeded.
1. We built capacity in the off time, hosted the GP-US Annual† National Meeting, ran local candidates and published critiques of† ballot measures — all to show Greens and potential Greens that a† targeted
effort could lead somewhere, that we are part of a bigger organization, and that there is a reason to act.
2. We counted the cost and created a plan:
–What were the legal requirements? (Look at statutes/ Ask Secretary† of State/ask other groups that are petitioning.)
–How much would it cost to print the petitions? (Get bids from† printers.)
–After the easy signatures, what events could we go to, for more signatures?
–What resistance would we likely encounter, and how would we deal† with it? (Don’t waste time arguing, have a FAQ sheet for sincere† questions. But don’t pass stuff out– those who take lit, do not sign.)
–How many signatures a week, gathered by steady effort, establish† that we are serious, and not wasting people’s time? (Goal plus† cushion, divided by time allotted.)
–Where to go for allies? (Out-of-town caravans/ paid circulators/petitioners for initiatives, or candidates, as the “flip side” rubberbanded to the back of their primary petition.)
–Who keeps count, and what protocol prevents double-count? (No petition is added in until it is in hand.)
3. Then a core of us committed to overcoming our societal barriers, approaching strangers, smiling charmingly, and asking for a favor in the name of democracy. The line I found to be quick and persuasive
was: “Hi, would you sign our petition so that the Green Party can† have our candidates’ names appear on the ballot, and YOU will have† MORE CHOICES on ELECTION DAY.” Many signers were frowning their† reluctance, until I got to the part about them and their choices.† Working in pairs was best, but I set personal weekly goals, to get† me out the door, even if nobody else could go on the night when folks
would be standing in line at the concert hall. I publicly thanked my colleagues, by name and numbers, every week, to keep our pace, and feel the progress.
4. We made shamelessly frequent requests for financial support and† for more petitioners. We provided homestays for out-of-town Greens† and saw that they were hydrated, fed, thanked and made to feel part† of a full-push effort. We paired with them, being right there to back† them up when they ran into snags, and shared the successes. In the† end these Greens made the margin of difference. Several, like Cat and
Danene, were Nader supporters, who were conflicted when Nader went† his separate way, and yet, they stayed and worked hard for our Green signatures. Others were McKinney folks or uncommitteds, who took
seriously our promise, nationwide, to offer her ballot lines. Thanks Charlie, Craig and Brian. Three were candidates themselves– Jesse Johnson, Kent Mesplay, Kat Swift– who paid their own way to trudge
along at our side, asking for signatures.
5. Giving back: We recruited local candidates, so everybody would† ride the shared coattail. We gave money back to the GP-US Ballot† Access Committee, to help the next state. We sent a carload of petitioners to
Texas and planned to send a crackerjack signature solicitor to Utah.
Because we ARE more than an alternative. The Green Party is The Imperative.