HF 335, sponsored by State Representative Mary Ann Hanusa (R-Council Bluffs), would move the filing deadline for non-political party organization candidates, who are nominated by petition, up five months from August to March.

Currently, under Iowa law, candidates who are nominated by petition have to file their paperwork 73 days before the general election. Hanusa’s bill would require those candidates to file at the same time as political party candidates, who compete in their party’s primary, who are required to file 81 days before the Iowa primary (“the first Tuesday after the first Monday in each even-numbered year”).

Libertarian Party of Iowa Chair Joseph Howe and Iowa Green Party Chair Henry Gaff decried the change as unconstitutional in a joint statement issued last month.

Representative Mary Ann Hanusa submitted House File 335 this past week to the Iowa House State Government Committee. This bill would move up candidate filing deadlines for non-party organizations (NPPO) like the Libertarian and Green Party candidates to the month of March, the same filing deadline for the major party primary candidates. As the Libertarian and Green national presidential nominating conventions will be held in the summer of 2020, well after the proposed deadline, we will be forced to petition in the dead of winter with substitute candidates, an additional hurdle for our ability to place candidates on the ballot. Additionally, independent candidates would still have until the end of August to file their candidacies. As NPPO’s have the same status as independents, they should be held to the same ballot qualifications. We believe this bill is unconstitutional and discriminates against NPPO’s by not only prohibiting us from running our presidential nominees on the Iowa ticket, but by placing an undue burden on our candidates to meet a deadline designed for primary races, rather than the general election. The US Supreme court has ruled early filing deadlines as unconstitutional due to the burden they place on candidates (Anderson v Celebrezze). It is unfortunate that Hanusa, a Republican, seeks to limit the choices of Iowa voters through government overreach by filing a blatantly unconstitutional bill.  We do not see any true benefit to the citizens of Iowa if this is passed into law, we do understand this partisan bill is meant to protect the establishment parties at the expense of The Constitution and Iowa voters.

Under Iowa law, to be a recognized political party, a non-political party organization must have a presidential or gubernatorial candidate receive at least two percent during the most recent general election. The Libertarian Party of Iowa qualified as a political party in 2016 when their presidential nominee, Gary Johnson, won four percent of the vote in Iowa. They lost that status, however, in 2018 when their gubernatorial nominee, Jake Porter, fell shy receiving 1.6 percent of the vote.

The change, non-political party organizations believe, will make it harder to achieve political party status.

“Right now, only the Democrats and Republicans file in March and Libertarians, Green Party, etc. and Independents have until approximately the third week of August to file. So, my legislation is a matter of equity and consistency, and not an attempt to target any one party and certainly not to outlaw all third parties, as has been alleged,” Hanusa told Caffeinated Thoughts responding to criticism of the bill.

“I had a number of constituents during this last election year bring this issue to my attention, who asked me to address it, so this bill perhaps starts the conversation about the issue,” she added.

HF 335 passed out of subcommittee by a 2 to 1 vote with State Representatives Joe Mitchell (R-Mount Pleasant) and Mike Sexton (R-Rockwell City) voting in favor, and State Representative Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines) dissenting.

The bill must pass out of the Iowa House State Government Committee this week to survive the first funnel of the 2019 legislative session.

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