State Elections Funding Called Unconstitutional

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CN) – The state throws all of its public elections funding at the Republican and Democratic Parties, to the detriment of smaller parties, the Moderate Party of Rhode Island says in a constitutional complaint. The state recognized Moderate Party in August 2009, putting it on the ballot for the 2010 gubernatorial election, but failed to change its funding formula, which makes no provision for independent candidates or new political parties.

Rhode Island taxpayers can donate $5 apiece to public financing of political campaigns, under state law. The first $2 for single filers and $4 for couples can be designated to a political party of their choice. If not designated, the money goes into a nonpartisan account, which is distributed according to a formula, under Chapter 30 title 44 of the Rhode Island General Laws.
According to the formula, Rhode Island’s General Treasurer will distribute 20 percent of the money in the nonpartisan account to the political parties that hold each of the four statewide general offices at the time. So the parties holding the positions of lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state each get a 5 percent share.
The remaining money is then handed out “to each political party in proportion to the combined number of votes its candidate for governor received in the previous election.” The money can be used for “party-building purposes and to support general overhead and other expenses,” but is not supposed to be used “directly to support or seek the defeat of any specific candidates,” according to the complaint.
The Moderate Party, new to the ballot, thus has been excluded from the state funding.
It wants the state restrained from handing out the money under formula, which gives state support to the major parties to the exclusion of others.
The Moderate Party is represented by Mark Freel, in cooperation with the American Civil Liberties Union.

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