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Chat Transcript: Ballot Access with Shilpi Niyogi

Shilpi Niyogi, our National Director of Ballot Access, answered questions from the Unity08 community in an online chat on Wednesday, August 30 2007 from 12pm - 1pm ET. Thank you to everyone who participated. If you weren't able to join us, please read the chat transcript below.

Please also keep in mind that we cannot possibly answer everyone's question in one hour, so if you posted questions that we did not get around to, feel free to send them to us at

bdixon(P) Hello everyone. We are going to get started with the chat at 12pm. Please feel free to start submitting your questions now.
echambliss1 (Q) Are we starting the chat @ 12 pm. eastern, central, mountain or pacific time?
bdixon(A) Sorry, we are starting at 12pm Eastern (30 minutes)
echambliss1 (Q) Hello, everyone......Has anyone figured out how we are going to get our candidates on a ballot ?
Shilpi(A) Yes, we have! We done the initial research to understand the rules in every state. Ultimately, we will have to gather more than a million signatures across the country. Unfortunately the rules are different in each state, but we have a comprehensive plan to ensure with your help that we got on the ballot and elect a Unity Ticket for 2008. Here's what we have to do in the next 12 months: establish state orgs, recruit field organizers, identify legal counsel, and recruit/org volunteers to gather signatures
Shilpi(P) Sorry, I started answering early because I am excited to chat with everyone! Don't forget, the transcipt will be available on the web site afterwards. And, you can always send questions to
Wee_Geordie (Q) How do I see what's happening in the chat?
bdixon(A) We will be getting started in 15 minutes. We are just collecting questions at this point for a moderated chat.
bdixon(P) You will be able to ask questions while the chat is taking place but the questions are moderated so they will not appear until they have been answered by Shilpi.
U08_Guy (Q) What is ballot Access
Shilpi(P) Ballot access rules regulate the conditions under which a candidate or political party is entitled to appear on voters' ballots. Laws governing which names may appear on the ballot not only have an impact on the rights of candidates and political parties, but even more importantly, they affect the rights of voters.
U08_Guy (Q) How can I help with Ballot Access?
JR08 (Q) What are the access requirements in Maryland and what can Unity08 members there do to make it happen?
Shilpi(P) These two questions are very similar. The reqs are different in every state. For example, in Maryland, we will need 10k reg voters to sign a petition. 3 ways to help, 1st is volunteers to collect signatures, 2nd volunteer lawyers, 3rd make a donation to fund the effort. If your interested in Ballot Access send me an eMail w/ your contact info and the State you can help in. Send to
JMC (Q) what is the largest number of signatures that would be required to get on the ballot
Shilpi(A) THe largest number is in CA where we need either 90k people to reg with the party or 160k to sign a petition for a unity ticket.
tonyboy (Q) what are the access requirements for florida?
Shilpi(A) Ironically, FL is one of the easiest states. We just need to file as a party and be on the ballot in one other state to be on the ballot for the presidential race.
ga6742 (Q) I assume state parties will challenge Unity08 access. Does Unity08 have any legal team to respond?
Shilpi(A) Yes, our gen counsel is Steptoe & Johnson legal firm and were recruiting volunteer lawyers in every state.
bdixon(P) Hello - a reminder that this is a moderated chat and Shilpi is working on responses. Please keep on submitting questions and she'll get to them as soon as possible.
Phil_Wray (Q) Can you post on the Unity08 website what needs to be done in each of the 50 states to access the ballot and what people can do?
Shilpi(P) Ballot Access Info Map, highlighting all 50 States, will be available on the website in the next two weeks.
matt (Q) Can U08 get on the ballot at this time without the candidate names?
Shilpi(P) In more than 30 states we can get on the ballot by filing or organizing U08 as a party.
JMC (Q) Are online petitions allowed? As opposed to having to go door to door?
Shilpi(P) We're investigating all options to do this faster and more efficiently via the internet, but we're going to have to be both a high tech and a high touch campaign.
classyjunkman (Q) How strong are we now? How many members have signed on to Unity08?
Shilpi(P) We have more than 100k members and with you're help we'll get into the millions soon!
eugenemclean (Q) To get ballot access, do you have to call your organization a "Party", and if so, are we the Unity08 Party?
Shilpi(P) It depends on the state, but in most states the answer is yes.
stanbo (Q) How will we decide who goes on the ballot?
Shilpi(P) You and all of the other U08 members will vote via an online, secure voting process in June 2008.
mason (Q) Are these laws different in each state?
Shilpi(P) Getting on the ballot in all states and D.C. is a complex and costly process—estimates range from a conservative $2.5 million to $10 million
Shilpi(P) Just to clarify, ballot access is complex because the laws are different in every state as are the deadlines.
Dave_D (Q) Where do you see the toughest challenges by state?
Shilpi(P) CA, TX, NY, NC, as well as VT are all tough because of the number of signatures required, short time frames for gathering them, and various local reqs.
kunndunn (Q) I would like for you to address the need to pay volunteers as activists for ballot drives. Usually the candidates inspire the volunteers with their charisma, but would you be amenable to allowing the volunteers to be part-time students, housewives, and retired persons to be paid a minimum wage?
Shilpi(P) We want every American to join U08. This is our chance to make a difference in our government and our country; how we pick our leaders and who our leaders are.
Shilpi(P) We will be building a large volunteer force, but we realize that in some states we will need paid petition gathers.
Ron (Q) How do we get started and what are the tiime deadlines?
Shilpi(P) We have to get started now to ensure that we gather a million signatures in the next 12 months. We have to: -Establish state organizations now in all 50 states - Recruit field organizers– national and state – required to manage and implement the program - Identify legal counsel in each state. -Recruit and organize volunteers to serve as a petition-gathering force
Shilpi(P) The deadlines vary per state starting with some places by the end of 2007 and others until late summer 2008. But, we can do it because we are Americans and we know all about hard work!
AndrewGetInvolved (Q) Do you have a list of ballot access laws (by state) that will help us self organize and get it done?
Shilpi(P) Yes. Within two weeks we'll have a map up on the web site with the reqs for each state and how to get started.
illuminatislave (Q) Has unity08 decided on their candidates?
Shilpi(P) Unity08 members will be the ones to nominate our candidate team... so we need you to get out there and tell the leaders in the this country that you feel will represent us best about U08.
frenche-Euclid-Ohio (Q) This is to slowwwwwwwwwwwwwww
bdixon(A) Thank you for the feedback. Shilpi is typing as fast as she can and we fortunately have alot of people posting questions. We will be providing a full transcript of the chat once everything has wrapped up here.
ump (Q) Does the access apply as an organization or do we have to have selected candidates?
Shilpi(P) In most states, we get on the ballot as a party, but there are 13-14 states where we will get on the ballot once we have candidates in June 08.
fritz (Q) What do you mean "the party." What party do you refer to?
Shilpi(P) What i mean is that in most states we will establish U08 as a political party to get on the ballot.
wapiti (Q) What are the usual tactics to prevent new parties ballot access used by the parties already in power?
Shilpi(P) Challenge petition sigs, take us to court, and block us in any way possible. THat's why we need your help on the ground in every state.
atfoster (Q) What are the two or three most effective ways to gather qualified signatures quickly?
Shilpi(P) 1: weve done the homework to understand the rules in each state. 2: gather 2-3 times the # of sig that the state requires... starting with you, the member and others that you influence. 3: make sure that the signatures that we get are given to us within state guidelines
thalassa1 (Q) Uniformity and consistency of the rules across all states would be a great help. Any hope of that happening? Or would it require a constitutional amendment?
Shilpi(P) THis is one of the issues that u08 memebrs can and likely should raise for the new american agenda and for the candidates that will seek our nomination in june.
flynnsef (Q) Can we obtain a transcript of this chat to share with other who were unable to attend?
bdixon(A) We will be posting a transcript of this chat.
johnvangieson (Q) Are you saing there is no petition signature requirement in Fl
Shilpi(P) Yes!
RSwank (Q) Does every state have Unity Rep?
Shilpi(P) Not yet! Are you ready to do it? If you have experience in field organizing or running campaigns please send an email to
RSwank (Q) What costs money to get access?
Shilpi(P) First of all, raising awareness and getting the word out about U08. Secnd, legal research adn assistance as we get challenged in court. 3rd, holding events and organizing volunteers.
Michael_Bindner (Q) are voters in state partisan primaries or caucuses prohibited in any way under law from joining the Unity08 process?
Shilpi(P) Anyone can sign up for u08 as long as you are a registered voter in the US.
Shilpi(P) In most states, registered voters will be able to sign the ballot access petition. BUt, there are afew states like delaware where we need voters to register as amemeber of the unity08 party.
alcannistraro (Q) Will the ballot access process take place before or after the U-08 candidate selection, or both?
Shilpi(A) Both.
alcannistraro (Q) Will petition-signers know the U-08 candidates when they sign petitions? If not, how likely is it that a person would sign a "blank" petition?
Shilpi(P) Depends on the state. In most states, you will be signing to help u08 get on the ballot as a poltical party. In other states, like NY, you will be signing a petition for the unity08 nominated candidates.
NickT (Q) How many states have deadlines before the end of 2007?
Shilpi(P) there are about 5 states where we have to get on the ballot by the end of this year to qualify as a party. there are a few states where the rules are unclear and we are seeking clarification.
bdixon(P) Quick reminder to everyone - this is a moderated chat so responding to users specifically will probably not make it to Shilpi.
misterlogic (Q) Do you expect people to be interested in Unity08 on the primary ballot without any candidates ?
Shilpi(P) Yes because we know that most americans are fed up with politics as usual.
Shilpi(P) U08 gives all americans a way to participate to raise critical issues, pose questions to the candidates, nominate a candidate team.. which has never before been done in this country!
lenzac714 (Q) Are you going to answer my question on plans to deal with the electoral college which actually will determine who wins?
Shilpi(P) The electoral college issue is an important one and one that you and other members can raise as part of the new american agenda and at our online convention when we are posing questions to the candiadtes.
fritz (Q) When will the Unity08 virtual convention occur? How much time does that give us to get on the ballot in each state?
Shilpi(P) THe convention hall will open in the spring of next year and will culminate in the nomination vote in june 2008.
Shilpi(P) In most states, we will get on the ballot by june of 2008 as a party. However, there will be about a dozen states where wemust have candidates selected to get on the ballot.
JohnChiTown (Q) Do we have a U08 lead person in Illinois?
Shilpi(P) Not yet.. could it be you?
Ash (Q) Shilpi, what happens if a candidate decides (s)he doesn't want to be listed twice on a ballot (e.g. once for Unity08 and once as a Dem) and asks to be dropped from the Unity08 ticket? Can they do that on a state-by-state basis? At what point in the nominating process will this be addressed?
Shilpi(P) First of all, candidates can be drafted by uniyu08 members, but they must choose to run for our nomination. Second, this choice must be to run for our nomination alone.
Shilpi(P) I think that you will find that this will really come to light after feb 2008 and the major party primaries.
fritz (Q) bdixon: But, will you answer all the questions we've asked?
bdixon(A) We are doing our best to cover all of the topics posted but not all of the specific questions per se. We unfortunately cannot answer all of the specific questions as there are just too many (which is great!). If we happen to have missed something that you would like to know more about, please feel free to email your question to
Wee_Geordie (Q) What is the target date for the names on the ticket to be offered in all states?
Shilpi(P) The target date is after our convention vote, July 2008.
Shilpi(P) Y'all are sending in a ton of questions... thanks.. keep them coming!
Shilpi(P) ***finger stretching***
lenzac714 (Q) Unless you can at some point answer concerning the electoal college I will withdraw my support.
Shilpi(P) The members of Unity08 are the ones that will determine how the organization stands on the isseus, any issue, when they find common ground with a the candidate team that we nominate in june 08.
classyjunkman (Q) Let me suggest, one way to get the word out to the general population is to write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. If your paper has a Viewpoints, Rant, or Letters to the Editor page, write to it frequently. I have mentioned U08 in so many letters, the editor stopped publishing them for awahile.
Shilpi(A) Absolutely! GO for it!
kunndunn (Q) Please share with us phoenetically how to pronounce your name Shilpi?
echambliss1 (Q) Is there a written form of the petition on the website for each state we can print off in order to collect signatures?
Shilpi(P) In many states, there are electronic forms and we will give you access to as many of those as possible.
dropkick (Q) Does the number of signatures required vary from state to state and is there a consistent ratio to population?
Shilpi(P) Mot often it is a percentage of registered voters that voted in the last gubernatorial election.
phwoestm (Q) Why can't this chat take place at a time when more people can participate? After 5>
Shilpi(P) This transcript will be online. AND, you can send in questions any time to
jblack (Q) How do you find each Unity state representative.
Shilpi(P) With your help and by recruiting through grassroots orgs, job boards, and more
FitzinVegas (Q) Does signing a petition to create a new party change your registration to that party?
Shilpi(P) Inmost states, signing a petition only means that you support putting a unity8 canddidates on the ballot.
NickT (Q) How many states do people actually have to register for the Unity08 party in order for their signature to count?
Shilpi(P) In delaware, ca, louisiana... these are the 3 states where voteers must register with u08 as a party in order for us to get ballot access. Note, in CA there is also an option for gathering petition sigs and getting on the ballot as an independent cnadidate
kunndunn (Q) I admire your enthusiasm Shilpi, as well as your breath of knowledge.
Shilpi(A) Thank you!
msgreer (Q) What about PR? Will Unity'08 go on the air waves to inform Americans there is another choice in '08?
bdixon(P) Hello everyone - We still have a few questions in the queue and it's 1:00pm. We're going to take a few more questions if you all still have them and then finish up responding as quickly as we can.
Shilpi(P) Indeed! In fact, I was on Air America this morning. Our CEO was on NPR last weekend. And, we had a member on the radio last week doing an interview in his region. Weve also been on tv with OReilly, Hardball, and Colbert.
WALTERC (Q) Since the two "biggies" tend to hold a lot of voters, what plans are being made to avoid Unity08 from becoming just another asterisk party?
Shilpi(P) More than 40% of americans consider themselves to be independent of both major parties. And, we know that there are millions of voters who haven't been to the polls because they are sick of politics as usual. U08 gives all Americans a chance to be heard.
Shilpi(P) I'd like to thank all of you for your questions. I am counting on all of you to help us online and on the ground!
Shilpi(P) You can send any question that haven't been address in this hour to and if you are interested in helping us get on the ballot in your state please email with you contact info and the state that you can assist in.
Shilpi(P) Thanks again!