South Dakota Bill for Filing Fee Alternative to Petitions Passes Committee

On February 5, the South Dakota Senate State Affairs Committee passed SB 95 by a vote of 4-2. The bill says candidates for Governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and legislature may avoid petitioning if they pay a filing fee of 1% of the annual salary of the office. This is true for candidates trying to get on a primary ballot, and it is also true for independent candidates.

The committee has seven members. Both Democrats on the committee, Billie Sutton and Troy Heinert, voted “yes.” Two Republicans, Bob Ewing and Ried Holien, voted “yes.” Two Republicans, Scott Fiegen and Jenna Haggar, voted “no.” Betty Olson was excused for that hearing.

U.S. District Court Keeps Kentucky Libertarian Party 2014 Debate Lawsuit Alive

On February 5, U.S. District Court Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove issued a 22-page opinion in Libertarian National Committee v Holiday, e.d., 14-63. The issue is whether Kentucky Educational TV excluded the Libertarian Party nominee for U.S. Senate from Kentucky, David Patterson, because of prejudice against him and his views. The ruling grants permission for the Libertarian Party to take depositions from the Kentucky Educational TV officers who made the decision to exclude Patterson. The Defendants had tried to get the case dismissed without any further evidence-gathering. Patterson was one of only three candidates on the ballot in 2014 for U.S. Senate; the others were Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The decision mentions one piece of evidence that suggests the TV station made up its mind to exclude Patterson without even waiting to see if he met the objective criteria set forth for candidates. One of the defendants sent an e-mail to employees of the station, stating, “please confirm…we did not and will not invite David Patterson…to the October 13 program, because he did not meet our pre-established criteria.” The words “and will not” are italicized.

During 2014, the TV station set criteria on who could be invited, and then changed them, vastly increasing their difficulty. Presumably the reasons for changing the criteria will be revealed in the next stage of the lawsuit. The decision does say that the final standard, that the candidate must have raised at least $100,000, is not unconstitutional.

Florida Supreme Court Rules that Write-in Candidates are “Real Candidates”

On February 4, the Florida Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Brinkmann v Francois, SC14-1899. It agrees with the Florida State Court of Appeals that write-in candidates in general elections are “real” candidates.

The case arose because Florida has closed primaries, except in instances when all the candidates who file are members of the same party and the winner of that one party’s primary will be be the only candidate in November. At the 2014 election for Broward County Commissioner, district 2, all the candidates who filed for any primary filed for the Democratic primary. But, one person also filed to be a declared write-in at the general election.

The trial court said that the primary should be open to all voters, because it ruled that the general election write-in candidate was ineligible because he didn’t live in district 2. But the Appeals Court, and now the State Supreme Court, ruled that the write-in candidate was eligible. Although the election law says candidates for County Commission must live in the district when they file, the State Constitution says candidates for that office merely must live in that district on election day. The Florida Supreme Court said that the Constitution trumps the election law, and since no one knew where the write-in candidate would be living on election day (at the time the ballots were being printed), the write-in candidate was eligible.

The people who wanted an open primary for that seat argued that even if the write-in candidate was eligible, that his presence should be ignored because it was obvious that he was not a strong candidate and that he had no chance of winning. But the Supreme Court said those considerations don’t matter; a declared write-in candidate is a genuine candidate, regardless of his or her likelihood of winning or even polling a large vote.