Ballot Access News is edited and published by Richard Winger, the nation's leading expert on ballot access legal issues.

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Kansas and Arizona ask U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Lawsuit on Federal Voter Registration Form

On March 24, the states of Kansas and Arizona asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Kobach v U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 14-1164.  This is the dispute over whether those states can require the federal government to alter the postcard voter registration forms in those two states.  The form asks applicants to sign over penalty of perjury that they are U.S. citizens.  The two states want the forms altered to tell applicants that they must attach proof of citizenship.

The U.S. District Court in Kansas had ruled in favor of the two states, but the Tenth Circuit had reversed, basing its decision on the fact that the Commission had held extensive fact-finding hearings on whether the change was necessary, and had determined that the change is not necessary.

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Tentative Minutes of 2015 COFOE Board Meeting Available On-Line

The Coalition for Free & Open Elections (COFOE) is a very loose coalition of most of the nation’s active nationally-organized minor parties, along with other organizations that care about their election law problems.  It was founded in 1985 in New York city.  The Board meets in person once per year.  It met on March 14, 2015, in New York city.  Here are the tentative minutes.  Thanks to Kevin Murphy, COFOE’s webmaster, for posting them.

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Vermont Progressive Party Nominee for Lieutenant Governor Ordered to Pay $72,000 Because he Allegedly Broke Campaign Finance Law

In November 2014, Dean Corren was the Progressive Party nominee for Lieutenant Governor.  He was also nominated by the Democratic Party, and he received 36.1% of the general election vote.  Now the Attorney General, William Sorrell, has sued Corren, saying that an e-mail sent by the Vermont Democratic Party to its list of supporters, inviting recipients to attend a rally featuring U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Governor Peter Shumlin, and Corren, constitutes an illegal campaign contribution to Corren.  Shumlin and Sorrell are both Democrats.

The Attorney General wants Corren to repay $52,000 that he received in public funding, plus a fine of $20,000.  Corren already spent the public funding he received on his campaign.

On March 20, Corren sued the Attorney General in federal court, arguing that the repayment order is disproportionate, and alternatively that the Democratic Party’s e-mail is not a campaign contribution.  The federal case is Corren v Sorrell, 2:15cv-58.  Thanks to the Center for Competitive Elections for this news.  The case is assigned to Judge William K. Sessions, a Clinton appointee. Here is the complaint.

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Kansas Senate Passes Bill Abolishing Presidential Primary

On March 25, the Kansas Senate passed SB 239 unanimously.  It abolishes the presidential primary.  Kansas hasn’t actually had a presidential primary since 1992.  Ever since, the legislature always suspends it before any particular presidential election year.  Thanks to Josh Putnam for this news.  The bill now goes to the House, where a similar bill already passed, so it is extremely likely that it will be eventually signed into law.

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Arizona Senate Tentatively Passes Bill to Make Primary Ballot Access More Difficult for Libertarians

On March 24, the Arizona Senate tentatively passed HB 2608, which makes it more difficult for Libertarian candidates to get on the Libertarian Party primary ballot.  Current law says a member of a small qualified party that is not a new party needs signatures from one-half of 1% of the party’s members.  The bill says a statewide candidate needs the signatures of one-fourth of 1% of all the registered independents in the state, plus the number of members of that party.  U.S. House and legislative candidates will need one-half of 1% of that base.

The bill has already passed the House.  It has no effect on the Green Party, so far, because the Green Party is considered a new party for both 2016 and 2018, because it petitioned early this year.  Here is a news story about the bill.  Thanks to Rick Hasen and Thomas Jones for this news.

The bill is irrational.  The purpose of ballot access petitions is to keep ballots from being too crowded.  But the Libertarian Party ballot in Arizona is never crowded and virtually never has more than one candidate listed.  Assuming the bill becomes law, a Libertarian running for U.S. Senate in 2016 would need 2,987 signatures of registered Libertarians and/or registered independents.  Under current law, only 139 signatures are needed.  UPDATE:  here is another news story.

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Lawsuit Filed to Overturn Missouri Law that Criminalizes Anonymous Handbills Commenting on Candidates

On March 18, an anonymous individual filed a federal lawsuit against a Missouri law that makes it a crime for anyone to circulate a handbill commenting on a candidate for public office, if the handbill doesn’t identify the person paying for the literature.  John Doe v Weedman, w.d., 2:15cv-4054.

The plaintiff wants to circulate literature for the April 7 election for Ferguson city council.  He wants to criticize one candidate, and advocate the election of an opposing candidate.  “John Doe” wants to criticize a candidate who is currently a prosecutor and a judge, and “John Doe” is afraid that if his name is on the handbill, that might have bad consequences for himself.  The case is filed in the western district because it contains the state capital and the lawsuit challenges a state law.  The case is assigned to Judge Dean Whipple, a Reagan appointee.  Thanks to the Center for Competitive Elections for this news.  Here is the complaint.