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

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Arkansas Governor Signs Bill Moving Primary and Petition Deadlines

On May 29, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed SB 8, the bill that moves the primary for all office in 2016 from late May to early March, and which moves the petition deadline for new parties to September 2015 and the non-presidential independent deadline to November 2015. The bill also forces new parties to have chosen all their 2016 nominees no later than November 2015. It is possible the Libertarian Party will sue over the deadline for it to have chosen all its nominees.

There has never before been any state that forced new parties to nominate all their nominees for a November even-numbered election an entire year before the election. New parties in Arkansas nominate by convention.

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Nevada Assembly Committee Passes Bill Converting Caucuses to Presidential Primaries

On May 28, the Nevada Assembly Legislative Operations & Elections Committee passed SB 421. It had failed in that committee on May 27. It provides for a February 23, 2016 presidential primary, which would replace the Democratic and Republican caucuses. The primary for other office would continue to be in June. See this story.

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New Mexico Independent Candidate Appeals to Tenth Circuit in Ballot Access Case

On May 29, Tyson Parker filed a notice of appeal in Parker v Duran, the lawsuit over the number of signatures needed for an independent candidate in New Mexico. Parker was an incumbent member of the Public Education Commission, a partisan elected office. He tried to run for re-election in 2014 but since he was an independent, he needed the signatures of 2,196 voters in his district. If he had been running as the nominee of one of New Mexico’s four ballot-qualified parties, he only would have needed 732 signatures. He submitted 1,379 signatures, not enough to meet the independent requirement.

He argued in court that the Constitution does not permit New Mexico to require three times as many signatures for an independent as for a minor party nominee, but the U.S. District Court upheld the law.

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Arkansas Legislature Makes Petition Deadlines for New Parties and Independent Candidates Much Earlier

On May 28, a special session of the Arkansas legislature passed SB 8, which moves the 2016 primary for all office from May to the first Tuesday in March. Also, it moves the filing deadline for candidates running in party primaries from March to November of the year before the election. The bill only relates to the 2016 election, and is automatically repealed after that election is over.

Because the petition deadlines for newly-qualifying parties and non-presidential independent candidates are tied to the date on which candidates file for the primary, this bill makes those independent and minor party petition deadlines much earlier. The non-presidential independent petition deadline for 2016 would be November 9, 2015, if the Governor signs this bill. The petition for newly-qualifying parties becomes September 2, 2015.

Ironically, several independent candidates are already suing Arkansas over the March 2016 deadline. That case is Moore v Martin, e.d., 4:14cv-65. On May 27, the state filed its brief in defense of the old March petition deadline. The state says the plaintiffs don’t have standing because they didn’t petition. However, three times, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down or remanded ballot access restrictions even though the plaintiffs hadn’t petitioned. Those three plaintiffs were Gus Hall (Communist Party presidential candidate, who wanted to get on the California ballot as an independent candidate in 1972), Eugene McCarthy (who wanted to be on the Texas ballot as an independent in 1976), and the Socialist Labor Party (which wanted to be on the Ohio ballot in 1968).

The state’s brief says the Eighth Circuit ruled in Constitution Party of South Dakota v Nelson in 2010 that the Constitution Party didn’t have standing to challenge a South Dakota law on how many signatures a member of the party needed to get on the party’s primary ballot. But the brief of the State of Arkansas doesn’t reveal that the reason for that outcome is that the only Constitution Party candidate who tried to petition to get on his party’s primary ballot refused to be a co-plaintiff in that lawsuit. The state’s brief says that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Thomas T. Storer, an independent candidate for U.S. House in California in 1972, was told by the U.S. Supreme Court that he didn’t have standing to challenge the independent petition requirement. But that was because Storer had been a Democrat during the year before the 1972 primary, and the U.S. Supreme Court said that since Storer didn’t meet the disaffiliation requirement, which was upheld, therefore he couldn’t possibly have petitioned successfully anyway, so his objections to the number of signatures was irrelevant. This is not the same as saying that Storer didn’t have standing because he didn’t circulate a petition. Thanks to Michael Pakko and Frontloading HQ for the news about the Arkansas bill.

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Seattle City Council Candidate Off Ballot Because Her Petition in Lieu of Filing Fee was Five Valid Signatures Short

Seattle holds city council elections this year. Washington state election law says that candidates get on the ballot by filing fee, or by petition in lieu of filing fee. The Seattle filing fee for city council is $1,199.76; or candidates can submit 1,200 valid signatures.

Amanda Helmick chose to submit a petition instead of a filing fee. She submitted 1,318 signatures, but only 1,195 were considered valid. She was willing to pay $5 filing fee to make up for the 5 missing signatures, but Washington state law does not allow candidates to submit a mixture of signatures and money. See this story. The story says she was 9 signatures short, but after re-validation, she was only 5 signatures short.

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Los Angeles Times Misinforms Readers About Possible Effect of Future U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Redistricting

This story in the Los Angeles Times suggests that the future U.S. Supreme Court decision Evenwel v Abbott, 14-940, might cause California and Texas to lose seats in the U.S. House. One must read the entire article to realize it isn’t true. At the very end, election law professor Rick Hasen points out that the Constitution says, “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.”

Evenwel v Abbott has nothing to do with how many Representatives each state gets. It relates to how states should draw their legislative and U.S. House districts. The question it will answer is whether states should draw districts that are equal in population, or equal in the number of eligible voters.