Since 1991, West Virginia has had an election law that says candidates (other than independent candidates) must be registered members of the party that nominates them. On September 17, the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office informed the Mountain Party that if it wants to nominate a presidential candidate in 2008, that candidate must be a registered member of the Mountain Party.
In response, the Mountain Party pointed out that the Secretary of State had never enforced this law in the past against presidential candidates. If she had, George H. W. Bush, Ross Perot, George W. Bush, and Michael Badnarik, could not have appeared on the West Virginia ballot, since they all live in Texas and Texas has no registration by party. Similarly, Bill Clinton could not have appeared on the ballot, since Arkansas did not have registration by party. Also Ralph Nader could not have been the Green Party nominee in 2000 since he is a registered independent in Connecticut.
Also, the Mountain Party pointed out that the true candidates in November of presidential election years are the candidates for presidential elector. Presidential candidates’ names appear on the ballot in their capacity as labels for competing slates of presidential elector candidates, not as candidates per se. Article II of the U.S. Constitution compels this conclusion.
In response, the Secretary of State has said she will ask the legislature to amend the law, making it clear it doesn’t apply to presidential candidates. She is also free to seek an Attorney General’s Opinion, which might be simpler.