Maine Independent Senate Candidate Loses Ballot Access Case

On September 17, U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock, a Bush Jr. appointee, ruled against an independent candidate for U.S. Senate. The candidate, Laurie Dobson, turned her signatures in on time to the town clerks, but some town clerks did not finish checking her signatures in time for her to take them to the Secretary of State. Dobson v Dunlap, 1:08-cv-00292. Here is the decision.

This decision is one of the worst ballot access decisions ever issued by a federal judge. Even though the candidate obeyed the statutory deadline, the judge blames the candidate for not anticipating that the town clerks wouldn’t have enough time to finish the job. So, the candidate who obeyed the law is punished because the government did not do its job. Judge Woodcock wrote, “A reasonably prudent candidate could and should anticipate the short turnaround time for the registrars and avoid procrastination by filing for and obtaining certifications throughout the signature gathering interval and well in advance of the deadline…Ms. Dobson had the statutory right to wait until 5 p.m. on the statutory deadline before delivering the petitions, but consequences of her decision to delay until the last possible moment is not of constitutional significance.”

The judge also said the May 27 deadline is constitutional. Of course, what he is really saying is that the true deadline is earlier than May 27. In support of his conclusion that the May 27 deadline is constitutional, Judge Woodcock cited the only published precedent anywhere in the nation that upholds an independent candidate deadline earlier than May. He cited Lawrence v Blackwell, a 2005 decision by the 6th circuit which upheld Ohio’s March petition deadline for non-presidential independents. He could have mentioned precedents that struck down March, April, and May deadlines, but he did not do so. Those precedents (for independent candidates other than presidential candidates) are from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Thanks very much to Deborah Deitsch-Perez for obtaining a copy of the opinion.


Maine Independent Senate Candidate Loses Ballot Access Case — No Comments

  1. She MUST appeal this ruling if possible. This means that any politically motivated town clerk can act to keep a candidate off the ballot just by not checking the candidate’s signatures.

    If you don’t like the candidate, just don’t bother to check the signatures. The Kangaroo Courts don’t care.

  2. Or was there some other reason for this ruling? Some procedural issue of some kind?

  3. I’m trying to get the decision. If I succeed I will have more details. I know it was 22 pages. According to the newspaper story, the judge said, “There is no excuse for procrastination”, but I don’t know whether he meant on the candidate’s part (which wouldn’t make sense) or whether he meant the town clerks. In any event, it sounds like grist for Bob Barr’s lawsuit against the Texas Secretary of State.

  4. Just more proof that the roster of the Big Dogs club is full. Indies and alternative parties need not apply. This week’s [September 22nd] Newsweek has ‘distrust of Ole Boys Club and DC Beltway’ woven all through the [What Women Want] issue.

  5. Richard!

    Maybe, the Barr campaign could use this in their lawsuit. The judge is saying that the deadline for clerks is irrelevant. The clerks can check the signatures, or not, at their leisure. It is only the state deadline in Augusta that counts.

    If so, then the Secretary of State’s instruction to clerks NOT to check signatures would fly in the face of this ruling.

    Of course, the government wants to have it both ways. But, it’s worth a try.

  6. Every 2 years the observers come from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to monitor our elections. However they never show up until a couple of days before we vote. They then issue a report saying everything is fine. The problem is that in America the election fraud occurs months ahead of the election. Maybe what we need to do is start gathering evidence and presenting it to them. Maybe if they were made to understand how the American electorally system actually works they might start dealing with reality and condemn our process for the joke that it actually is.

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