Alabama and Oklahoma Try to Defend their Early Petition Deadlines in Court by Putting Minor Party Plaintiffs on Trial

Lawsuits are pending in U.S. District Court in both Alabama and Oklahoma against state laws passed last year that moved petition deadlines for newly-qualifying parties into March. In Alabama, the lawsuit was filed by the Constitution, Green, and Libertarian Parties. In Oklahoma, the lawsuit was filed by the Green and Libertarian Parties.

In both cases, attorneys for the states have been deposing various minor party state officers and plaintiff-candidates. Their strategy is apparently to deflect the attention of the judge from the issue of the early deadline, onto any perceived defects in the minor parties themselves. Alabama, this month, even took the deposition of Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Oklahoma this month has taken the deposition of the current state chair, the previous state chair, and the state chair prior to that.

During the period starting in 1968, federal and state courts have struck down early petition deadlines for minor party and independent candidates in 51 separate lawsuits. There are no court precedents upholding a deadline as early as March for a newly-qualifying party, and only one precedent upholding a petition deadline as early as March for an independent candidate (the Lawrence v Blackwell precedent from 2005, upholding the deadline for independent candidates for office other than president, because Ohio’s major parties also nominated in March). Although the 7th circuit upheld a December (of the year before the election) deadline for non-presidential independents in 1986, in 2006 the 7th circuit reversed itself and invalidated that petition deadline.

Early petition deadlines for newly-qualifying parties and independent candidates have been struck down in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah. Such deadlines were enjoined in Hawaii and Idaho, although no declaratory judgment was obtained in those two states.


Alabama and Oklahoma Try to Defend their Early Petition Deadlines in Court by Putting Minor Party Plaintiffs on Trial — 25 Comments

  1. 1. Every election is NEW.
    2. Equal ballot access requirements for ALL candidates in the same area for the same office.

    Much too difficult for the moron lawyers and judges to understand in ALL of the ballot access cases since 1968 – Williams v. Rhodes in SCOTUS.

  2. So, let me see if I understand this. The legislatures in Alabama and Oklahoma think their employees need from March until November to set up whatever voting machines they use or to print paper ballots, right? It is unreal if the courts can’t see through what is really happening here. It’s also a nice undemocratic touch to force petitioning to take place through the winter. Perhaps they can add some other requirements, like singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” while gathering signatures. Or perhaps all petition gatherers who are male have to wear kilts.

  3. #2, Oklahoma’s excuse for the March 1 petition deadline is that it is state policy to give newly-qualifying parties their own primary. The Libertarian and Green Parties say they don’t need or want a primary, at least their first year on the ballot. Months ago the attorney for the Oklahoma plaintiffs asked the judge for permission to amend the complaint to explicitly charge that it is unconstitutional to force newly-qualifying parties to have a primary, in the circumstances that this forces the deadline to be that early. But the judge hasn’t acted on that request and the state opposes the motion to amend the complaint.

    In Alabama, all parties in all elections are free to nominate by primary or convention, whatever they want (except that newly-qualifying parties must nominate by convention).

  4. A feature of Top 2 is that you don’t have nominations, and all candidates have the same filing deadline.

  5. A bug is that you pretty much never get anything but Democrats or Republicans in any actual election (one that can elect someone)….much like Oklahoma’s presidential elections or Alabama’s non-presidential elections.

  6. Is limiting people’s choices in the actual election – the one that can elect someone, and the one people thus pay attention to – a “feature” or a “bug” of top two? I guess it depends on who you are, eh?

  7. @4 A feature of “top-two” is that you don’t have free elections, so nobody cares about little things like filing deadlines.

  8. #5 So you like Top 2 as it is practiced in Louisiana where all candidates appear on the ballot of an “actual election” and there is a runoff if nobody gets a majority?

  9. #9, I don’t know Govnoment’s position on your question, but even though Louisiana’s version of top two is far better than the version used in Washington and California, the Louisiana system is still faulty. It violates freedom of association by letting candidates use a party label on the ballot (in the election itself) even though the party had no role in choosing that person as its nominee.

  10. Ballot labels should mean something. It should be very easy to qualify a new one or run without one. If you do choose to sue one, it should mean what the person or group who qualified it or their chosen successors want it to mean, by whatever means they choose to insure that so long as they pay for it themselves.

  11. In any general election, every qualified party should be able to place a single qualified candidate under its label on the ballot and every candidate who wishes to run without a party label should also be on the ballot through an independent proceedure which should allow that candidate to run under a label other than that of one of the qualified parties if he or she should so choose.

    It is in the general election where voters should be able to choose among the greatest number of options and the great political debate of the issues takes place.

    There is no need for any state invovement in the primary elections or convention nomination process of the qualified parties.

  12. Attention — less aware folks

    Democracy = MAJORITY RULE – direct or indirect.

    THUS — Party Seats = Party Votes x Total Seats/ Total Votes = P.R. — to get both majority rule [Democracy] and minority representation.

    See Israel, New Zealand, Netherlands, Germany, etc. etc. P.R. regimes in the *civilized* free world.

  13. Liberty is the goal, not democracy. Democracy is just a means to an end, and not a very good one. However, nowhere in the world sets democracy equal to majority rule. Pure majority rule is lunacy.

  14. #10 In California, if the ballot says a candidate is an optometrist, does that imply endorsement by the optometry association?

    If the ballot says that Diane Feinstein prefers the Democratic Party, does that imply the Democratic Party prefers her?

  15. #12 In California, it means that the candidate disclosed that party preference on their affidavit of voter registration, which they signed to indicate that the information was truthful and correct, subject to perjury prosecution.

    If you think a voter has included untruthful or incorrect information on their voter registration, and did so purposefully with the intent to deceive or defraud, you should report this to the DA or AG for possible prosecution.

  16. #13 Why should the party puppeteers have the authority to “place” a candidate on the ballot?

    What is wrong with a qualified candidate placing himself on the ballot, by gathering 40 signatures and paying a filing fee. That ensures the greatest number of options for voters.

  17. Jim, I think you are not stating Be Rational’s point correctly. You are leaving out “under its label” and the fact that it’s qualified for ballot access. So, as I understand what he’s saying, a political party (a free association of individuals) has proprietary ownwership in the “label” and they have qualified under whatever state procedures exist. He’s not saying a party has automatic access to the ballot in order to place a candidate on it. He’s just saying that if they do have access, they have a right to “the label” they have taken ownership of in a Lockean sense. You might think of that as the same as a brand. As for what gives anyone in that party the authority to place which ever candidate on the ballot “in their name,” that’s determined by that party’s rules.

  18. Jim Riley proposes that instead of an unlimited number of potential parties and independent candidates – if we reform ballot access as needed – there will just be two candidates under his “top-two” system chosen by a single, state-controlled cabal; a single party with a single primary.

  19. #21 Be Rational’s model has resulted in those parties that have “qualified” setting out barriers to other parties becoming qualified, or to prevent ad hoc groups of individual joining together to support an independent candidate.

    In 2012, California had 24 candidates on the primary ballot for senator; in 2010, 14; in 2006, 10; and 2004, 15.

    In the 2010 primary, Gail Lightfoot, who prefers the Libertarian Party received 17,791 votes. In the 2012 primary, she received 101,648; almost 6 times as many. The difference? In 2010, most voters were prevented from voting for her.

  20. @24 But with “top-two” we have the ulitimate party barrier – only one party is allowed with a single primary and all other parties and independents are excluded. It’s called a one-party state just as in the old Soviet Union.

    “Top-two” is a one-party state controlled electoral system. A single cabal controls it all.

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