Kansas Secretary of State Re-Interprets Law to Make it More Difficult for a Party to Remain on the Ballot; Removes Reform Party

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach recently re-interpreted Kansas election law section 25-302b, the law that determines how a party remains on the ballot. That law, passed in 1984, says, “Any recognized political party whose nominee for any office for which the officer is elected from the state as a whole fails to receive at least 1% of the total vote cast for any such office in this state at any general election, or which fails to nominate persons for at least one such office, shall cease to be a recognized political party.”

The law was written with input from the Kansas Libertarian Party, which wrote the law so that in years when no statewide office is on the ballot except President, the vote test would not apply. Note the phrase “any office for which the officer is elected from the state as a whole.” The intent of the law was to exclude President, because President is not elected from the state as a whole; President is elected by the entire nation.

In 2000, a year in which no statewide office was on the ballot except President, the Kansas Secretary did not disqualify either the Libertarian Party or the Reform Party, even though neither of them received as much as 1% of the presidential vote. But that precedent has now been reversed by the current Secretary of State, who removed the Reform Party from the ballot earlier this year because it did not poll as much as 1% for President. It only polled .43% for its nominee, Chuck Baldwin. The Secretary of State did not ask for an Attorney General’s Opinion before he removed the party; he did not issue a formal opinion stating that the old precedent was being reversed. He simply wrote a letter to the Reform Party, telling the party that it is disqualified. He also removed Americans Elect from the ballot, but that was not surprising since Americans Elect had asked to be removed.

This development should be of concern to the Libertarian Party, even though the Libertarian Party did poll over 1% for President in 2012 (it polled 1.76% for Gary Johnson). The Libertarian Party did not poll as much as 1% in Kansas for President in 1984, or 1992, or 1996, or 2000, or 2004, or 2008. In future presidential years it may again have trouble polling 1% for President.


Kansas Secretary of State Re-Interprets Law to Make it More Difficult for a Party to Remain on the Ballot; Removes Reform Party — No Comments

  1. I don’t think the secretary of state’s interpretation is unreasonable. After all, technically the electors are the candidates in the presidential election, and they are elected from the state as a whole.

  2. When a law is ambiguous, legislative intent and precedent are both useful for interpreting it. Bill Earnest, a Kansas Libertarian Party leader, worked with the legislature in 1984 to draft the bill so as to exclude president. That is why “nominee” is singular; if the bill meant to include presidential electors, it could have said “nominee or nominees”.

    In 2000, the Kansas Secretary of State was aware of the legislature’s intent in 1984. He was Ron Thornburgh and he had worked in the Secretary of State’s office before he became Secretary of State. That is why he interpreted the law in late 2000 to leave the Libertarian and Reform Parties on the ballot.

    The current Secretary of state is an anti-minor party zealot. He personally argued in the 10th circuit last year when the Constitution Party was trying to win the ability of voters to register into the Constitution Party, even though it is not a ballot-qualified party. I had never before heard of any Secretary of State who personally argued in court in an election law case. Generally an Assistant Attorney General does that work.

  3. Here in Kansas we are hopefull that Kobach will be replaced in 2014. While I could say the “majority” consider him to be incompetent and worthless as an SOS, the fact is that since he has the R next to his name, he is automatically guaranteed 35% without even trying. This state’s government is one of the most corrupt and misguided in the country.

  4. We in Kansas made no effort to get the 1% in the years you mentioned Richard. This situation happens once every twelve years as that is when we do not have any other statewide race (except the presidential one).
    The next time this will be a “challenge” will be 2024.
    We have had no problem getting the 1% in statewide races since 1994.
    Our challenge is becoming a “Major” party in Kansas and that opportunity only comes around every 4 years as well – the only race that counts for the “Major” party status is the Governors race and we have to get 5% in that race only to gain equal status to the R’S & D’s.
    we are working on that for 2014.

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