On February 27, the Fourth Circuit upheld North Carolina’s May 17 petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties. The case, Pisano v Strach, 13-1368, had been filed by the Green and Constitution Parties. The decision is 25 pages, but the only state interest it mentions is that the state needs time to check the petition. This ignores the fact that North Carolina requires just as many signatures for a statewide independent candidate, yet the independent candidate petition deadline is June 12. The decision does not mention the independent candidate petition deadline.
The decision acknowledges that in 1988, the North Carolina State Board of Elections waived the petition deadline for the New Alliance Party, and gave it until July finish its petition. But the decision says, “This letter has no bearing on our resolution of this case.” Obviously, a logical inference from the 1988 incident is that the state can cope with a July deadline.
The decision stresses that in other lawsuits, when May and June petitions were struck down, generally that state had a late primary. By contrast, the North Carolina 2012 primary was May 8. The decision says that petitioning groups were therefore free to have petitioned at the polls on primary day. The decision also stresses that eight successful petitions were submitted in North Carolina in the period 1996 through 2011: Libertarian petitions in 1996, 1998, 2002, and 2008; Reform Party petitions in 1996 and 2000; a Natural Law Petition in 1996; and an Americans Elect petition in 2011. The decision acknowledges that in 2000, a U.S. District Court in South Dakota struck down that state’s independent presidential petition deadline of June, even though the South Dakota primary was also in June, but the Fourth Circuit says it finds the South Dakota decision unpersuasive.
The decision says the requirement that a party collect 89,366 valid signatures by May 17 is “not severe.” One reason the court can get away with saying this is that the lower court had refused to allow discovery. Of the 8 successful petitions in the past, three were in 1996, when the petition requirement was 51,904, a significantly lower number than 89,366.