On July 21, the Eleventh Circuit judges who are hearing Stein v Bennett informed both sides that this case requires oral argument. All the briefs were filed in February and March 2014. It is obvious that the judges feel this is a close case, and they want an oral argument to help them decide it. Neither side had requested oral argument. The issue is the March petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties in Alabama in presidential election years.
In 1991, the Eleventh Circuit had struck down Alabama’s April petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties, in New Alliance Party of Alabama v Hand. That case involved ballot access for a midterm year. Presidential candidates have more ballot access protection than candidates for other office. The Eleventh Circuit has been especially strong on that point.
But Alabama argues that the 1991 precedent doesn’t control this case because back in 1991, the petition deadline was several months before the primary, and the current deadline sets the petition deadline on primary day. Back in 1991, the Alabama primary was in June, but now (in presidential years) it is in March.
Alabama in 2014 will be one of only three, four, or five states with no minor party or independent candidates on the November ballot for statewide office. The others are California, New Mexico, and possibly New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, depending on whether the Libertarian petition in New Hampshire and the Green petition in Pennsylvania succeed. Also, this year, Alabama will be the only state with only one candidate on the ballot for U.S. Senate.