South Dakota Constitution Party Candidate for U.S. House Files Ballot Access Lawsuit

The Constitution Party and the Libertarian Party are both qualified parties in South Dakota, but neither one of them has been able to run any candidates for Governor, U.S. Senator, or U.S. House this year, because they must nominate by primary for those offices, and the petition for a candidate to get on the primary ballot for those offices requires 250 signatures of party members. Given the small number of registered voters in those parties, that is too difficult. The 250-signature petition has not been overcome by any qualified minor party in 2008, 2010, 2012, or this year.

On July 23, Charles W. Haan, the Constitution Party’s candidate for U.S. House, filed a pro se lawsuit, asking that he be placed on the November ballot even though he wasn’t technically nominated in the June primary. Haan points out that the party officers certified him as their nominee. He also points out that he did submit a primary petition signed by 205 registered party members.

The Constitution Party filed a similar lawsuit in 2010, but then the plaintiff-candidate withdrew, so the U.S. District Court ruled none of the other plaintiffs had standing. The Court also said that even if some of the plaintiffs did have standing, the requirement is constitutional. The plaintiffs then appealed, and the Eighth Circuit said the U.S. District Court should not have made a ruling on the merits, given that no one had standing.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Storer v Brown, 415 US 724 (1974) that the way to evaluate petition requirements is to divide the number of signatures required by the number of eligible signers. Because the Constitution Party has fewer than 600 registered members, and they are the only eligible signers, the calculation works out to 40%, which should be unconstitutional, if the U.S. District Court will follow the Storer rule. The case is Haan v Gant, 14-3009.

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