South Dakota Secretary of State Removes One Libertarian Party Nominee from Statewide Ballot

On August 18, the South Dakota Secretary of State said that the Libertarian Party nominee for Public Service Commissioner, Ryan Gaddy, cannot have his name on the November ballot because the Secretary believes that he wasn’t registered as a Libertarian at the time of his nomination.

All qualified parties in South Dakota nominate for certain statewide offices by party convention. The Libertarian Party state convention nominated Gaddy and others on August 9, a Saturday. Gaddy filled out a voter registration form changing his registration to “Libertarian” at the convention, before he was nominated. But the change of registration did not arrive in the elections office until August 13. South Dakota law does not permit parties to nominate non-members, and the Secretary has ruled that the change in registration was not in effect until it was received.

It is possible Gaddy and the Libertarian Party will sue to reinstate his name on the ballot. In 1986 the U.S. Supreme Court stated in Tashjian v Republican Party of Connecticut that the First Amendment’s Freedom of Association clause protects the choice of a political party to nominate a non-member if it wishes. Courts in Colorado and New Mexico have struck down state laws on duration of party membership, in lawsuits brought by the Colorado Democratic Party and the New Mexico Green Party.

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