South Dakota Libertarian Party Files Lawsuit to Put its Nominee for Public Service Commissioner on Ballot

On August 25, the South Dakota Libertarian Party filed a lawsuit to get its nominee for Public Service Commissioner on the November ballot. Libertarian Party of South Dakota v Gant, 14-cv-4132. The party nominated Ryan Gaddy for that position at its state convention on August 9. South Dakota provides that qualified parties nominate by convention, not primary, for that office and certain other low-level offices.

The Secretary of State rejected Gaddy because he changed his registration to “Libertarian” a few hours before he was nominated. Since he had filled out the new voter registration form on a Saturday, it wasn’t recorded in the county auditor’s office until a few days later. The law says parties can’t nominate non-members. The Secretary of State feels his party change wasn’t in effect when he was nominated. The law is obviously ambiguous on that point. However, the U.S. Supreme Court said in Tashjian v Republican Party of Connecticut in 1986 that the Constitution’s Freedom of Association clause inside the First Amendment means that parties have a constitutional right to nominate non-members if they wish, so regardless of how the state law is interpreted, the party has constitutional grounds for its position.

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