Ninth Circuit Upholds California Secretary of State’s Refusal to Allow the Independent Party to File as a Political Body

On November 17, the Ninth Circuit issued a four-page opinion, upholding the California Secretary of State’s refusal to allow the Independent Party to file as a political body. Independent Party v Padilla, 16-15895. In California, new parties generally qualify for the ballot by persuading approximately 60,000 voters to register with that party. In order for everyone to know how many registrants such groups have, the law allows such groups to file as a “political body”, and then county election officials keep a tally. But no one can know how many registrants the Independent Party has, because the Secretary of State refused to allow the group to become a political body. He relied on a law that says no two parties can have names that are so similar as to cause confusion. The American Independent Party has been on the ballot in California since 1968, so Secretary of State Alex Padilla said no party can exist named “Independent Party.”

The decision ignores the fact that California permitted Americans Elect Party to qualify in 2011. One wonders why that name was permitted, given that both the American Independent Party and Americans Elect used the word “American”. The decision ignores the evidence that showed that 44 states have at one time or another permitted two parties to be on the ballot even though they shared a common word in their name. Mostly, these were parties that shared the word “socialist.” The decision also ignores the evidence that in recent decades, a ballot-qualified party named “Independent Party” has been on the ballot in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, and Utah.

The decision ignores precedents from the California Supreme Court in 1896 that allowed both the National Democratic Party and the Democratic Party to be on the ballot; by the Oregon State Court of Appeals that said both the Socialist Party and the Freedom Socialist Party could be on the ballot; by the Fifth Circuit that said Mississippi must let the National Democratic Party be on the ballot even though the Democratic Party was on the ballot; and by a U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania that said both the Socialist Labor and the Socialist Workers Party could be on the ballot.

The decision says that if the Independent Party were on the ballot, that would cause confusion with independent presidential candidates, who have the ballot label “independent.” But the decision ignores the evidence that the Independent Progressive Party was ballot-qualified 1948-1954 and that did not seem to cause any confusion with independent candidates. The decision is unsigned and will not be published, but the three judges on the case were Ronald Gould (a Clinton appointee), Mary Helen Murguia (an Obama appointee), and James E. Gritzner (a Bush Jr. appointee, visiting from Iowa).


Ninth Circuit Upholds California Secretary of State’s Refusal to Allow the Independent Party to File as a Political Body — 9 Comments

  1. Richard, do any of the many other decisions and cases you mention discuss the issue of conflating the terms “independent” and “unaffiliated”? In general, hat do they say about possible confusion and deception between the labels “independent” and “unaffiliated”?

    The California decision seems reasonable on its face, especially given California’s already reserving the isolated label “Independent” for presidential and vice-presidential candidates who qualify for the ballot through an independent nomination process, and the desire to avoid confusion and deception.

    (And isn’t “Independent Party” an oxymoron like “Anarchist Central Headquarters”? Shouldn’t there be truth in labeling? Oh wait, this is politics. 🙂

  2. What does “Democratic Party” really mean? What does “Republican Party” really mean? What is the real meaning of the name “Christian Democratic Party” in Italy and Germany? Party names are like brand names. One need not worry about the literal meaning of the party names, anymore than one worries about the literal meaning of the names of products. If people want to organize a party and call it the Independent Party, one would think the First Amendment would protect that decision.

    Courts generally say that evidence is needed, but in this case the state presented no evidence. Courts are supposed to make an independent judgment, but in this case the judges just said because the Secretary of State thinks there would be confusion, it must be true.

    Utah in 1994 had the American Party, the Independent American Party, and the Independent Party, all on the ballot. No one got confused. If people know nothing about these parties, they won’t vote for them anyway. The people who are interested in these parties know the difference between them.

  3. Another election WAR case.

    Lower court appointed hacks just following the SCOTUS appointed hacks

    — the super-vague reasonable / severe SCOTUS nonsense stuff
    — and ignoring the *equal* in 14 Amdt, Sec. 1.

    Expect even shorter junk opinions —

    Such and such ballot access stuff is not severe. Affirmed.
    PR and AppV

  4. California has no rational basis for requiring such a large number of registrants for a party to be recognized by the state. It affirmatively infringes on the ability of candidates of smaller, less popular, parties to exercise their 1st Amendment rights in a political forum established by the State of California – the ballot for the 186 voter-nominated offices.

    The purpose of the 1st Amendment is to protect unpopular speech. Government-approved speech does not require protection from the government.

    “Political Bodies” in California do not actually exist. There is no registration procedure, it is simply a construct in the party qualification statutes, so that the statute does not have to constantly refer to qualified and unqualified parties.

    In California statute, there is no distinction between the party preference of a voter or a candidate for a so-called qualified party, or a non-qualified party. It is what the voter indicates on their affidavit of voter registration, which they sign to certify that it truthful and correct.

    California could change the wording for the single office that it applies to: “By Petition”. It should also convert the presidential primary to a direct nominating primary. There is no reason to permit the national political parties to betray the voters of California. If the national parties want to support another candidate, they could petition to get their candidate on the ballot, just like the national Republican Party failed to do in 1912.

  5. ANY change in ballot access laws towards equality and Democracy is a direct threat to the Donkey and/or Elephant incumbent OLIGARCHS.

    Earlier oligarchs —

    The Brits in 1773-1776 – esp. in the House of so-called *lords*
    — who controlled many of the gerrymander rotted boroughs in the House of Commons.

    The slave owners in the slave States in 1859-1861.

    What gerrymander HACK incumbent is NOT an ENEMY of the People ???

  6. I am vindicated. I told all involved that this was a waste of time, money and effort. Apparently the 9th Cirvuit agreed.

  7. The Ninth Circuit didn’t look at any of the evidence. Their work product was deficient in the extreme. That’s why none of the 3 judges wanted to sign on as the author. That’s why they cancelled the oral argument; they didn’t want to learn about the issue. Its judicial behavior at its worst.

  8. The appointed Fed judge party hacks are an extension of the Congress gerrymander party hacks

    — esp in any *politics* case — ballot access, gerrymanders, etc.

    NONPARTISAN election of all elected executive officers and all judges – via AppV – pending C math

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