On April 26, U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock set a hearing date in Libertarian Party of Maine v Dunlap, 2:16cv-2. This may be an opportunity for the Libertarian Party to explain why putting the party on the 2016 ballot would not create “chaos.” On April 25, Judge Woodcock had ruled that he would not put the party on the ballot because it would create “chaos”, but that he was not at that time ruling on whether the December 1, 2015 deadline was unconstitutionally early.
On April 19, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Joseph Vodvarka should be on the April 26 Democratic primary ballot for U.S. Senate. The Commonwealth Court had ruled that he didn’t have 2,000 valid signatures, but the State Supreme Court disagreed and put him on. The issue was whether to count signatures of voters who had moved within a county since they had last registered to vote. The Commonwealth Court had invalidated such signatures in its March 30 opinion.
The late timing of the Supreme Court opinion caused confusion in some counties. The ballots in almost all counties had Vodvarka’s name on them, because the ballots had been printed before the Commonwealth Court had removed him. Between the Commonwealth Court decision and the State Supreme Court decision, notices had been printed, intended for each voting booth, telling voters that Vodvarka had been removed from the ballot and that any votes cast for him should not be counted. After Vodvarka was put back on the ballot, the state instructed county election officials to destroy those notices. But, in some polling locations, the notices were placed inside voting booths erroneously.
Also, Washington County reprinted its ballots to delete Vodvarka after the Commonwealth Court ruling, but before the Supreme Court ruling. So in Washington County, a separate ballot just for U.S. Senate, for Democrats, had to be distributed along with the regular ballots. See this story.
The State Supreme Court order is captionedIn re: Nominating Petition of Joseph Vodvarka, J-75-2016. The Supreme Court order is only one page and puts Vodvarka back on the ballot. The court will explain its reasoning later.
On April 26, the Constitution, Green, and Libertarian Parties asked a U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania to put them on the November 2016 ballot, on the basis that the old ballot access law was declared unconstitutional last year, and the legislature has not passed a new one. Constitution Party of Pennsylvania v Aichele, e.d., 12-cv-2726.
The parties are requesting a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. Such requests are usually handled very quickly.
The same parties, as well as the Socialist Party, obtained similar relief in Ohio in 2008. The old Ohio law had been declared unconstitutional in September 2006 and the legislature had not passed a new law as of 2008, so a U.S. District Court put the four parties on the November ballot. They not only remained on in 2010, but 2012 and 2014 as well.
This Politico article explains clearly the Pennsylvania presidential primary system, in which voters had to choose delegates to the national convention with no voting cues on the primary ballot. Candidates for delegate run against each other, and the Pennsylvania ballot gives them no label relative to whom they will support at the convention.
A somewhat similar system was once used in presidential general elections in Florida. Florida November ballots before 1931 had no party labels for any partisan office. Furthermore, voters voted directly for candidates for presidential elector, and the ballot didn’t say whom the electors were pledged to. The only voter cue was that the candidates of the Democratic Party were always listed at the top of the ballot.
Courtesy of Politico, here is a link to April 26 presidential primary returns. Click on the map. The five states voting today are Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
On April 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued this procedural ruling in Holmes v FEC, 15-5120. The Holmes case is a challenge to the federal campaign finance limits from individual givers. The federal law lets an individual give $2,700 to a federal candidate in primary season, and another $2,700 in the general election. The plaintiffs say that if Congress does not believe a combined contribution of $5,400 to one particular candidate will cause corrpution, there can’t be any logical reason why the individual donor can’t give $5,400 to the candidate during the general election season (assuming he or she has given nothing to the candidate in primary season).
The Appeals Court did not decide the merits of this case, but it did rule that the case is not frivolous, and therefore it must be set before the entire panel of Judges in the D.C. Circuit. Congress wrote the campaign finance laws in 1974 to provide that when someone sues over the constitutionally of the federal campaign finance laws of 1974, the case must be set before all the Circuit Judges, unless it is a frivolous case. So, now the case gets its chance to be argued in front of all fourteen of the Appeals Judges.
This ruling virtually guarantees that another case, Libertarian National Committee v FEC, will also go before all the circuit judges. That is the case over whether the Libertarian Party can accept a $235,575 bequest all at once, or whether it can only get the money piecemeal, by receiving $33,400 per year while most of the money remains in escrow. Attorneys for the FEC have been fighting the party’s attempt to get the case before the Appeals judges.