Ballot Access News is edited and published by Richard Winger, the nation's leading expert on ballot access legal issues.


West Virginia Governor Signs Bill that Abolishes Straight-Ticket Device

On March 25, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed SB 249, which eliminates the straight-ticket device.  West Virginia is the eleventh state to have repealed the device in the last fifty years.  The others have been Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, South Dakota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.

The ten states that still have it are Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.


Arkansas Senate Passes Bill Moving Presidential Primary from May to March

On March 27, the Arkansas Senate passed SB 389 by a vote of 20-5.  It creates a presidential primary that is separate from the primary for other office.  The primary for other office will continue to be on the fourth Tuesday in May.

Arkansas has always had its presidential primaries in May, except in 2008 when it held a separate presidential primary in February.

Another Arkansas bill, SB 765, which would have moved all primaries to March, has not advanced.  If SB 765 were to become law, the effect would be to make the non-presidential independent candidate petition deadline even earlier than it already is.  Already, Arkansas is being sued over the April deadline, but SB 765 would have put that deadline in late January or early February.

Because SB 389 seems likely to pass, it is now more likely that Mississippi and Alabama will pass pending bills that move their primaries (for all office) from March 8 to March 1.  The three states mentioned in this post, plus Georgia, have long been planning to have simultaneous presidential primaries.  The Georgia law lets the Secretary of State choose the date so no legislative action is needed in Georgia.  Thanks to John Putnam for this news.


Second-Place Finisher in November 2014 California Legislative Election Sues Winner for Libelous Campaign Literature

On March 25, Prophet Walker, who had placed second in California’s top-two primary in June 2014 for Assemblymember, 64th district, sued the winner, Assemblyman Mike Gipson, for libel.  See this story.  The focus of the lawsuit is a campaign  flyer produced by Gibson’s campaign during the final weeks of the general election campaign.

Until that piece of literature had appeared, Walker and Gipson were in a highly competitive race.  Several leading figures in southern California’s entertainment and film business had been providing substantial help to Walker’s campaign.

The primary in this district had included four Democratic candidates, and no other candidates.


Kansas and Arizona ask U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Lawsuit on Federal Voter Registration Form

On March 24, the states of Kansas and Arizona asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Kobach v U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 14-1164.  This is the dispute over whether those states can require the federal government to alter the postcard voter registration forms in those two states.  The form asks applicants to sign over penalty of perjury that they are U.S. citizens.  The two states want the forms altered to tell applicants that they must attach proof of citizenship.

The U.S. District Court in Kansas had ruled in favor of the two states, but the Tenth Circuit had reversed, basing its decision on the fact that the Commission had held extensive fact-finding hearings on whether the change was necessary, and had determined that the change is not necessary.


Tentative Minutes of 2015 COFOE Board Meeting Available On-Line

The Coalition for Free & Open Elections (COFOE) is a very loose coalition of most of the nation’s active nationally-organized minor parties, along with other organizations that care about their election law problems.  It was founded in 1985 in New York city.  The Board meets in person once per year.  It met on March 14, 2015, in New York city.  Here are the tentative minutes.  Thanks to Kevin Murphy, COFOE’s webmaster, for posting them.


Vermont Progressive Party Nominee for Lieutenant Governor Ordered to Pay $72,000 Because he Allegedly Broke Campaign Finance Law

In November 2014, Dean Corren was the Progressive Party nominee for Lieutenant Governor.  He was also nominated by the Democratic Party, and he received 36.1% of the general election vote.  Now the Attorney General, William Sorrell, has sued Corren, saying that an e-mail sent by the Vermont Democratic Party to its list of supporters, inviting recipients to attend a rally featuring U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Governor Peter Shumlin, and Corren, constitutes an illegal campaign contribution to Corren.  Shumlin and Sorrell are both Democrats.

The Attorney General wants Corren to repay $52,000 that he received in public funding, plus a fine of $20,000.  Corren already spent the public funding he received on his campaign.

On March 20, Corren sued the Attorney General in federal court, arguing that the repayment order is disproportionate, and alternatively that the Democratic Party’s e-mail is not a campaign contribution.  The federal case is Corren v Sorrell, 2:15cv-58.  Thanks to the Center for Competitive Elections for this news.  The case is assigned to Judge William K. Sessions, a Clinton appointee. Here is the complaint.