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

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Level the Playing Field Files Updated Lawsuit on General Election Presidential Debates

On August 27, Level the Playing Field, Peter Ackerman, the Libertarian Party, and the Green Party filed this new complaint against the Federal Election Commission. Like the similar complaint filed on June 22, this lawsuit concerns general election presidential debates. The complaint is 42 pages. A new complaint was needed because the first one is now out-of-date. The first complaint dealt with the failure of the Federal Election Commission to respond to the 2014 request for a new rule on debates. But then in July 2015, the FEC denied the petition, so now the case attempts to argue that the existing FEC rule violates federal campaign finance law.

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Emily Mathews May Try to Revive Her 1787 Party

In 2013, Emily Mathews, a former Texan who had moved to New York city, attempted to start a new political party called the 1787 Party. The group announced it would try to qualify in Texas for the 2014 election. Later it changed its mind and did not do that.

But according to the group’s web page, the party may be revived in time to enter the 2016 elections. The 1787 Party is a centrist party. Mathews had once been a Republican. Thanks to Ben Barber for the link.

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Fairvote and Center for Competitive Democracy File Amicus Brief in California Top-Two Lawsuit

On August 27, Fairvote and the Center for Competitive Democracy filed this amicus curiae brief in Rubin v Padilla, the California case which argues that the top-two system unconstitutionally restricts voter choice in general elections for Congress and partisan state office.

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U.S. District Court Upholds New Hampshire Law that Makes it Illegal to Circulate Party Petition in Odd Years

On August 27, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro upheld a 2014 New Hampshire law that makes it illegal for a group to circulate a petition to get itself on the ballot in odd years. Libertarian Party of New Hampshire v Gardner, 1:14cv-322. Although the decision is 42 pages long, it completely ignores the prime rule, established twice by the U.S. Supreme Court, on how to evaluate ballot access barriers for independent candidates and minor parties. That rule is that courts are suppose to evaluate how often such candidates or groups get on the ballot. If few succeed, then the law is probably too severe.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced this test in Storer v Brown in 1974 and repeated it in Mandel v Bradley in 1977, but the decision does not even mention this test. The New Hampshire party petition has existed since 1996 and only twice has any group ever managed to use it. It is one of the most difficult petition requirements in the nation, 3% of the last gubernatorial vote. Both times it was used, the party that used it, the Libertarian Party, took approximately a full year to get the job done. Now the circulation period has been cut in half.

The decision says the law is needed to prevent ballot clutter. That is a ridiculous statement. New Hampshire is one of only five states that had only a Republican or a Democrat on the ballot for all statewide races in November 2014 (the others are California, Alabama, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania). New Hampshire is one of only ten states in which the Green Party has not been able to place its presidential nominee on the ballot in any of the last three presidential elections (the others are Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming). The decision contains no analysis of how many candidates have actually been on general election ballots in New Hampshire.

The decision takes up considerable space denigrating the New Hampshire Libertarian Party. It says on page 6 that the party has few registered voters, without mentioning that New Hampshire is one of only three states that won’t tally the number of registered Libertarians (the others are Oklahoma and Rhode Island).

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Kansas State Court Judge Keeps ACLU Lawsuit on Voter Registration Forms Alive

On August 26, a Kansas state court denied Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s request to dismiss an ACLU lawsuit concerning voter registration forms. See this story. After Kobach lost in federal court on whether he could force the federal government to change its voter registration forms used in Kansas, he had set up a dual registration system, in which voters who used the federal form could only vote for federal office, not state or local office.

The Kansas ACLU and some voters then sued, and Kobach asked the court to dismiss the case, but his motion was denied. Now there will either be a trial, or possibly the same judge will rule that the dual registration system violates Kansas law. When Kobach set up the dual registration system, there was no election law in place authorizing him to do that.

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Maine Green Party Opens its Primaries to Independent Voters

The Maine Green Party (whose name is the Green Independent Party) has voted to allow independent voters to vote in its primaries, and they need not join the Green Party. See this story. The two major parties in Maine also let independent voters vote in their primaries, but only if they join those parties at the polls on primary election day.

Now that the party has taken this step, it will be in a strong position to argue that independent voters should also be able to sign petitions to get members of the Green Party on the party’s primary ballot. Maine and Massachusetts have the most draconian requirements for members of small qualified parties to get on their own party’s primary ballot. At least Massachusetts lets independents sign such petitions; Maine does not. The Maine Green Party has never been able to nominate any candidates for either house of Congress since it has been a ballot-qualified party, nor has it been able to nominate anyone for Governor in the last two gubernatorial election years.