Eleventh Circuit Holds Oral Argument in Alabama Ballot Access for Independent Candidates in Special U.S. House Elections

On December 13, the Eleventh Circuit heard oral argument in Hall v Merrill, 16-16766. The issue is Alabama ballot access for U.S. House independent candidates in special elections. Last year the U.S. District Court had ruled that because the time for collecting signatures in special elections is much less than in regular elections, the petition requirement of 3% of the last gubernatorial vote is too severe.

The hearing lasted 40 minutes, longer than scheduled. Listen to the oral argument at this link. Scroll down to the sixth case, Hall v Secretary of State.

Co-Chair of New York State Board of Elections Strongly Advises New York City to Either Implement Ranked Choice Voting, or Else Abolish Primary Runoffs

On December 13, Douglas Kellner, co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, testified in a New York city council committee. He strongly recommended that the city implement ranked choice voting in citywide primaries. He said the existing city provision requiring a primary runoff would be terribly expensive and difficult to implement. He said the city was very lucky that no primary runoff was required this year in the Reform Party mayoral primary. Because the Reform Party invites all registered independent voters into its primaries, a Reform Party runoff would have required to city to print hundreds of thousands of ballots. See this story. He said if the city does not provide for ranked choice ballots, then the city should abolish primary runoffs. Thanks to Frank Morano for the link.

Pennsylvania Election Laws That Have Been Struck Down, But Which Remain in the Election Law

Pennsylvania is unique for its failure to update its election code when election laws are struck down (or when state election officials determine that a law would be struck down and therefore won’t be enforced). Here is a list of eleven such laws.

1. In 1984, in Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania v David, m.d., 84-0262, the state conceded that the May petition deadline for minor party and independent candidates is unconstitutionally early. The state consented to accept petitions up until August 1 of any election year.
2. In 1993, in Patriot Party of Pennsylvania v Mitchell, 826 F.Supp. 926 (e.d.), the number of signatures required for minor party and independent petitions in odd years, for statewide office, was struck down. That was because the turnout in even years is so much higher, and the requirements for odd years were based on even-year elections, so that the petitioning burden was far higher in odd years than in even years.
3. In 1999, in Reform Party of Allegheny County v Allegheny County Dept. of Elections, 174 F.3d 305, the ban on fusion between two unqualified parties, or between a qualified party and an unqualified one, was struck down.
4. In 2001, the lawsuit Public Interest v Armstrong County Bd. of Elections, w.d., 01-1616, enjoined the law that said an unqualified party could not nominate someone who had not been a member for the past several months. The basis was that the restriction did not apply to qualified parties.
5. In 2002, Morrill v Weaver, 224 F.Supp.2d 882 (e.d.), the requirement that circulators for a candidate running for district office must live in that district was struck down.
6. In 2003, in Belitskus v Pizingrilli, 343 F.3d 632 (3rd circuit), the failure of the state to provide any alternative to filing fees, at least for poor candidates, was declared unconstitutional.
7. In 2006, the Pennsylvania Attorney General instructed the Department of State to stop requiring candidates to sign a statement that they are not “subversive persons.”
8. In 2015, in Green Party of Pennsylvania v Aichele, e.d., 2:14cv-3299, the law requiring petitions to be notarized was struck down.
9. Also in the 2015 decision, the law forbidding voters from signing only one general election petition (for any particular office) was struck down.
10. Also in the 2015 decision, the ban on out-of-state circulators was struck down.
11. In 2016, in Constitution Party of Pennsylvania v Cortes, e.d., 5:12cv-2726, the state agreed that it would not require statewide petitions to be signed by more than 5,000 voters.

North Carolina Eases Documentation Requirement for Parties that Placed Presidential Nominees on Ballot in 35 States

On December 13, the General Counsel to the North Carolina State Board of Elections sent a letter to the North Carolina Green Party, making it easier for a party that had put its presidential nominee on the ballot in the last election in at least 35 states to prove that it had done this. Originally the State Board wanted such a party to obtain a notarized statement from election officials in each of the 35 states. But the new letter says that the publication of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, “Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 8, 2016”, is good enough. The letter says that because the federal government publishes this book, it can be relied on.

“Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election (for a particular election date)” is a publication that has been published continuously starting in 1920. In midterm years, the title is just “Statistics of the Congressional Election”. The 2016 version has a table in the back showing that the Green Party’s presidential nominee was on the ballot, with the party label, in 37 states plus D.C. Because the Clerk’s table is organized by party, not candidate, the “Green” presidential column doesn’t include the states in which Jill Stein was on as an independent.

The new North Carolina ballot access law defining “political party”, passed in October 2017 and effective January 1, 2018, says a party is ballot-qualified for all office if its presidential nominee was on the ballot in at least 35 states in the last presidential election. Such parties nominate by convention, their first year on the ballot; after that, by primary. Thanks to Michael Trudeau for this news.