Maryland Lowers Statewide Independent Petition Requirement from 40,603 Signatures to 10,000 Signatures

On July 29, the lawsuit Dorsey v Lamone, a Maryland ballot access case, was settled. The State Board of Elections agreed to lower the statewide independent petition requirement in 2016 and for any possible special election in 2017 from 1% of the number of registered voters (40,603) to exactly 10,000 signatures. The Board took this action because on June 10, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge George L. Russell had denied the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The lawsuit had been filed in 2015 and argued that it is unconstitutional to require statewide independent candidates to obtain four times as many signatures as new parties. New parties get on the ballot with 10,000 signatures.

The State Board of Elections and the Attorney General also agreed to ask the 2017 legislative session to put the agreement into the law.

This is the third time this year that, due to a federal court, the number of signatures for either an independent candidate or a new party has been lowered. The other instances this year are the March 2016 Georgia decision reducing the requirement from approximately 50,000 signatures to exactly 7,500 signatures for president, and the Pennsylvania June 2016 decision cutting the statewide petitions from 21,775 signatures to exactly 5,000.

Fourth Circuit Rejects North Carolina Package of Voting Restrictions Enacted in 2013

On July 29, the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion in North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v McCrory, 16-1468. Judges James A. Wynn and Henry Floyd, Obama appointees, enjoined voting restrictions passed in 2013 that reduced early voting, limited same-day registration, curtailed ability for provisional ballots to be cast in precincts away from the voter’s home precinct, eliminated the ability of 17-year-olds to pre-register, and created a requirement for government photo-ID for voters at the polls. Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, a Clinton appointee, would only have enjoined the photo-ID law.

The panel determined that the North Carolina legislature acted with intent to injure African American voters. The U.S. District Court had upheld all the challenged laws. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.

Kent Bernbeck Asks for Rehearing in Eighth Circuit on County Distribution Requirement for Initiatives

On July 28, Kent Bernbeck, a well-known promoter of various Nebraska initiatives, asked the Eighth Circuit to rehear Bernbeck v Gale, 15-1983, which challenged the county distribution requirement for statewide initiatives. The U.S. District Court had invalidated the county distribution requirement last year, but on July 14, the Eighth Circuit had ruled 2-1 that Bernbeck doesn’t have standing.

By coincidence, on July 29, another Eighth Circuit decision involving standing in election law challenges was issued. The Eighth Circuit ruled 2-1 that the plaintiffs in Missourians for Fiscal Responsibility v Klahr, 15-2172, do have standing to challenge a Missouri campaign finance law. The Missouri law makes it illegal for anyone to form a campaign committee to support or oppose a ballot measure, if the committee is formed less than 30 days before the election. In 2014 Missourians for Fiscal Responsibility organized to support a statewide ballot measure concerning the state budget, but they didn’t form it until October 22, so they were in violation of the law if they spent or raised any money. The group then sued to overturn the law. Because the 2014 election is over, the group dissolved, but wants to carry on its lawsuit to strike down the 30-day limit. Judges William Benton and James B. Loken voted that the group has standing, and also that its lawsuit is ripe. Judge Morris Arnold dissented and says the group doesn’t have standing. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.

Rocky De La Fuente Asks Georgia to Waive July 1 Deadline for Filing Presidential Elector Candidates

On July 28, independent presidential candidate Rocky De La Fuente formally asked the Georgia Secretary of State to waive the July 1 deadline for an independent presidential candidate to file his or her slate of presidential elector candidates. Georgia’s petition deadline was July 12, and De La Fuente met that deadline.

The letter from De La Fuente’s attorney points out that Georgia does not require the ballot-qualified parties to certify the names of their presidential elector candidates that early, and thus the policy is discriminatory. It also points out that when Arizona’s similar deadline for presidential elector candidates of qualified parties was challenged in court by the Green Party earlier this year, the state did not defend that deadline.

Massachusetts Secretary of State, in a Speech, Says Voters Who Vote for Parties Other than Democratic or Republican are Wasting Their Votes

On July 27, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin spoke to the Massachusetts delegation at the Democratic national convention. According to this story, he said that voters who vote for parties other than the Democratic and Republican Parties are “wasting” their vote.