Washington Presidential Elector Lawsuit Dropped

On March 14, the Democratic presidential electors who had sued to overturn a Washington state law that fines “disobedient” electors dropped their lawsuit. Their court papers do not explain why they dropped it. The case is Chiafalo v Inslee, w.d., 2:16cv-1886.

Somewhat similar lawsuits are still pending in federal courts in California, Colorado, and Minnesota.

Utah Governor Signs Bill Moving Deadline for Petition to Qualify a New Party to November of the Year Before Election

On March 17, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed SB 13, which moves the petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties to November of the year before the election. Herbert is a Republican. The Republican Party was formed on July 6, 1854, and went on to win a plurality in the U.S. House in the fall 1854 elections. In 2000 the United States State Department filed a protest with Azerbaijan for its new election law that required parties to be in existence for six months before the election.

It is likely a lawsuit will be filed against this new law, perhaps as early as 2018. No reported decision anywhere in the U.S. upholds a deadline for a new party petition earlier than April of an election year. It is true that the lawsuit Stein v Chapman, against the Alabama March deadline, did not result in a victory, but that was because all the plaintiffs’ evidence was excluded due to a technicality.

Third Circuit Hears Argument over County Distribution Requirement for Statewide Minor Party Petitions

On March 22, the Third Circuit heard arguments in Constitution Party v Cortes, 16-3266. The issue is the constitutionality of the county distribution requirement for statewide minor party and independent candidate petitions, for state (as opposed to federal) office. The requirement was never passed by the Pennsylvania legislature, but was created by U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Stengel last year.

The judges seemed to ponder whether to remand the case back to U.S. District Court, to get evidence on how burdensome the county distribution requirement is. But, the judges are also aware that any county distribution requirement does dilute the voting strength of residents of high-population counties. One of the judges seems to have done his own research, and he found that the nine most populous counties of Pennsylvania contain a majority of the population. Because the requirement requires signatures from ten counties (for gubernatorial candidates), theoretically a gubernatorial candidate with high support in those nine counties, but no support in the other counties, could be blocked from the ballot. Therefore, the requirement would be unconstitutional, because it discriminates against the voters in big-population counties.

One of the judges asked the attorney for the state whether there is any bill in the 2017 session of the legislature to regulate ballot access for minor party and independent candidates. The attorney for the state seemed reluctant to say that there is no such bill. She mentioned a 2016 bill, which did not pass, but the judges themselves had to then point out that the 2016 session of the legislature is over and only a bill in the 2017 session could possibly change the law for the 2018 election. Anyone can hear the 35-minute oral argument at this link.

Two Candidates Sue Montana Over Ballot Access Rules for Special U.S. House Election

On March 22, two candidates who want to be on the ballot in the special U.S. House election in Montana filed a federal lawsuit, charging that the state’s ballot access law as applied to them is unconstitutional. The vacancy was caused when Congressman Ryan Zinke resigned on March 1. On the same day, the Governor set the special election to replace him for May 25. The Secretary of State then said that any candidate who wasn’t the nominee of a ballot-qualified party needed 14,268 valid signatures by March 3. Later the Secretary of State said the deadline is March 6. Such candidates also need to pay a filing fee of $1,740, unless they show they are paupers.

The case is Breck v Stapleton, 9:17cv-36. The two candidates are Thomas Breck, who identifies with the Green Party; and Steve Kelly, an independent. The case is assigned to Judge Dana L. Christensen, an Obama appointee. Here is the Complaint. UPDATE: here is the Bozeman Daily Chronicle story about the lawsuit.

New California Registration Tally

On March 22, the California Secretary of State released a registration tally as of February 10, 2017. This is the only report that California will issue until early in 2018. In raw numbers, the two major parties lost members, but all the ballot-qualified minor parties gained members.

In percentage terms, the Democratic, Republican and Green Parties were slightly lower, but the Libertarian, Peace & Freedom, and American Independent Parties gained. The old percentages, from the October 24, 2016 tally, were: Democratic 44.92%; Republican 26.01%; American Independent 2.61%; Libertarian .72%; Green .4876%; Peace & Freedom .3897%; independent and unqualified parties 24.86%.

The new percentages are: Democratic 44.77%; Republican 25.87%; American Independent 2.63%; Libertarian .73%; Green .4874%; Peace & Freedom .3912%; independent and unqualified parties 25.13%. If these trends continue, in the next report there will be more people registered as independent or in unqualified parties than there will be Republicans.