New Hampshire Ballot Order Lawsuit Loses

On October 18, a lower New Hampshire state court upheld the law that gives the party that polled the most votes the top row (or the left-hand column) on the ballot. Akins v Secretary of State of New Hampshire, Merrimack Co., 04-E-360. The judge acknowledged that having the best spot on the ballot does help the party that enjoys that position, but still declined to require a random procedure to determine which party gets the best position.

The law that gives the best spot on the ballot to the party that polled the most votes, doesn’t specify which office. Therefore, the state adds up the vote for each party, for all the partisan offices on the ballot. The law has existed since 1994 and has always meant that Republicans get the best spot on the ballot.

Injunction Issued Against Georgia Photo ID Law

On October 18, a U.S. District Court judge in Georgia enjoined the state from enforcing its new law, requiring voters who vote at the polls to show a government-issued photo ID. The injunction is 124 pages long and seems to be based on the 24th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which forbids a poll tax or “any tax”. Georgia state ID costs $20. The state says it exempts the indigent, but the 24th amendment applies to all voters, not just indigents. Common Cause v Billups, 4:05-cv-201-HLM. If the ruling is not reversed on appeal, it may eventually have positive implications for states that require large filing fees (with no alternate means to get on the ballot) for all candidates except “paupers”.

Elaine Brown Removed from Brunswick, Georgia Mayoral ballot

On October 14, the Glynn County, Georgia Board of Elections disqualified Elaine Brown from running for Mayor of Brunswick. Elaine Brown had been considered one of the leading Green Party candidates in next month’s elections around the nation. Candidates for Mayor must have lived in Brunswick for a year before the election. Brown lived with friends in Brunswick in November 2004, but didn’t started renting her current home until December 2004. She plans a lawsuit to overturn the Board’s decision.

Oregon Top-Two Proponents Re-Write their Initiative

On October 12, the Oregon proponents of a “top-two” election system submitted a new version of their initiative. “Top-two” means an election system in which all voters get the same primary ballot, and that primary ballot lists all candidates for an office, regardless of party. Then, only the two highest vote-getters can ever appear on the November ballot.

Washington voters passed a “top-two” system last year, but this year a U.S. District Court declared it unconstitutional. Washington is appealing. In the meantime, the Oregon proponents have now changed their version of “top-two”. The new Oregon initiative will say that political parties have a right to tell elections officials which candidate or candidates for any particular office may have the party name printed next to the candidate’s name, on the ballot.

Presumably, if the new Oregon version passes, major and minor parties alike would then set up nominating conventions, and only the candidate chosen at the convention could have that party’s name on the primary ballot.

The new version does nothing about the other legal problem for “top two”, which is that congress passed a law in 1872 telling the states that they must hold congressional elections in November, with any run-off to be later than November. Furthermore, US Supreme Court ballot access jurisprudence says that candidates for Congress cannot be kept off the November ballot if they have a modicum of support and if they hold the qualifications to be a member of congress, and if they have not sabotaged their own political party by “sore loser” behavior. “Top two” would require candidates to have voter support of approximately 30% to be listed on the November ballot, far too high to be constitutional.