Severe Illinois Loss

On October 13, U.S. District Court Judge Jeanne Scott, a Clinton appointee, upheld Illinois ballot access law for independent candidates for the legislature. The law requires a petition signed by 10% of the last vote cast, due in December of the year before the election.

Judge Scott made no mention of the numerous court precedents that have declared petition requirements higher than 5% to be unconstitutional. Such cases are from Arkansas, North Carolina, Ohio and South Dakota. She also made no mention of a summary US Supreme Court opinion from 1977, striking down an April petition deadline for an independent candidate for the legislature. Nor did she mention court precedents striking down early petition deadlines for non-presidential independent candidates, from Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

This case, Lee v Illinois State Bd. of Elections, was sponsored by the Coalition for Free & Open Elections (COFOE). COFOE is asking for funds for the appeal. Please send any help to COFOE, c/o Ballot Access News, PO Box 470296, San Francisco Ca 94147.

Bills in Congress to Expand Absentee Voting

Bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress to let Hurricane Katrina evacuees vote absentee, if they certify they intend to return home eventually. According to Roll Call magazine, the bills are gathering support. They are HR3734 and S1867. The lead sponsors are Congressman Artur Davis of Alabama and Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Thanks to Ed Packard for this news.

New York Libertarian Ballot Access Victory

On October 12, the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, upheld a decision of the lower court, putting the Libertarian Party candidate for Kings County Borough President on the November 2005 ballot. New York is one of the eleven states that has no procedure for a new party to petition to get itself on the ballot. Instead, New York only has candidate petitions.

New York law already permits a single petition to carry a statewide slate (or a New York city-citywide slate) as well as a candidate in just part of the state (or in just part of New York city). Obviously, putting multiple candidates on a single petition makes petitioning easier. The person in the street only has to sign one petition, not several.

The issue in this case (In the Matter of Gary S. Popkin) is whether a single petition can carry a citywide slate and two different district candidates, in two different districts. In this particular case, the question was whether the Libertarians could circulate a single petition that named the 3 citywide nominees, as well as a nominee for Brooklyn President, and a nominee for Queens President. The party, of course, recognized that this single petition had to get enough signatures for each of the nominees from among voters in the proper places. But the Board of Elections had said the petition was intrinsically invalid as to form. However, the courts disagreed. The precedent will make it possible for minor parties in the future to print fewer separate petition forms.

Virginia Republican Party Rights Case Dismissed

On October 12, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed a case filed by one unit of the Republican Party of Virginia. The party had filed a lawsuit to validate its bylaw, that people who have voted in the Democratic Party in the last 5 years cannot vote in the Republican primary, unless they sign a pledge of loyalty to the Republican Party. The judge said since the case would have no effect until 2007, the case isn’t ripe. He said it should not be re-filed until early 2007.

Potts Fails to win Injunction for Debate Inclusion

On October 6, U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon refused to require the University of Virginia Center for Politics to invite independent Virginia gubernatorial candidate Russell Potts into its gubernatorial debate. Since the debate sponsor is a branch of the state government, Potts should have won the case. The US Supreme Court said in Arkansas Educational TV Foundation v Forbes, 523 US 666 (1998), that government-owned entities must include all candidates with a real campaign, when they hold debates. Potts has a very substancial campaign and a large campaign budget, and has his own TV ads.

The debate will now include only the Democratic and Republican nominees, and will be held October 9.