Georgia State Court Enjoins Photo ID Requirement

On July 7, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Melvin Westmoreland blocked the relatively new Georgia law that requires voters to present government-issued photo ID’s, in order to vote at the polls. Assuming the injunction stands, the old law, requiring ID (but not necessarily government-issued photo ID) will be in force instead. Lake v Perdue, Fulton Co. Superior Court, 2006-cv-119207.

Possible Independent Gubernatorial Candidate in South Carolina

Republican State Senator Jake Knotts is mulling over whether to be an independent candidate for Governor. He needs 10,000 valid signatures by July 17. If he qualifies, he will be the first independent candidate for Governor in the history of government-printed ballots in South Carolina. South Carolina has only been using government-printed ballots since 1950.

Other states that have never had an independent candidate on a government-printed ballot, for Governor, are Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico and North Carolina.

Victory in Nebraska Federal Court on Access to Petitioning Sites

On June 29, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf, a Bush Sr. appointee, ruled that cities may not ban petitioning in public parks, just because the city had rented out the park to a private group sponsoring a festival. He also ruled that cities may not ban petitioning on sidewalks leading to public libraries. Groene v Seng, 4:06-cv-3153. The case has not yet been fully adjudicated, but Judge Kopf issued granted injunctive relief, pending the remaining proceedings in the case.

Statewide Independent or Minor Party Candidates Exist in Every State this Year

The North Dakota Libertarian Party recently decided to run Roland Riemers for U.S. Senate this year. He needs 1,000 signatures by early September, and expects to obtain them. This means that every state has minor party or independent candidates for statewide office this year (except in the two states, Kentucky and North Carolina, that don’t hold any statewide elections this year).

There is a good chance that almost all of these 48 states will have such minor party or independent candidates for statewide office on the ballot. The only state in which there is no chance that such a candidate will be on the statewide ballot is Alabama. In Illinois, the Greens will be on if they survive the challenge (it seems likely they will). There is also uncertainly about Pennsylvania and New Mexico; court actions will be important in those two states.

ACLU Sues Connecticut Over Discriminatory Public Funding

The ACLU of Connecticut filed a lawsuit on July 6, challenging Connecticut’s “Clean Elections” public funding law. Green Party of Connecticut v Garfield, 3:06cv-01030. The case was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny, a Clinton appointee.

“Clean elections” public funding laws require candidates for state office to raise a large number of small donations. Those candidates who meet this threshold, then qualify for public funding. There is no logical reason for any “clean elections” law to discriminate for or against any candidate, on the basis of his or her party membership. The Maine, Vermont and Arizona “clean elections” laws, and the law that formerly existed in Massachusetts, did not discriminate for or against any candidate on the basis of party. But the Connecticut law passed in 2005 excludes the nominees of parties that did not poll 10% in the last election, unless they submit a petition signed by 10% of the voters in that district.

The ACLU lawsuit also challenges a separate requirement of Connecticut’s “clean elections”, law, a provision that bars lobbyists, state contractors and their family members from contributing to candidates.

All “clean elections” laws only relate to candidates for state office. States are not permitted to pass laws relating to campaign finance for federal candidates.

Federal Court in Texas Rules that Tom DeLay is Eligible to Run From Texas; therefore Republicans can't replace Him

On July 6, U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks, a Bush Sr. appointee, ruled that Congressman Tom DeLay is eligible to run for re-election. This is not the ruling DeLay wanted. Texas election law says when a nominee is “ineligible” he may resign and be replaced by a new nominee, chosen by a party committee. Texas Democratic Party v Benkiser, A-06-CA-459.

DeLay is still free to withdraw for any reason, but without a declaration that he is ineligible, the Republican Party could not replace him with a new nominee.

Probably DeLay will remain on the ballot, and Republican Party activists will campaign for a vote for him, so that after the election, he could resign (assuming he is re-elected). Then, there would be a special election early in 2007.

The decision is only the third election law decision based on US Term Limits v Thornton. That 1995 decision struck down term limits for members of Congress. It established that states cannot add to the qualifications listed in the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution’s only residency requirement for candidates for Congress is that they reside in the state they seek to represent on election day. Although the Texas court assumed that DeLay has indeed moved out of Texas and into Virginia, that is irrelevant. The residency requirement only applies on election day in November, and no one knows where DeLay will be living in November 2006.

The other two decisions based on US Term Limits v Thornton were from California and Colorado. They both said states cannot keep individuals off the ballot as candidates for Congress on the grounds that these individuals are not registered to vote.