Assemblyman Tom Umberg of California sued the California Secretary of State on March 20. Umberg charges that the Secretary of State should not have placed J. Luis Correa on the Democratic primary ballot, as an opponent to Umberg (both are running for State Senate). Umberg says Correa turned in too many signatures. The law says a candidate seeking a place on a primary ballot (for district office) needs 40 signatures, and that no one may turn in more than 60 signatures. Correa turned in 101 signatures. The case is Umberg v McPherson,06-406, Superior Court, Sacramento, and will be heard March 28.
This case will test whether the recent California Supreme Court opinion Costa v Superior Court applies to candidate petitions as well as initiative petitions. The Costa case set forth a “substantial compliance” rule for initiative petitions (see the March 1, 2006 Ballot Access News for more about the Costa opinion).
On March 24, Carole Strayhorn, independent candidate for Governor of Texas, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Austin over some ballot access rules. The case was assigned to Judge Sam Sparks. Strayhorn v Williams, A06-ca205.
The lawsuit argues that the state should permit independent candidates to file supplemental petitions, after the first batch has been turned in. The lawsuit also argues that the state may not arbitrarily refuse to use the random sampling method that is already provided for in state law. For some reason, a few weeks ago, the Texas Secretary of State said he would not use random sampling this year for independent candidate petitions, and he also ruled that once signatures have been turned in, no more signatures will be accepted, even if the deadline lies in the future. There is no statutory authorization for such a rule.
On March 24, the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office said that the Libertarian Party’s petition for party status has enough valid signatures. The petition had been submitted back on November 28, 2005, and it took this long for it to be thoroughly examined.
Next, the Libertarian Party will probably file a lawsuit, arguing that since it has demonstrated it has a modicum of voter support, it is unconstitutional for the state to require additional thousands of signatures in support of the party’s convention nominees. The party has already nominated 3 candidates for statewide office, at its convention, but state law requires approximately 7,500 valid signatures on additional petitions for each of them. A similar lawsuit was won against Maryland in 2003. New Mexico is the only state which expects one petition to qualify a party, and then separate petitions for each of its nominees.
On March 23, the 6th circuit refused to rehear Nader’s case against Ohio. The issue is Ohio’s law requiring candidate petition circulators to be registered voters. The District Court had refused to give Nader any relief, even though it said the restriction is unconstitutional, on the grounds that Nader’s petitioners had tried to fool officials on whether they were bona fide Ohio residents or not. Therefore, it refused to rule the law unconstitutional, even though it expressed the opinion that the law is unconstitutional. The 6th circuit, ruling after the election, had said the case is moot. That decision now stands, so someone else will need to file a lawsuit on the same point, but this time using out-of-state petitioners who freely admit that they are out-of-staters.
On March 23, a U.S. District Court in San Jose ruled that initiative petitions must be in other languages as well as in English, if they are being circulated in areas in which ballots are multi-lingual. The decision depends on an earlier 9th circuit opinion, which said the same thing about recall petitions. In re County of Monterey Initiative Matter, no. C06-1407JW. Thanks to Rick Hasen for this news.
On March 20, Iowa elections officials announced that the only Democratic candidate for U.S. House, 2nd district, had failed to gather enough valid signatures to appear on the primary ballot. However, Iowa law lets a qualified party nominate someone by committee, in cases when the primary fails to produce a nominee, so no major consequences will follow. The candidate is David Loebsack, a college professor challenging the incumbent Republican member of Congress. Iowa ballot access for U.S. House candidates in primaries is severe. Candidates need signatures from 1% of that party’s last presidential or gubernatorial general election vote. Further, there is a county distribution requirement; the candidate needs 2% from each of half the counties in the district.
Iowa’s 2nd district has 15 counties, so Loebsack needed a certain number of signatures from 8 counties. But he was short in two of his needed 8 counties. He could probably have won a lawsuit against the county distribution requirement. All county distribution requirements that have been tested in court, for candidate or party ballot access, have been eliminated (except in Pennsylvania). In 1969 the U.S. Supreme Court said county distribution requirements are unconstitutional for statewide petitions, since they give more power to residents of low-population counties than high-population counties. The 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision Bush v Gore reinforced the old 1969 decision. Since Bush v Gore came out, several courts have even invalidated county distribution requirements for initiatives.