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.

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.