The South Carolina Working Families Party recently completed its petition (to qualify as a party) successfully. However, the State Election Commission said that notwithstanding that it is now a qualified party, it is too late for the party to run any candidates in this year’s election. This ruling flies in the face of a federal court decision from 1996, won by the Natural Law Party of South Carolina over the same issue. The Working Families Party expects to file a lawsuit soon. Assuming the party wins the lawsuit, it will probably not have any of its own members running, but instead will most likely cross-endorse some major party nominees (Democrats are more likely to be cross-endorsed than Republicans).
On July 21, the Maryland state Constitution Party became the third ballot-qualified Constitution Party unit to dis-affiliate from the national party. Thanks to Austin Cassidy for this news.
On April 21, 2006, the 6th circuit had ruled 2-1 that Ohio could no longer use punchcard ballots, since having punchcards in some counties and not other counties would violate Bush v Gore, which mandated equal treatment for all voters (punchcard ballots are more likely to fail to record an accurate vote, than other types of ballots). On July 21, the 6th circuit voted to rehear the case. This time all full-time judges will participate in the oral argument.
On July 21, the New Hampshire Supreme Court heard oral argument in Libertarian Party and Constitution Party v State of New Hampshire, no. 2005-0606. The case challenges the New Hampshire definition of “political party”. That definition was a group that had polled 3% for Governor, from 1891, until 1997. In 1997 the legislature changed it to 4% for either Governor or U.S. Senator. The Libertarian Party had polled over 4% for U.S. Senator in 1996, but the new law excluded looking at past election returns, so that didn’t help. Since 1996, no party other than the Democrats or Republicans has been able to poll 4%. New Hampshire is the only New England state that has not had any qualified parties (other than the Democrats and Republicans) in the last ten years.
The case depends on the New Hampshire Constitution, which says that elections must be fair and equal, and that all candidates must be given an equal opportunity (under the law) to win.
All five justices of the Supreme Court asked questions and made comments. It seemed that they were very skeptical of the state’s reasons for raising the vote test from 3% to 4%. They asked, if a minor party meets the 4% test in the near future, could the legislature raise the vote test again? The attorney for the state said that the legislature could pass any definition of “party” it wishes. That response didn’t seem persuasive. The justices also voiced skepticism that if the definition of “party” were any easier, that the voters would be confused. They even brought up the fact that Iraq’s first free election had 111 parties on the ballot.
On July 20, Ben Brandon, chairman of the Dade County, Georgia, County Commission, said he is switching from the Libertarian Party to the Republican Party. He had been elected as a Libertarian in 2004. County Commissioner is a partisan office, and his 2004 election had marked the first time since 1968 that any member of a party (other than the two major parties) had won a partisan election in Georgia.
Brandon said, “This in no way indicates any ill will toward the Libertarian Party”. “It’s just an admission that this is a two-party system, and if you want to be effective and contribute something you need to be one of those two parties.” He said his party label prevented him from being included in some policy discussions, especially at the state and federal level.
North Carolina’s H88 passed the Senate on July 20. See several postings below for a description of why this bill is nothing to cheer about; it makes some things better but others worse.