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.
On March 21, the voters of Sangamon County, Illinois, voted on an advisory question. It asked them if they would like to change the Illinois open primary system from a system in which the voter’s choice of party primary ballot is public, to a system in which the voter chooses a party primary in the secrecy of the voting booth. 80% of the voters voted for the secret type of open primary. The vote has no legal effect, but Sangamon County legislators will introduce a bill to enforce the idea.
Puerto Ricans who are working to get a voice in U.S. presidential elections are about to file their case against the current U.S. policy with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, part of the Organization of American States. Puerto Ricans are likely to win in that forum.
California AB 3063 would allow elections officials to refrain from printing primary ballots for a party, if no one filed to appear on that party’s primary ballot. The bill was probably introduced as a reaction to the Natural Law Party situation. No one ran in its primary for any office in 2004, and no one is running this year. But since it is a qualified party, elections officials must still print up primary ballots for it. The bill would provide that if no one filed to appear on the primary ballot, but 100 registered members of the party signed a petition saying that they want to nominate someone by write-ins, then primary ballots would still be printed.