On September 6, former Constitution Party state legislator Rick Jore of Montana received a letter from his bank, notifying him that his Democratic opponent in last year’s election had successfully emptied out his bank account, in accordance with a court order. That court order requires Jore to pay $15,664 in legal fees to his opponent’s attorney. Jore had not sued anyone last year. Instead, his Democratic opponent had sued him to obtain a recount. The original tally had resulted in Jore’s being seated in the legislature. The Montana Supreme Court had reversed the original tally and ruled that his Democratic opponent had been elected instead. Under strange Montana rules, when a candidate loses a lawsuit involving recounts, a court has the discretion to order the losing candidate to pay attorney’s fees for the winner.
Various minor parties are only days away from filing new constitutional lawsuits against North Carolina, Iowa and New Jersey. In North Carolina the Libertarian Party will argue that the state constitution (which requires that elections be “Free”) does not permit the state to require minor parties to submit 70,000 or so signatures in order to get on the ballot, and then to poll 10% for governor or president to remain on. The case will be filed in state court.
In Iowa, the ACLU will file a lawsuit for the Green and Libertarian Parties against the state’s practice of forcing all voters to register “Republican”, “Democrat”, or “independent” on voter registration forms. Iowa is the only state in which it is physically impossible for a voter to register into any party other than the Democratic and Republican Parties. It is one of only two states without a blank line in the “party” question, on the voter registration form. The other state, Kansas, also doesn’t have a blank line, but at least Kansas has a checkbox for 4 parties instead of only 2.
In New Jersey, the Libertarian, Green and Conservative Parties are about to file a lawsuit in state court against several election laws that discriminate against all parties except the Democratic and Republican Parties.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who died September 3, was almost always a foe of minor parties and independent candidates. He voted against them on ballot access, and on debates, and on fusion. He wrote the decision in Timmons v Twin Cities Area New Party. That decision not only upheld state laws that prohibit two parties from jointly nominating the same candidate. It went further, and seemed to suggest that it is constitutional to pass election laws of all kinds that hobble minor parties. He is the only justice who ever used the term “two-party system” to justify laws that discriminate against minor parties and independent candidates.
Rehnquist voted to keep John B. Anderson off the Ohio ballot in 1980, and he voted to keep Eugene McCarthy off the Texas ballot in 1976. Fortunately, both times he was in the court minority.
In 1999 he bitterly dissented when the Court majority invalidated state laws that require petition circulators to be registered voters. He charged that “convicted drug dealers” would now be able to circulate petitions.
In 1997, during the oral argument in Arkansas Educational TV Commission v Forbes (the case on whether public TV can sponsor candidate debates and invite only the Democrat and Republican), he sarcastically refered to the independent candidate who had filed the lawsuit as “Wacko Willie”.
On September 1, a U.S. District Court in Ohio said a trial will be held in August 2006 in the Cobb-Badnarik recount lawsuit. The case, Rios v Blackwell, 3:04-cv-7724, northern district, was filed last year. It charges that even though the candidates who asked for the recount paid for it, many counties did not handle the recount according to law. The lawsuit charges that some counties did not really choose precincts to recount randomly.
On September 8, the Ohio State Court of Appeals will hear a case on whether initiative circulators must be Ohio residents. State ex rel Finan v Blackwell, 05-APD-08-0854, Columbus. The decision will be out soon afterwards. The decision will determine whether several election reform initiatives get on the ballot. They concern setting up a non-partisan method for drawing legislative and US House district boundaries; campaign finance restrictions; early voting; and setting up a State Board of Elections. The initiatives lack enough signatures if the signatures collected by out-of-state circulators can’t be counted.
On August 31, the California Assembly passed SB 1050, which legalizes some write-ins when the voter forgot to “x” the box next to the name written in. The bill was amended in the Assembly, so now it must go back to the Senate.