On June 9, the 7th circuit held its hearing in Lee v Illinois State Board of Elections. This case challenges Illinois law that requires an independent candidate for legislature to submit a petition signed by 10% of the last vote cast, by December of the year before the election.
The hearing went very well. No independent candidate for the state legislature has qualified since 1980. In 1974 and again in 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court said that ballot access laws are likely unconstitutional when the historical record shows that few candidates qualify. Unfortunately, most lower courts ignore those decisions (for example, the 6th circuit). But this panel of the 7th circuit is aware of the 1974 and 1977 precedents, and seems likely to use them. It seems likely the law will be declared void.
On June 6, California held a non-partisan statewide election for Superintendent of Public Instruction. There were 5 candidates: one Republican, one Green, and three Democrats. The incumbent, Jack O’Connell, a former Democratic state legislator, was re-elected with 52.1% of the vote. Placing 2nd was the Green Party member, Sarah Knapp, with 17.3%. Third was the only Republican in the race, Diane Lenning, with 14.3%. Fourth was Daniel Bunting, a Democrat who represented himself as an advocate for teachers, with 8.5%. Fifth was Grant McMicken, another Democrat with 7.8%.
On June 8, the Pierce County, Washington, County Charter Review Commission voted to put Instant-Runoff Voting on a future ballot for a public vote. Pierce County is the state’s 2nd most populous county, and contains Tacoma.
The Texas Democratic Party recently filed a lawsuit in Texas state court to prevent the Republican Party from nominating a new candidate for US House, 22nd district. Texas Democratic Party v Benkiser, Austin district court, 06-2089. On June 8, the court ordered the Republican Party not to choose a new nominee until after a further court hearing, to be held June 22.
Texas law does not permit candidates to withdraw unless they are ineligible. Tom DeLay was renominated in the March 2006 primary, but afterwards he withdrew, claiming he is not eligible to run for re-election since he says he is not a resident of Texas. The basis for the Democratic lawsuit is that DeLay is still a resident of Texas. If he is eligible, he cannot withdraw, and if he cannot withdraw, Republicans can’t replace him with a new nominee.
On June 3, the Maryland Green Party announced its nominations for public office, including U.S. Senate. The nominee for U.S. Senate is Kevin Zeese, and he will appear as the Green Party candidate for that office in November. Although the Libertarian Party also nominated him, state law forces him to choose only one party label, and he has said his choice is “Green”. The Populist Party, formed in a few states by Ralph Nader in 2004, is also expected to nominate Zeese.
Both the 2nd circuit and the 7th circuit have oral arguments in ballot access cases this week of June 5-9. The 2nd circuit heard arguments in Lopez Torres v New York State Bd. of Elections on June 7, and the 7th circuit hears arguments in Lee v Illinois State Bd. of Elections on June 9.
The New York case involves ballot access to the primary ballot, for candidates for Delegate to the Judicial Nominating Conventions. The oral argument lasted two hours, three times as long as had been scheduled.
The Illinois case challenges the petition for independent candidates for the legislature. It is so restrictive, it has not been used since 1980. Independent candidates for the Illinois legislature need a petition signed by 10% of the number of voters who voted in that district in the last general election. Furthermore, the petition is due in December of the year before the election. No other state requires independent candidates to submit petitions greater than 5% of the number of registered voters, and no other state requires the petition to be submitted in the year before the election. Yet, amazingly, the U.S. District Court had upheld the law.