Federal Court Rules that State Initiative Requirement Cannot be Raised During the Lifetime of a Petition Drive

Yesterday, a US District Court in Nevada ruled that once a petition drive has begun (in this case, for initiatives), the state cannot change the numerical requirement during the lifetime of that petition, even if a new election is held so that the new legal number of signatures is higher than the prior one.

Plaintiffs were backers of several initiatives that had been circulating during 2004. The proponents were legally permitted to finish the drive as late as December 2004, to qualify for the November 2006 ballot. Unfortunately, when they submitted the signatures in December 2004, the state said, “Sorry; the number of signatures depends on the last vote cast, and the number of votes cast in November 2004 (which is much higher than the 2002 number) now applies. The decision means that an initiative to legalize marijuana, and two initiatives dealing with tobacco, will now appear on the November 2006 ballot, unless of course the state appeals and gets the decision reversed.

Cruel Election Law Bill Introduced in Arizona

State Senator Marilyn Jarrett has introduced SB 1218, which makes many miscellaneous election law changes. Among the change is a provision that if someone tries to get on the ballot as an independent candidate, and fails, then that person may not file to have his or her write-in votes counted.

The bill seems aimed at Nader voters. Nader tried and failed to qualify as an independent in Arizona. He then filed for write-in status, and elections officials tallied 2,773 write-ins for him. Under Jarrett’s bill, these voters would not have had their write-ins tallied. Anyone who wishes to try to persuade Senator Jarrett to drop this provision, can reach her at mjarrett@azleg.state.az.us. Her capitol office phone is 602-928-5288. She is a Republican and a member of the Heartland Institute.

Disputed San Diego Election Will Have Trial

A trial will be held, starting January 31, to help Judge Michael Brenner decide who won the San Diego mayoral election last November. Brenner is a visiting superior court judge from Orange County; all of the San Diego County judges recused themselves. Although some of the issues are legal, others are factual, concerning the extent to which voters were told that write-ins would not count unless they checked the box next to the name written in.

High Court Hears Oklahoma Libertarian Case; Outcome Difficult to Predict

On January 19, the US Supreme Court heard Clingman v Beaver, the case filed by the Oklahoma Libertarian Party in 2000. The issue is whether a party (which is entitled to nominate by primary) has the right, under the First Amendment freedom of association clause, to invite all registered voters to vote in its primary.

The US District Court had said “No”, but the US Court of Appeals, 10th circuit, had said “Yes”. The state of Oklahoma then appealed to the US Supreme Court.

At the hearing, Justice Antonin Scalia at first was hostile to the position of the Libertarian Party. However, as time went on, he became taciturn and appeared to be listening carefully to the attorney for the Libertarians, Jim Linger. Justices Souter, Kennedy, O’Connor and Stevens seemed sympathetic to the party. Justice Ginsburg and Breyer seemed undecided, and Justice Thomas was silent.

A much more detailed analysis will be printed in the Feb. 1, 2005 Ballot Access News.