Alabama Governor Uses Ballot Access Win Last Year as an Excuse Not to Hold Special U.S. Senate Election

An Alabama state court is currently processing a lawsuit over whether Alabama’s Governor must call a special U.S. Senate election this year. The vacancy exists because U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions resigned to become Attorney General. The Governor does not want a special election for that seat until November 2018, but he is being sued, because the law says special elections must be called “forthwith” if the vacancy occurs more than four months before the seat would have been up anyway.

In the latest brief filed by the Governor, he says there should be no special election this year because last year, a U.S. District Court struck down the petition requirement for independent candidates in special elections. See this story. The case is Zeigler v Bentley, Montgomery Circuit Court, cv2017-900338.

The obvious rebuttal to the Governor’s point is that the state is free to lower the number of signatures for an independent candidate in special elections, as an alternative to greatly expanding the time allowed for an independent to gather 35,413 valid signatures. The case last year was Hall v Merrill, U.S. District Court, m.d., 2:13cv-663. The state is appealing that decision.

Washington Presidential Elector Lawsuit Dropped

On March 14, the Democratic presidential electors who had sued to overturn a Washington state law that fines “disobedient” electors dropped their lawsuit. Their court papers do not explain why they dropped it. The case is Chiafalo v Inslee, w.d., 2:16cv-1886.

Somewhat similar lawsuits are still pending in federal courts in California, Colorado, and Minnesota.

Utah Governor Signs Bill Moving Deadline for Petition to Qualify a New Party to November of the Year Before Election

On March 17, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed SB 13, which moves the petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties to November of the year before the election. Herbert is a Republican. The Republican Party was formed on July 6, 1854, and went on to win a plurality in the U.S. House in the fall 1854 elections. In 2000 the United States State Department filed a protest with Azerbaijan for its new election law that required parties to be in existence for six months before the election.

It is likely a lawsuit will be filed against this new law, perhaps as early as 2018. No reported decision anywhere in the U.S. upholds a deadline for a new party petition earlier than April of an election year. It is true that the lawsuit Stein v Chapman, against the Alabama March deadline, did not result in a victory, but that was because all the plaintiffs’ evidence was excluded due to a technicality.