Nine Constitutional Ballot Access Cases Pending in U.S. Courts of Appeals

Ballot Access News:

At least nine constitutional ballot access cases are pending in various U.S. Courts of Appeals around the nation. Here is a brief status summary:

1. The Eleventh Circuit has all the briefs in Hall v Merrill, 16-16766. The issue is whether Alabama can require a petition of 3% of the last gubernatorial vote in special elections for U.S. House and for statewide elections, given that the petitioning time for a special election is much shorter than in a normal election. However, this case may be moot if the legislature passes HB 552, which reduces the petition for independent candidates in special elections to 1%. The U.S. District Court had invalidated the state law as applied to special elections.

2. The Eighth Circuit has all the briefs in Libertarian Party of Arkansas v Martin, 16-3794. The issue is the old Arkansas law that required newly-qualified parties to nominate all their candidates several months before the major parties choose their nominees. The U.S. District Court had invalidated the law. This is a peculiar appeal, because the legislature has already changed the law to conform to the U.S. District Court decision, yet the state still appeals that decision.

3. The Ninth Circuit has all the briefs in Independent Party v Padilla, 16-15895. The last brief was filed December 2, 2016. The issue is the California Secretary of State’s refusal to tally the number of voters who are registered in the Independent Party. It is not known if the Independent Party has enough registrations to be a qualified party. The U.S. District Court had upheld the Secretary of State’s decision, even though California has no law saying a party can’t be named “Independent Party” and even though the state presented no evidence. California does have a state law saying two parties can’t have names that are so similar to each other as to cause confusion, and the American Independent Party is on the ballot.

4. The Ninth Circuit has all the briefs in Soltysik v Padilla, 16-55758. The last one was submitted April 19, 2017. The issue is the California law that allows some candidates for Congress and partisan state office to have their party on the ballot, but denies this for other candidates. The U.S. District Court had upheld the state law.

5. The Seventh Circuit heard oral argument in Libertarian Party of Illinois v Scholz, 16-1667, on February 24, 2017. The issue is the Illinois law that requires newly-qualifying parties (but not old parties) to run a full slate of candidates. The U.S. District Court had invalidated it.

6. The Seventh Circuit has received most of the briefs, but not all, in Tripp v Smart, 16-3469. This is an Illinois Green Party case challenging the 5% petition for legislative candidates of unqualified parties, combined with other petition hurdles, such as the requirement that each sheet be notarized. The U.S. District Court had upheld the state laws.

7. The Tenth Circuit has the opening brief in De La Fuente v Ziriax, 17-6010. This is an Oklahoma case, challenging the petition for independent presidential candidates, and the presidential nominees of unqualified parties. However this case will probably be moot if Governor Mary Fallin signs SB 145, which lets such candidates get on the ballot with no petition if they pay a large filing fee.

8. The Third Circuit heard oral argument on March 22, 2017, in Constitution Party of Pennsylvania v Cortes, 16-3266. The issue is the county distribution requirement for independent candidate petitions, and petitions for the nominees of unqualified parties. The distribution requirement only applies to state office, not president or U.S. Senate. The U.S. District Court had invented the requirement; there is no such statutory requirement.

9. The Sixth Circuit has all the briefs in Green Party of Tennessee v Hargett, 16-6299. They were all submitted by December 9, 2016. The Court has not said whether it wants oral argument or not. The issue is Tennessee’s petition requirement of 2.5% of the last gubernatorial vote for newly-qualifying parties. The U.S. District Court had upheld the law.

This list only includes cases in U.S. Appeals Courts. There are also such lawsuits pending in U.S. District Court in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

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