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  Ballot Access News is edited and published by Richard Winger, the nation's leading expert on ballot access legal issues.

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Nevada Green Party Files Lawsuit to Overturn April Petition Deadline for Newly-Qualifying Parties

Published on April 18, 2014,

On April 18, the Nevada Green Party filed a lawsuit against the April 11 petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties. Green Party of Nevada v Gibson, 3:14cv-210. The state requires a petition signed by 9,738 valid signatures. When a party qualifies, it nominates by convention, not by primary, so there seems to be no election administration-related reason to require the signatures so early in the year. The Nevada petition deadline for independent presidential candidates is in July, and requires approximately the same number of signatures.

Twice before, Nevada has had an early petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties struck down, or enjoined. In 1986 the Libertarian Party won a case against the April petition deadline, so the 1987 legislature moved the deadline to June. In 1992, the New Alliance, Natural Law, and Populist Parties won injunctive relief against the June deadline, so the legislature moved the deadline to July. However, years later, the state moved the deadline back to April again. Also, in 2011, the legislature repealed the easy method for the nominees of unqualified parties to get on the ballot. That easy method required only 250 signatures for a statewide candidate, but it was repealed after the Tea Party placed a nominee for U.S. Senate on the 2010 ballot.

The Coalition for Free & Open Elections (COFOE) contributed $1,000 toward the expenses of this lawsuit.

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Nebraska Bill Signed that Lets Qualified Parties Dissolve Themselves

Published on April 18, 2014,

On April 9, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman signed LB 1048, which lets a qualified party dissolve itself. This bill came into existence because Americans Elect had qualified in Nebraska, but is no longer functional. Because Nebraska lets parties remain on the ballot for two elections after a successful petition, without this bill, Americans Elect would still be a qualified party in 2014.

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Rhode Island Bill to Repeal Straight-Ticket Device Fails to Pass Committee

Published on April 18, 2014,

On April 8, the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee refused to pass SB 2091, the bill to repeal the straight-ticket device.

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New Hampshire Legislature Defeats Bill to Ease Ballot Access, and Instead Passes Bill Making it More Difficult

Published on April 18, 2014,

On April 15, the New Hampshire Senate defeated HB 1322 by a vote of 13-11. All members of the State Senate voted. Every Republican voted “no”, and every Democrat voted “yes.” The bill would have eased the definition of a “political party”, from a group that had polled 4% for either Governor or U.S. Senator at the last election, to 3%.

In addition, on April 17, the legislature passed HB 1542, which had been introduced at the request of Secretary of State Bill Gardner. It makes it illegal for a group to circulate a petition to give it the ability to nominate multiple candidates (in a convention). This petition has existed since 1996, and it has only been used twice, by the Libertarian Party in 2000 and again in 2012. This petition requires signatures of 3% of the last gubernatorial vote. When the Libertarian Party did this petition for the 2000 election, it started in April 1999 and did not finish it until the August 2000 deadline. For 2012, the Libertarian Party started the petition in August 2011 and did not finish it until the deadline in August 2012. Experience therefore shows that eliminating half the time to circulate the petition is substantially harmful.

Federal courts in Rhode Island and Arkansas have ruled that it is unconstitutional to tell a group that it cannot circulate a petition for party status during an odd year.

Since this type of petition has existed, the legislature has constantly made it less and less useful. When it was used for the first time in 2000, the Libertarian Party used its flexibility to nominate candidates by nominating a sitting House member who had been defeated in the primary for State Senate. That candidate, Steve Vaillancourt, who did have libertarian principles even though he had been elected to the House as a Democrat, was then re-elected to his House seat as the Libertarian nominee. Afterwards, the law was changed so that parties that use this type of petition cannot nominate anyone who didn’t file a declaration of candidacy in June. Thanks to Darryl Perry for this news.

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New York Primary Petition Challenged on Grounds that Circulator Doesn’t Live in New York State

Published on April 18, 2014,

Congressman Dan Maffei of upstate New York, a Democrat, is also seeking the Working Families Party nomination, so he filed a petition to be on the Working Families Party primary ballot. That petition has been challenged on the grounds that the circulator, Kane Miller, is not truly a New York state resident. See this story. Miller is registered to vote in New York state and is enrolled in the Working Families Party, but the challenger will attempt to show that he is really domiciled in Georgia.

Although the challenge probably won’t reach the constitutional issue of New York’s ban on out-of-state circulators, it might. Bans on out-of-state circulators have been invalidated by courts in Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Also, California, Michigan, and D.C. repealed their bans after they were sued. Both Arizona and Virginia tried to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeals on that issue, but the U.S. Supreme Court turned down both states.

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Ohio Libertarian Party Ballot Access Case to be Argued in Sixth Circuit on Tuesday, April 22

Published on April 17, 2014,

The Sixth Circuit will hear Libertarian Party of Ohio v Husted, 14-3230, on Tuesday, April 22, at 4:30 p.m., in Cincinnati. This is the case over whether the Libertarian candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor should be on the party’s primary ballot. The court has reserved 30 minutes for this case.