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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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Democratic Governors Association Sues Connecticut Over Campaign Finance Restrictions

Published on April 23, 2014,

On April 23, the Democratic Governors Association filed a federal lawsuit against certain Connnecticut campaign finance laws. The Association wants to make independent expenditures this year in support of Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, a Democrat who is running for re-election. The lawsuit says that Connecticut laws on independent expenditures provide that spending isn’t “independent” if the group and the candidate have had close contact in the recent past. The Democratic Governors Association says that it understands that its decisions about spending in the Connecticut race itself must be completely uncoordinated with Governor Malloy. But it says that the state, unless restrained by a court, will simply presume that the expenditures aren’t independent, just because Malloy has been active in the organization.

The case is Democratic Governors Association v Brandi, 3:14cv-544. It was assigned to U.S. District Court judge Janet C. Hall, a Clinton appointee. See this story for more details.

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Oklahoma Senate Passes Bill Lowering Number of Signatures for Newly-Qualifying Parties

Published on April 23, 2014,

On April 23, the Oklahoma Senate passed HB 2134 by a vote of 28-16. The bill had already passed the House, but because the Senate added some additional provisions, it must return to the House. Here is the text of the amended bill. UPDATE: the “yes” votes included 19 Republicans and 9 Democrats. The “no” votes included 15 Republicans and one Democrat. The four senators who didn’t vote include two Republicans and two Democrats.

The bill lowers the number of signatures for a newly-qualifying party from 5% of the last vote cast, to 2.5%. If this provision were in effect this year, the number of signatures for 2014 would be 33,372 signatures instead of 66,744.

The bill also lowers the number of signatures for an independent presidential candidate, and the presidential nominee of an unqualified party, from 3% of the last presidential vote, to 2.5% of the last presidential vote. It moves the petition deadline for independent presidential petitions and unqualified party presidential petitions from July 15 to July 1.

The bill also says that presidential electors who don’t vote for the presidential candidate in the electoral college that they were expected to vote for are deemed to have resigned and will be replaced by the other electors. Of course, if the entire slate of electors refused to vote for the expected person, that system wouldn’t work. Thanks to E. Zachary Knight for this news.

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U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case Against Ohio Law Criminalizing False Statements in Election Campaigns

Published on April 23, 2014,

On April 22, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Susan B. Anthony List v Driehaus, 13-193. The issue is the constitutionality of an Ohio law that makes it a criminal offense for anyone to spend money on a statement about a candidate or ballot measure that the state considers false. The lower federal courts had refused to rule on the constitutionality of the law, citing procedural reasons. There have been several separate challenges to the law, but so far none of the lawsuits has resulted in any court deciding whether the law is constitutional.

Virtually every comment and question made by any Justice was critical of the lower court decision. It is extremely likely that the Supreme Court will remand the case back to a lower court and ask it to decide the constitutional issue. If that happens, it is somewhat likely that the precedent will help in other election law cases, and First Amendment cases, to overcome standing problems.

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California Constitutional Amendment to Eliminate Special Legislative Elections Advances

Published on April 23, 2014,

On April 23, the California Senate Elections Committee passed SCA 16, a proposed state constitutional amendment. The amendment says when there is a vacancy in the legislature, there won’t be a special election, and the Governor will appoint someone from the same party. If the empty seat had been held by an independent, the Governor can appoint anyone of any partisan affiliation.

The bill needed three votes in the 5-member Committee, and only received three votes. The chair of the Committee, Senator Norma Torres, did not vote for SCA 16, even though she is a Democrat and the sponsor of the amendment is the Democratic President Pro Tem of the Senate, Senator Darrell Steinberg. The bill needs a two-thirds vote in each House, and is unlikely to pass the full Senate.

Jeff Hewitt, a city councilmember in Calimesa, California, and a member of the Libertarian Party, testified against the bill, and his testimony was quoted in this Los Angeles Times story. Gale Morgan, vice-chair of the state Libertarian Party, also testified against the bill. No other organization sent witnesses to testify against the bill, although Californians for Electoral Reform sent a spokesperson to point out that since the rationale for the bill is to save money, money could be saved if special elections used Instant Runoff Voting, to avoid two-round elections.

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South Carolina Supreme Court Will Hear Libertarian Case Over Nominations on April 24

Published on April 23, 2014,

On April 23, the South Carolina Supreme Court agreed to hear South Carolina Libertarian Party v South Carolina State Election Commission, 2014-000775. The hearing will be at 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 24.

The issue is the validity and meaning of SB 2, passed in 2013. It says that if parties want to nominate by convention, they must put that idea to a vote at the party’s primary. The legislature seemed to forget that all of South Carolina’s ballot-qualified parties already nominate by convention. Last year, the South Carolina Libertarian Party had asked the Election Commission to hold a primary for the party in 2014, but the Election Commission said that is too much work. The Attorney General then wrote an opinion saying obviously the 2013 bill was never intended to apply to parties that normally already nominate by convention.

A side issue is whether SB 2 is valid, given that the bill says it won’t go into effect until the U.S. Justice Department pre-clears the bill. A few weeks after the bill was signed into law, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Shelby County, Alabama v Holder, knocking out part of the federal Voting Rights Act, so the state then didn’t bother to ask for pre-clearance. However, under the literal language of the bill, the bill isn’t in effect, but the state is enforcing it.

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Well-Known Hawaii Environmentalist Will Seek Libertarian Gubernatorial Nomination

Published on April 23, 2014,

Jeff Davis, a Hawaii radio host and environmentalist, will seek the Libertarian nomination for Governor. See this story. The primary is August 9. Davis only needs 25 signatures to get on the primary ballot.