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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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South Carolina Libertarian Party Asks State Supreme Court to Clarify that it can Continue to Nominate by Convention

Published on April 16, 2014,

Before 2013, the South Carolina election law said that a party cannot switch from nominating by primary, to nominating by convention, unless three-fourths of the delegates to its state convention approve the idea. In 2013, the legislature made it even more difficult for a party that nominates by primary to switch to conventions. It amended the law to say that not only must a party get three-fourths of all the delegates to its state convention to approve the change, but it must also then put the question to the voters on its next primary ballot.

If one reads the new law literally, it seems to say that no party can nominate by convention unless it first has a primary in which a majority of voters at its primary approve the idea that the party should nominate by convention in the following election.

On April 14, the Libertarian Party asked the State Supreme Court to interpret the new law. The case is South Carolina Libertarian Party v South Carolina State Election Commission. The State Supreme Court need not hear the case unless it wishes to. Presumably, if the Court refuses to hear the case, the Libertarian Party will be more secure. The party worries that someone in the near future might challenge all the party’s convention nominees on the grounds that the party doesn’t have the right to nominate by convention, because it never had a primary in which it asked its primary voters for permission to nominate by convention at the next election.

The 2013 bill, SB 2, now known as Act 61, also said that the bill would not take effect until it was approved by the U.S. Justice Department, because at the time all South Carolina election law changes had to be approved by the U.S. Justice Department. But the Justice Department never precleared SB 2, because a few weeks after the bill was signed, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Shelby County, Alabama v Holder, saying the preclearance formula is flawed. So the state takes the position that even though the bill says it won’t go into effect unless it it precleared, that that part of the bill is null and void. The Libertarian Party lawsuit asks the State Supreme Court to rule on that problem as well. If the Court accepts the case, the Libertarian Party will have performed a service to all of the state’s political parties and all of its voters, just to get this matter settled.

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Lawsuit Filed Against Arkansas Law on Government Photo-ID for Voters at the Polls

Published on April 16, 2014,

On April 16, some voters who do not have any government photo-ID filed a lawsuit against an Arkansas law which requires such ID in order for them to vote at the polls. See this story. The lawsuit is based on the Arkansas State Constitution. The lawsuit is Kohls v Martin, in Circuit Court in Pulaski County. Here is the Complaint.

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Link to April 15 Los Angeles Times Story on How Top-Two Injures Minor Parties

Published on April 16, 2014,

Readers can read the April 15 Los Angeles Times story on how California’s minor parties are injured by the top-two system (Proposition 14), at this link, courtesy of the Redding, California daily newspaper, the Record-Searchlight.

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Final Brief Filed In South Carolina Open Primary Lawsuit

Published on April 16, 2014,

On April 10, the Greenville County Republican Party filed its reply brief in Greenville County Republican Party Executive Committee v Way, 13-2170, in the Fourth Circuit. The U.S. District Court had ruled that the county Republican Party doesn’t have standing to challenge South Carolina laws that require parties to nominate by open primary or by convention.

The party’s brief explains that the county party must nominate by open primary, and cannot nominate by convention, when it nominates for partisan city office. The brief also explains that because state law requires county parties to pay for the administration of their own primaries for municipal office, the county party is suffering constitutional injuries, aside from any issue related to primaries for federal and state office.

The party’s brief also says that the state Republican Party, even though it withdrew from the lawsuit, passed a resolution on June 14, 2013, affirming its support for the county party’s legal position. The party’s brief also documents that the state Republican Party platform supports the lawsuit.

The next step will be for the Fourth Circuit to set an oral argument date.

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Pennsylvania Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Survives Attempt to Remove him from Primary Ballot

Published on April 15, 2014,

Bob Guzzardi, the only person who petitioned for a place on the Pennsylvania Republican primary ballot against the incumbent Republican Governor (Tom Corbett) has so far survived a challenge to his petition. See this story. However, the individuals who tried to get him removed from the ballot will appeal to the State Supreme Court. The primary is May 20.

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Iowa Supreme Court Issues Splintered Decision on Which Crimes Result in Disenfranchisement

Published on April 15, 2014,

The Iowa Constitution says that persons convicted of “infamous crimes” may not register to vote. On April 15, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an opinion in Chiodo v The Section 43.24 Panel, 14-0553. The issue was whether an individual who had been convicted of an aggrevated misdemeanor should lose the right to register. Specifically, the voter in question (who is also a candidate for the state legislature this year) had been convicted twice in his life of drunk driving.

The plurality opinion, signed by 3 justices, says that “infamous crime” means something more serious than a felony. A concurrence signed by two justices says “infamous crime” and “felony” mean the same thing. The concurrence argues that the plurality opinion is so vague, that there will be an explosion of new litigation over whether other persons convicted of felonies may now register to vote.

One justice would have ruled that “infamous crime” means any crime for which the punishment includes incarceration in prison (as opposed to jail). One justice did not participate. Here is a link to the opinion.