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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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New California Registration Data

Published on October 31, 2014,

On October 31, the California Secretary of State released a new registration tally, as of October 20. The previous tally had been as of September 5. Here is a link to the new data.

Compared to last month’s tally, every party gained in absolute numbers, and the number of independent voters also rose. But between the two tallies, the percentage of the electorate registered “Democratic” declined from 43.43% to 43.30%; the Republican share declined from 28.23% to 28.11%. But the share registered into each of the qualified minor parties increased. The largest unqualified party that has asked for a tally of its registrants is the Constitution Party, which went from 347 to 355 registrants.

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St. Louis Election Officials Threaten to Seize Campaign Literature Because Independent Candidate Labels Herself an “Independent Democrat”; Candidate Sues

Published on October 31, 2014,

On October 27, the chair of the St. Louis city election commission wrote a letter to independent candidate Jennifer Florida, saying that her campaign literature must not refer to herself as an “independent Democrat.” The letter says such literature “shall be seized by the St. Louis City Election Board.”

Florida is the incumbent Recorder of Deeds. She was appointed to that post earlier this year, too late to run in any party primary, so she petitioned as an independent candidate. She is a life-long Democrat and wants the voters to know that. In response to the threatening letter, on October 31 she filed a federal lawsuit, arguing that the Election Commission is violating the First Amendment. Florida v Bd. of Election Cmsrs. for the City of St. Louis, 4:14cv-1840.

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South Carolina Supreme Court Reinstates November 4 Election for State House, District 114

Published on October 31, 2014,

On October 31, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the State Election Commission, and said voters will elect a representative for the 114th State House district on November 4. The election ballot has one Republican, one Democrat, and one Green listed, but the instructions will say that votes cast for the Republican listed on the ballot will not be counted. Here is the order. It is conceivable that later the Court will also issue an order for a special election. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.

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Fourth Circuit Seems Determined to Avoid Constitutional Issue in South Carolina Republican Party Lawsuit on Private Open Primaries

Published on October 31, 2014,

On October 29, the Fourth Circuit heard oral arguments in Greenville County Republican Party v Way, 13-2170. Anyone can hear the 48-minute oral argument at this link.

The Greenville County Republican Party challenges the state law that requires county parties to pay for administering partisan primaries for city office within that county. The state law also requires those parties to hold an open primary. The party argues that certainly if it is required to pay for the primary, it can decide for itself who can vote in those municipal primaries.

The panel seemed eager to look for a way out of ruling on that issue. The lower court had held that the party doesn’t have standing. Section 7-15-395 says, “Any political party conducting a primary in this State is responsible for carrying out the provisions of this article by making ballots and election material available so that the persons named in 7-15-320 may be enabled to vote in primary elections. All expenses incurred by any political party in conducting elections subject to the provisions of this article shall be borne by such political party.” Another state law says that state and county governments may not pay for the expenses of partisan primaries for city office.

Notwithstanding these laws, the panel seems to believe that the Greenville County Republican Party need not pay for those expenses, because it is not a “party.” Section 7-1-20 defines “party” to be a “political party, organization or association certified as such by the State Election Commission.” Obviously once the Republican Party is recognized as a qualified party by the state, all of its county units are similarly recognized, but the panel seems to think the definition of “party” excludes the county party.

Earlier this year, the city of Greenville voted to conduct non-partisan city elections in the future, so that leaves a method open to the panel to declare the case moot. However, the attorney for the county Republican Party argued that the city could switch back to partisan elections in the near future, so the case is not moot.

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South Dakota’s Largest Newspaper Carries Op-Ed for Ranked-Choice Voting

Published on October 31, 2014,

The October 31 Argus Leader has this op-ed advocating ranked-choice voting. The Argus Leader is Sioux Falls’ daily newspaper, and is the largest newspaper in South Dakota.

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Lou Allstadt, Prominent Opponent of Fracking, Endorses Howie Hawkins for New York Governor

Published on October 31, 2014,

On October 30, Lou Allstadt, a prominent opponent of fracking, endorsed Howie Hawkins, the Green Party nominee for Governor of New York. See this story about the endorsement, and this article about Allstadt. Allstadt is a former executive vice-president of Mobil Oil and a resident of Cooperstown, New York. Although he is an independent, as the article says, he was elected to local partisan office as the Democratic nominee.

The Democratic nominee for Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, says he won’t decide his policy on fracking until more is known. Hawkins is against fracking. The New York gubernatorial race is one example of many that shows the value of minor party and independent candidate activity. If New York state had a top-two system, the only candidates on the November ballot would be Rob Astorino and Andrew Cuomo, and it wouldn’t be possible for anti-fracking voters to cast a vote that communicates their belief.