North Carolina Attempts to Defeat Ballot Access DeadlineLawsuit on Grounds that Green Party, Constitution Party Have Only Made Feeble Petitioning AttemptsJune 29th, 2012
On May 28, the North Carolina State Board of Elections filed this brief in Pisano v Bartlett, the lawsuit challenging the May petition deadline for petitions for newly-qualifying parties. The brief argues that because the two plaintiff parties, the Constitution Party and the Green Party, have made only feeble attempts to qualify for the ballot this year, the case should be dismissed.
The brief ignores all the reported court decisions that have held that unqualified parties, and independent candidates, have standing to challenge early petition deadlines, whether those parties and candidates have tried to get on the ballot or not. The U.S. Supreme Court itself struck down Ohio’s petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties in 1968 in Williams v Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, even though one of the political parties in that case, the Socialist Labor Party, had not made any attempt to petition in Ohio that year.
Other cases in which courts held that parties or independent candidates have standing to challenge early deadlines, even if they haven’t tried (or barely tried) to get the signatures or registrations in which they filed the lawsuit, are:
1. Lendall v Bryant, 387 F Supp 398 (1975), struck down Arkansas’ April petition deadline for independent candidates.
2. California Justice Committee, decision of May 22, 2012, enjoined California’s January deadline for new parties.
3. Lee v Keith, 463 F 3d 763 (1986), struck down Illinois’ December of the year before the election deadline for non-presidential independent candidates.
4. Libertarian Party of Kentucky v Ehrler, 776 F Supp 1200 (1991), struck down Kentucky’s February petition deadline for non-presidential independents.
5. Kelly v McCulloch, decision of May 25, 2012, struck down Montana’s March deadline for non-presidential independent candidates.
6. LaRouche v Burgio, 594 F Supp 614 (1984) struck down New Jersey’s April petition deadline for independent candidates.
7. Greaves v North Carolina State Board of Elections, 508 F Supp 78 (1980) struck down North Carolina’s April deadline for independent candidates.
8. McLain v Meier, 637 F 2d 1159 (1980) struck down North Dakota’s June deadline for newly-qualifying parties.
9. Nader 2000 Primary Committee v Hazeltine (2000) struck down South Dakota’s June deadline for independent candidates.
10. Libertarian Party of Tennessee v Goins, 793 F Supp 2d 1064 (2010 struck down Tennessee’s March deadline for newly-qualifying parties.
11. Green Party of Tennessee v Hargett, decision of Feb. 3, 2012), struck down Tennessee’s April deadline for newly-qualifying parties.
In all of these instances, the plaintiff parties or candidates didn’t collect any signatures, or just collected a very small amount. Also, in Stevenson v State Board of Elections, 794 F 2d 1176 (1986) and in Rainbow Coalition of Oklahoma v Oklahoma State Board of Elections, 844 F 2d 740 (1988), courts said parties or candidates who collect no signatures still have standing to challenge early deadlines, although in those two cases the deadlines were upheld.
The North Carolina brief also claims that many states have petition deadlines that are earlier than North Carolina’s May deadline. But the state’s brief confuses procedures to establish a new fully-qualified party, with procedures that have later deadlines that permit a newly-qualifying party to place its nominees on the November ballot with the party label.