As noted in the post below, on September 5, U.S. District Court judge W. Keith Watkins upheld Alabama’s March petition deadline, based almost entirely on the 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision Timmons v Twin Cities area New Party. The Timmons decision upheld Minnesota’s ban on two parties jointly nominating the same candidate.
Judge Watkins wrote that the Timmons decision shows that when a party’s ballot label is kept off the ballot, that is only a slight burden on that party. However, the Timmons decision says the burden on a party is slight when “a particular individual may not appear on the ballot” as its candidate. The Timmons decision says there are several common-sense reasons why a party may be prevented from having “a particular individual” listed as its nominee. For instance, the candidate may not meet the constitutional requirements to hold the office, or (as in the Minnesota instance) some other party may have already nominated that candidate.
But the Alabama decision says that the burden on a party is slight when its name is entirely kept off the ballot, for all offices and all candidates. Obviously, there is an enormous difference between a law that prevents one particular person from being listed on the ballot as the party nominee, and a law preventing that party from having any nominees on the ballot with the party label.
The decision also ignores a more recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion, Clingman v Beaver, which appeared in 2005. In that case, a majority of members of the U.S. Supreme Court said that courts must give special protection to ballot access for new and minor parties. Justice John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O’Connor each wrote separately in that decision. The Stevens dissent was mostly co-signed by Justices Ruth Ginsburg and David Souter, and the O’Connor concurrence was mostly signed by Justice Stephen Breyer. The other four justices expressed no opinion whatsoever about the general relationship between minor parties and the U.S. Constitution.