On September 5, U.S. District Court Judge W. Keith Watkins, a George W. Bush appointee, upheld Alabama’s March petition deadline for newly-qualifying party petitions. The case is Stein v Bennett, 2:12-cv-42 and is 24 pages long. Here is the decision.
The decision says that because the Constitution, Green, and Libertarian Parties were able to place their presidential candidates on the ballot as independent candidates, the burden on those presidential candidates, who had the label “independent” is not severe. Of course, the parties put their presidential candidates on the ballot as independents because Alabama requires 5,000 signatures by September for independent presidential petitions, and 44,829 signatures by March if the parties want to appear with the appropriate party label.
The decision relies primarily on the 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision Timmons v Twin Cities Area New Party, which upheld Minnesota’s ban on permitting two parties to jointly nominate the same candidate. The opinion says that if it is constitutional to prevent both parties from having their party labels on the ballot, next to the name of the single candidate they jointly nominated, therefore it follows that it is constitutional to force smaller parties to not appear on the ballot at all, if they can qualify their candidates as independents. This conclusion is not logical.
The decision does not mention that the U.S. Supreme Court said in 1974 in Storer v Brown that states must have constitutional procedures for both newly-qualifying parties and independent candidates. It also does not mention that the U.S. Supreme Court said in 1972 in Bullock v Carter “we can hardly accept as reasonable an alternative that requires candidates and voters to abandon their party affiliations in order to avoid the burden of the filing fees.” Bullock v Carter was a challenge to Texas filing fees. Texas defended the filing fees by saying that candidates who didn’t want to pay the fees could still get on the ballot without a fee if they ran as independent candidates.
The decision does not mention any of the 23 precedents that struck down early petition deadlines for newly-qualifying parties, except that the decision does mention the 1991 New Alliance Party decision that struck down Alabama’s April petition deadline. The decision implies, but does not say outright, that the 1991 decision is no longer good law. The 1991 decision was made by the Eleventh Circuit, a court that is superior in power to any U.S. District Court within the states of the Eleventh Circuit.