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Arizona Green Party Deadline Case Heard in U.S. District Court

On May 7, a U.S. District Court in Arizona heard Arizona Green Party v Bennett, 2:14cv-375. The lawsuit challenges the February petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties to submit signatures. According to this article, the judge looked askance at the party’s suggestion that if the state doesn’t have enough time to prepare the party’s late-August primary, the party might nominate by convention.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court took this action in 1968, when the American Independent Party submitted its signatures in July, five months after Ohio’s February deadline for newly-qualifying parties. At the time, Ohio required all newly-qualifying parties to participate in the May primary, but the U.S. Supreme Court put the party on the November 1968 ballot even though he had missed the primary.

Lower courts have also invalidated early petition deadlines for newly-qualifying parties, in states in which the law said new parties must nominate by primary, in Arkansas, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, and Tennessee. The Arkansas case was won by the Reform Party in 1996, and the judge put the party on the ballot that year even though it had not participated in a primary. The Idaho case was won by the Populist Party in 1984, and the Ninth Circuit put the party on the ballot that year even though it had missed the primary. The Nebraska case was won by the Libertarian Party in 1976 and the U.S. District Court permitted the party’s presidential candidate to appear on the November ballot with the party label, even though the party had not petitioned (instead, the party’s presidential candidate had petitioned as an independent). The Nevada case was won by the Libertarian Party in 1986, and the judge put it on the November ballot even though it missed its primary.

Also, in 1984, the Oklahoma Libertarian Party won a lawsuit against the 3-month petitioning period. By the time the case was won, it was too late for the party to participate in the primary, so the judge let the party nominate by convention and its nominees were put on the November ballot. Also, in 2008, the Libertarian Party was put on the ballot in Ohio by a U.S. District Court, even though it had missed the primary.

7 Responses

  1. According to the Arizona Capitol Times story by Howie Fischer: “At a hearing Wednesday, attorney Robert Barnes argued there was no way the party could have gathered the more than 23,000 signatures necessary by Feb. 27 to guarantee that the Green Party and its candidates would be on the Aug. 26 primary election ballot. He asked Judge Neil Wake to order the Secretary of State‚Äôs Office to give him until June 1.

    “Wake, however, pointed out the deadline for candidates themselves to file their nominating petitions is three days before that. He said that would make it impossible for someone who wants to run under the Green Party banner to get on the ballot.”

    Perhaps the Arizona Green Party’s attorney and the judge are unaware of it, but the June 1 deadline would not make it impossible for someone to run under the Green Party banner to get on the ballot.

    Write-in primary candidates have until July 17 to qualify for the August primary, and for a new party like the Greens, a write-in candidate needs only a plurality of the votes cast to be declared the nominee and to be placed on the ballot in November. In 2008, 2010, and 2012, at least a dozen Green Party candidates qualified for the November general election ballot by winning primaries as write-in candidates with only a handful of votes.

    It is hard to understand why the attorney didn’t argue this point. On the other hand, a number of things about the case suggest problems on the part of plaintiff’s lawyers. Why wasn’t the hearing expedited? Why wasn’t the case filed earlier? Why did this lawyer keep, as the judge noted, arguing his case “on the fly,” altering his theory of the case several times? Why did counsel not avail himself of the argument given in this post, citing the precedents that were noted?

    The Arizona Green Party seems to spend a good part of its budget filing lawsuits, often delaying so that the state can defend itself by arguing laches. You’d think that litigious a group might want to have better representation.

    On the other hand, the party next may want to sue their counsel for attorney malpractice.

  2. I think the hearing was on May 7, not May 8.

  3. Richard Winger

    Richard G, thanks for pointing out the hearing was on May 7. I have just now fixed it. Also the Green Party’s attorney does know about the write-in method and I believe he did mention it. In any event, there will probably be supplemental briefs filed very soon. One can’t rely on newspaper stories to give a full account of the hearing.

  4. Demo Rep

    ANY genius ballot access lawyers able to detect —

    1. Separate is NOT equal. Brown v. Bd of Ed 1954 — a mere 50 years ago.

    2. Every election is NEW.

    3. EQUAL ballot access requirements for ALL candidates for the same office in the same election area.

  5. I’m glad to hear that the attorney did bring up the write-in issue because it seems like a strong argument for allowing the Green Party to return to the ballot since the deadline for candidates to file isn’t until mid-July. I hope the Arizona Green Party will be on the ballot, since more choices for the voter are almost always better, and unfortunately, too many races do not have any opposition at all to incumbent candidates.

    In the event that the Green Party does not return to the Arizona ballot in 2014, all Green Party members are invited to run as write-in candidates in the Americans Elect party primary for the offices they wanted to run for as Greens. They can call themselves Greens. As of now, the Americans Elect party does have a gubernatorial candidate who will file signatures to be on the ballot, but pretty much every other office is open, and the Americans Elect party would be happy to have Green Party members as its candidates.

    In truth, the membership of the Green Party is so much larger than that of the Americans Elect party, the Greens could take over Americans Elect and declare it temporarily the Arizona affiliate of the Green Party of the U.S. Not all Green state Green parties use the Green name; for example, in West Virginia, the Mountain Party is the Green affiliate, and in Massachusetts, the Green-Rainbow part is.

    Republican Congressmen Trent Franks and David Schweikert are currently facing no opposition from other Republicans, and according to observers, there are no Democratic candidates running against them, either. Only Democrats are running for the congressional seat of retiring Rep. Ed Pastor. There is currently no Democratic candidate for Arizona State Treasurer, and there is no major party candidate running in numerous races for the state legislature.

    In 2012 the Arizona Green Party endorsed four candidates on their ballot for one Congressional seat, one seat on the Corporation Commission, and two legislative seats, and other candidates ran on the Green Party without party endorsement.

    If the Arizona Green Party is not on this year’s ballot, the Americans Elect Party would be happy to have Mark Salazar, Haryaksha Gregor Knauer, Angel Torres, Daniel Pout and other former Green candidates and leaders run as write-in candidates in the Americans Elect Party primaries.

    Write-in candidates may file after the deadline for candidates’ petitions for on-ballot primary status on May 28 and they have until July 17 to file. The paperwork is simple and no fee is required.

    The Arizona Americans Elect Party is also seeking non-Greens to run in its primaries. Candidates for Congress do not even have to be residents of Arizona until the day of the election.

    The Americans Elect Party will probably disappear from the Arizona ballot — unless the candidate for governor gets enough votes — after the 2014 election.

    A ballot line is a terrible thing to waste.

    • I forgot to mention the best part: Under state law, a write-in candidate for a “new party” like Americans Elect needs only a plurality of the vote (major party write-in candidates need as many votes as the number of signatures needed to be on the ballot, which makes it nearly impossible for even an otherwise unopposed write-in candidate to win a major party primary).

      Thus, one vote for a write-in candidate in the Americans Elect Party can be enough to get that person on the November ballot.

      Could ballot access be any easier?

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