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Eleventh Circuit Wants Oral Argument in Alabama Minor Party Ballot Access Lawsuit

On July 21, the Eleventh Circuit judges who are hearing Stein v Bennett informed both sides that this case requires oral argument. All the briefs were filed in February and March 2014. It is obvious that the judges feel this is a close case, and they want an oral argument to help them decide it. Neither side had requested oral argument. The issue is the March petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties in Alabama in presidential election years.

In 1991, the Eleventh Circuit had struck down Alabama’s April petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties, in New Alliance Party of Alabama v Hand. That case involved ballot access for a midterm year. Presidential candidates have more ballot access protection than candidates for other office. The Eleventh Circuit has been especially strong on that point.

But Alabama argues that the 1991 precedent doesn’t control this case because back in 1991, the petition deadline was several months before the primary, and the current deadline sets the petition deadline on primary day. Back in 1991, the Alabama primary was in June, but now (in presidential years) it is in March.

Alabama in 2014 will be one of only three, four, or five states with no minor party or independent candidates on the November ballot for statewide office. The others are California, New Mexico, and possibly New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, depending on whether the Libertarian petition in New Hampshire and the Green petition in Pennsylvania succeed. Also, this year, Alabama will be the only state with only one candidate on the ballot for U.S. Senate.

10 Responses

  1. Casual Bystander

    Richard… do you expect the Krawchuk petition to fail in PA? The way the story is written it would appear that you do.

  2. Richard Winger

    The Libertarian Party statewide petition in Pennsylvania has been abandoned, even though, ironically, Pennsylvania requires fewer signatures for statewide office this year than at any time since 1970.

    If Pennsylvania still had the vote test that it had 1889-1986, in which a party that polls 2% of the highest vote-getter’s vote total maintains its status as a qualified party, the party would not have given up. But ever since 1986, no matter how many votes a party gets, it doesn’t remain on the ballot; it only remains on if it has registration of 15% of the state total. So, that is a disincentive for the party to pour money into the drive.

    • Casual Bystander

      I emailed the Krawchuk campaign this morning about the status of the petition drive and they have yet to respond. If they have thrown in the towel that will end my membership in the LPPA.

      • Casual Bystander

        Hi, and thanks for getting in touch.

        I wouldn’t call it abandoned, but it is true that the paid petitioners were called off a month ago. People are still getting signatures, me among them, but it’s becoming obvious that there may not be enough support to collect the 20,000 we need for the statewide candidates. We’ll see.

        There is a Plan B, should we fall short, and that’s to challenge the unequal ballot access requirements in court. But to do that we still need signatures, so we’re still collecting. We’ll see which prevails: Plan A or Plan B.

        Hope this explains things. Any other questions, please feel free to get in touch.

        – Ken

        • Richard Winger

          The idea that minor party and independent candidates need more signatures than major party members trying to get on a primary ballot has been upheld by many, many courts, including the US Supreme Court. It would be bad strategy for Ken to file a lawsuit like that. Both of the experienced ballot access attorneys who have had success in recent years in court against Pennsylvania laws hope Ken doesn’t do that.

          • Casual Bystander

            Ken feels the court case still has value even if only to get media attention to gain public support for a bill to ease ballot access pending in the PA General Assembly.

    • Casual Bystander

      Looks like you were right. The LPPA has folded for this election cycle. See below.

      • Casual Bystander

        Well above then!

        • Richard Winger

          Ken is already a plaintiff in the existing federal ballot access lawsuits. He can injure those lawsuits if he goes off and files his own pro se case. His attorneys have asked him not to file his own case. There are better ways to get publicity about the number of signatures.

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