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Third Circuit Explains Why it Put Independent Ticket on This Year’s Virgin Islands Ballot

On August 26, the Third Circuit issued this 16-page opinion in Coffelt v Fawkes, 14-3280. In this case, the Third Circuit had issued an order on August 1 putting an independent ticket on the Virgin Islands ballot, but had not explained its reasoning. The opinion of August 26 does explain the reason for the order.

The independent ticket for Governor and Lieutenant Governor had been kept off the November ballot by Virgin Islands election officials, and by the U.S. District Court, because the Lieutenant Governor is a registered Republican. The Third Circuit said nothing in the Virgin Islands election law says that a candidate who uses the independent candidate procedure must not be a registered party member. The opinion is interesting because the Virgin Islands election code was largely copied from the Pennsylvania election code. However, the Pennsylvania election code says explicitly that a petitioning candidate must have ceased being affiliated with a qualified party at least 30 days before that year’s primary, and the Virgin Islands code doesn’t have that provision.

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