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Third Circuit Puts Independent Ticket on Ballot in Virgin Islands

On August 1, the Third Circuit heard oral arguments in Coffelt v Fawkes, and a few hours later issued an injunction, ordering the plaintiff candidates on the November ballot of the Virgin Islands. Coffelt v Fawkes, 14-3280. The candidates who won injunctive relief are independent candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Soraya Diase Coffelt and John Canegata. See this story.

Virgin Islands election officials, and the U.S. District Court in the Virgin Islands, had kept the ticket off the ballot because the Lieutenant Governor running-mate is a registered Republican, although the gubernatorial candidate is a registered independent. The law does not say that the independent candidate petition procedure can only be used by registered independents, but election officials and the U.S. District Court thought that the intent of the law was to bar party members from being independent candidates.

The three judges are D. Michael Fisher, a Bush Jr. appointee who served 22 years in the Pennsylvania legislature before becoming a federal judge; Thomas Vanaskie, also a Pennsylvanian, a Clinton appointee to the U.S. District Court and an Obama appointee to the 3rd circuit, who has a liberal record on ballot access; and Patty Shwartz, an Obama appointee who had not previously had any ballot access cases. The panel only issued an order, with no explanatory text yet. Thanks to Tony Roza for this news.

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