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  Ballot Access News is edited and published by Richard Winger, the nation's leading expert on ballot access legal issues.

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U.S. Supreme Court Again Asked to Rule on Whether States Must Check Presidential Candidate Eligibility Before Putting Them on Ballots

Published on January 25, 2015,

On January 13, 2015, two individuals who had previously run for President filed a petition for cert with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court to rule that California election officials have a constitutional duty to investigate the constitutional qualifications of presidential candidates before listing them on the ballot. The two individuals who filed the case are John Albert Dummett, Jr., and Edward C. Noonan. Dummett had declared for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and is also seeking the nomination in 2016. He lives in California. Edward C. Noonan, another Californian, had sought the presidential nomination of the American Independent Party in 2012. The case is Dummett v Padilla, 14-826.

The cert petition takes pains to say that the case is not about President Obama, and that the issue of presidential constitutional qualifications is unsettled law that the Court should settle for the sake of future elections. California’s Secretary of State kept some minor party presidential candidates off the 2012 presidential primary ballots because of constitutional qualification concerns, yet refused to investigate the qualifications of some major party presidential candidates in both 2008 and 2012. The problem for lawsuits like this one is that the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to reject electoral votes cast for ineligible presidential candidates. Page 26 of the cert petition says, “After a general election has occurred, it is unrealistic to expect that objections will be lodged by Members of Congress based on the constitutional eligibility of a candidate.”

This particular case was filed in California state courts. The state court of appeals rejected the case last year, and the California Supreme Court refused to hear it on October 15, 2014.

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Newspaper Article Illustrates Some Quirks of Massachusetts Election Law

Published on January 25, 2015,

This article about the ballot-qualified United Independent Party contains some interesting details about Massachusetts election law. It says that individuals can only give $1,500 to an unqualified party, but that an individual can give $15,000 to a qualified political party.

It also says that if the United Independent Party can increase its registration to 1% of the state total by the end of 2015, then the party’s qualified status will continue into 2018. That was already known, but what is new is that those voters need not remain with the party indefinitely. The party’s status will be safe if those people leave the party and re-register as independents (or as members of some other party, if they wish) so that they can vote in the March 2016 presidential primary and also the September 2016 primary for other office.

The United Independent Party, the Green Party, and the two major parties are the ballot-qualified parties in Massachusetts. Unless the law is changed, the Green Party is likely to lose its qualified status in November 2016, because it isn’t likely to either poll 3% for President, or to have registration of 1% of the state total. It is conceivable that the legislature might ease the definition of “Political party”, or conceivably an initiative could do that. The United Independent Party probably has the financial resources to do an initiative, and is already planning another initiative to block Boston from bidding for the 2024 Olympics.

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New Hampshire Ballot Access Bill

Published on January 24, 2015,

New Hampshire Representative Max Abramson (R-Seabrook) has introduced a bill to lower the number of signatures for independent candidates and the nominees of unqualified parties. Current law requires 3,000 signatures for statewide office. The bill would convert petitions for all office to one-tenth of 1% of the population. For statewide candidates, the requirement during this decade would be 1,317 signatures. The bill will be given a bill number in the next few days.

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Iowa Bill to Abolish Straight-Ticket Device

Published on January 24, 2015,

Iowa Representative Peter Cownie (R-West Des Moines) has introduced HF 4, which would abolish the straight-ticket device.

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Hawaii Bill for an Elected Attorney General

Published on January 24, 2015,

Hawaii State Senator Sam Slom (R-Honolulu) has introduced SB 942. It would amend the State Constitution to provide for an elected Attorney General. Currently, the only state executive officer elected by Hawaii voters is the ticket of Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

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Filing Closes for Three California State Senate Special Elections

Published on January 24, 2015,

California will hold special elections for three State Senate seats on March 17. Filing has now closed. Very few candidates filed. In two of the three races, only members of one party are running.

In the 37th district in Orange County, the only candidates are three Republicans: John Moorlach, Naz Namazi, and Donald Wagner.

In the 21st district in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, only one candidate filed, Republican Sharon Runner.

In the 7th district in Contra Costa County, four Democrats and one Republican filed. The four Democrats are Susan Bonilla, Joan Buchanan, Steve Glazer, and Terry Kremin. The Republican is Michaela Hertle.