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Published On: Mon, Jul 10th, 2017

Libertarian Party of Arizona loses ballot access case

PHOENIX (Heartland Newsfeed) — In a ruling made in U.S. District Court Monday, Judge David G. Campbell upheld a 2015 Arizona law that sharply increased the number of signatures a member of an established small qualified party needs to get on his or her own party’s primary ballot in regards to the case, Libertarian Party of Arizona v Reagan (cv-16-1019), in a 30-page decision featured below. The law sharply increased the number of write-in votes needed for a member of a minor party to be considered nominated (assuming he or she gets the most votes of anyone seeking that nomination).

The 2015 law, passed by a Republican majority state legislature, seemed to be directed specifically toward Libertarians from running for partisan office, as it didn’t affect the ballot-qualified Green Party with only slight changes for the Democratic and Republican parties. Whereas the old law set the number of signatures to get on a party primary ballot as a percentage of the the party’s number of registered voters, the new law says the number of signatures is a percentage of all the registered voters. However, not all registered voters can sign, as restrictions on a Libertarian primary petition can only target registered voters not registered as Democrats or Republicans.

The Green Party isn’t affected by the law because they are considered as a “new” party, despite only petitioning for party status in 2014 for the 2016 and 2018 elections and will only need a small number of signatures to get on their party’s primary ballot and only one write-in to get a nomination by write-in. The decision claims the law is not discriminatory, relative to Libertarians and Greens, because it wasn’t passed with discriminatory intent, and also because the Greens (due to their failure to ever have registration of at least two-thirds of 1%) are forced to do a party petition every four years.

The decision is based on Munro v Socialist Workers Party, a 1986 U.S. District Court decision that upheld Washington state’s old ballot access law. That old law said a minor party or independent candidate could not appear on the November ballot unless he or she got 1% in the September blanket primary (all voters got the same ballot, and it listed all candidates from all parties). The Arizona decision says that law was also hard on minor party and independent voters, because under the Washington state law, only one of twelve minor party candidates got the 1%, and yet it was constitutional. But the Arizona decision doesn’t mention footnote eleven of the Munro decision, which said that 40 minor party and independent candidates (out of 45 who tried) successfully got on the Washington state general election ballot for non-statewide office. The reference to one of twelve only referred to statewide offices. The impact of the Arizona law on the 2016 Libertarian campaign was so severe that only one Libertarian for any partisan office managed to appear on the November ballot (excluding president, which has nothing to do with primaries).

The decision excludes some of the evidence submitted by the Libertarian Party, for various procedural reasons. It is very likely that the party will appeal to the Ninth Circuit. The major flaw with the decision is that it requires Libertarian candidates, seeking their party’s nomination, to ask for signatures for independent voters, which violates the party’s associational rights. In response to that point, the Arizona decision says the party should just go out and increase its registration (see pages 21 and 27).

Under the logic of the decision, there is no rational reason why all voters shouldn’t be allowed to sign Libertarian primary petitions. Yet the law doesn’t allow Democrats or Republicans to sign.

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About the Author

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- Jake Leonard is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed and general manager of Heartland Internet Media Networks. He is an active contributor to the Nokomis Free Press-Progress in Nokomis, IL. He currently serves as chairman of Tri-Counties Libertarian Party, as deputy communications director for the Libertarian Party of Illinois and as chairman and co-founder of the Libertarian Party Millennial Caucus. He has also been politically active since 2015, having run for city council, state representative, school board and is currently running for state senator for the 2018 election season.

Libertarian Party of Arizona loses ballot access case