Third-party candidates take ballot-access fights to court

Monday, August 25, 2008

Editor’s note: On Aug. 21, U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. ruled that the Socialist Party will appear on the presidential ballot in Ohio. The case, Moore v. Brunner, is the first ballot-access lawsuit that the Socialist Party has won in a federal court, according to Ballot Access News.

Again this presidential-election season, some third-party candidates find themselves having to sue to appear on the ballot in some states.

Presidential ballot-access lawsuits have been filed in at least eight states this year. Two candidates stand out among dozens of third-party candidates — Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr and Ralph Nader, a presidential campaign veteran running as an independent.

Barr and his vice-presidential running mate, Wayne Allyn Root, will appear on the ballot in 33 states, according to the Libertarian Party’s Web site. They have filed lawsuits in five states, aiming to secure a place on those ballots before the election.

A federal judge in Ohio ruled on July 17 that Barr must appear on that state’s ballot for president. Ohio has strict ballot-access regulations and the Barr campaign submitted fewer than 7,000 of the 20,000 signatures needed to appear on the ballot. U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. opined in Libertarian Party of Ohio v. Brunner that “the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees a right of association which is violated by onerous access statutes which prevent third parties and candidates from appearing on the ballot.”

Barr and the Libertarian Party have lawsuits pending for ballot access in Oklahoma, Tennessee, Massachusetts and West Virginia. In the Massachusetts lawsuit, the Libertarian Party will be represented by the ACLU of Massachusetts.

The lawsuit in Tennessee was filed jointly in January by the Libertarian Party, the Green Party and the Constitution Party. The suit challenges Tennessee’s requirements for new parties to appear on the ballot.

Independent candidate Ralph Nader and his running mate Matt Gonzalez will be on the ballot in 28 states, according to their campaign Web site, and their goal is to be on 45 state ballots by Sept. 20. Nader is still seeking decisions in a number of ballot-access lawsuits he filed during his presidential bid in 2004. While he has yet to file a lawsuit in 2008, Nader is expected to file suit in Idaho, according to Ballot Access News.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, the American Independent Party’s Alan Keyes, and the Ohio Socialist Party have also filed ballot-access lawsuits this presidential election year.

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