September 2nd, 2010
On September 1, the 9th circuit upheld the disparity in Hawaii’s petition requirements for the two different ways to get on the ballot for president. Nader v Cronin, 08-16444. Here is the 9-page decision.
In 2004, Hawaii required 677 signatures to qualify an entire new party, and 3,711 signatures to qualify an independent presidential candidate. Ralph Nader and Michael Peroutka each tried to qualify as independent presidential candidates. Even though each of them submitted more than 7,000 signatures, Hawaii elections officials invalidated over half of them. Hawaii tends to disqualify signatures if the signer failed to show either the last four digits of his or Social Security number, or the full birthday.
Nader and Peroutka then filed a federal case, alleging that there can’t be any state interest in requiring independent presidential candidates to submit approximately six times as many signatures as are needed for an entire new political party. But the 9th circuit upheld the law, in the face of this argument. The decision says that the presidential candidate of a newly-qualifying party in Hawaii has the burden of showing that he or she is the nominee, not only of the Hawaii branch of that party, but of the national party as well. The case has no evidence that it is burdensome for a presidential candidate to show that both his or her state party and the national party have nominated the candidate.
This decision shows that judges who uphold ballot access laws are not really worried about ballot-crowding. In Hawaii, and in most states, when an entire new party qualifies for the ballot, that has a much greater potential impact on adding names to the ballot than the petition for a single independent candidate does. It is obvious that if Hawaii can avoid ballot-crowding with a petition of 677 names for a new party, there can’t be any rational fear that it needs more signatures than that for independent presidential candidates.
Thanks to Rick Hasen for the news.
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