Category Archives: ballot access

“Federal appeals court to reconsider case affecting Attorney General Dave Yost’s authority to block proposed ballot issues”

A federal appeals court will reconsider a recent decision that could affect Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s ability to block future proposed ballot-issue campaigns via a state law that gives his office authority to sign off on proposed language that those campaigns must circulate with petitions to qualify for the ballot.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision late last month, ordered Yost to approve petition language for a proposed state constitutional amendment that would make it easier for Ohioans to sue police for misconduct. Yost, a Republican, had repeatedly rejected petition language proposed by backers of the Protecting Ohioans Constitutional Rights amendment for numerous reasons, including the amendment’s proposed title.

But the appeals court announced on Monday that enough of the court’s judges had voted to perform what’s called an en banc review, in which every judge on the court votes on a case, and not just the randomly selected three judges that issue an initial decision. The broader review will replace the previous decision, issued by two judges appointed by Democratic presidents.

My earlier coverage is here.

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“Operatives with GOP ties are helping Cornel West get on the ballot in a key state”

NBC News:

Cornel West’s independent presidential campaign is broke. His former campaign manager says he knows nothing about ballot access. And he spent more on graphic design than petition-gathering in his most recent campaign finance report.

But tens of thousands of signatures have been gathered on behalf of the famed left-wing academic in key states thanks to self-organized grassroots volunteers — and some help from outside operatives tied to a Republican consulting firm.

Democrats fear West’s potential to siphon votes from President Joe Biden in places where he is on the ballot in a close election, and some Republicans are publicly discussing ways to boost West and other minor candidates like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the Green Party’s Jill Stein in the hopes of splitting the anti-Donald Trump coalition. 

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“Kennedy’s Campaign Is Accused of Lying About His New York Residency”


A group aligned with President Biden is challenging Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s New York ballot petition, saying his campaign lied about his New York residency.

The group, Clear Choice, says he long ago moved to the West Coast and has virtually no connection to the address listed on his petitions — an address of a longtime friend, where Mr. Kennedy’s independent presidential campaign acknowledges he has never actually lived.

The complaint, filed with the state Board of Elections on Thursday afternoon, is one of more than a dozen filed with New York’s board of elections, some of which object to his campaign’s signature-gathering efforts. The group provided a time-stamped copy of the complaint to The New York Times.

A Board of Elections spokeswoman, Kathleen McGrath, said a determination of residency would be “outside the ministerial scope” of the board’s review of petitions.

“I will note that the courts and a judicial proceeding would be the appropriate venue for challenging his residency,” she said.

Still, residency challenges are certain to stall Mr. Kennedy’s ballot access push in New York, and possibly elsewhere: He has used the same address in a number of other states where he is filing to run.

A particular concern is California, whose 54 electoral votes make it the biggest prize in the presidential election. Mr. Kennedy’s running mate, Nicole Shanahan, also lists California as her home, which adds another complication for Mr. Kennedy. Under a Constitutional quirk, presidential and vice-presidential candidates who hail from the same state are ineligible to receive its electoral votes.

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“‘Swindlers,’ ‘Hijacking,’ and ‘Blackmail’; Inside the Kennedy campaign’s Natural Law Party meltdown in Florida.”

Must-read Marc Caputo:

AMID VOTER DISENCHANTMENT with a Trump-Biden rematch, third-party activist Joseph Wendt believed 2024 could transform American politics. And Robert F. Kennedy Jr. might be the candidate to do it.

“It seemed this was the Year of the Third Party,” said Wendt, the former chair of Florida’s Reform Party affiliate. “This would be the year where we would be able to make an impact.”

So Wendt started the process of reconstituting the long-defunct Natural Law Party of the United States with the Federal Election Commission and he resurrected its Florida branch. He planned to hold a convention and nominate Kennedy for president so that RFK could appear on the Florida ballot as the Natural Law Party candidate. Kennedy’s campaign loved the idea. And the two sides started talking money. Wendt signed a $10,000-a-month consulting contract with Kennedy’s campaign on February 24.

“I was over the moon,” Wendt said. “We could get him on the ballot. It might have an impact. But it turned into a nightmare.”

Bureaucratic delays and mistakes turned into mistrust. A bitter rift grew. Wendt was ultimately paid nothing. And he lost control of the Natural Law Party of the United States, which was taken over by Kennedy allies.

Now Wendt, a 39-year-old Lyft driver, wants the national Natural Law Party back in his control. He calls the Kennedy campaign unethical “swindlers.” Kennedy campaign officials fired back, accusing Wendt of illegally “hijacking” the national party and trying to “blackmail” the campaign, and suggesting to him that his actions amounted to “extortion.”

Both sides deny wrongdoing. But a close look at the record of the dispute provides a window into the obstacles third-party candidates face and shines a light on the Kennedy campaign’s aggressive efforts to get on the ballot. RFK’s campaign has tapped a constellation of third-party groups in various states, all of which have different rules.

Why? Because states generally provide presidential candidates ballot access if they’re nominated by a verified political party, regardless of its size. Otherwise, campaigns usually have to rely on paid petition-gatherers, which, according to experts familiar with the process, can cost as much as $1.7 million in a state like Florida….

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Illinois court issues permanent injunction for law that changed ballot access rules mid-election

Following up on my earlier posts here and here, the order in Collazo v. Illinois State Board of Elections is here. The court found that strict scrutiny was the appropriate standard of review and that it failed; and even under the lesser Anderson-Burdick standard of reasonableness, it failed as an arbitrary rule. (The law can take effect for future elections.)

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Washington state law cannot bar felons from running for president

This piece, by a columnist at the Seattle Times, is suddenly attracting terrific attention. It notes that Washington law allow someone “to challenge the right of a candidate to appear on the general election ballot after a primary” “Because the person whose right is being contested was, previous to the election, convicted of a felony by a court of competent jurisdiction, the conviction not having been reversed nor the person’s civil rights restored after the conviction.”

States routinely have such laws on the books, and they often do not clarify whether they apply only to state offices or to federal and state offices. But because states are categorically prohibited from adding qualifications to congressional offices after U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, it’s a reason to construe such statutes as applying to state offices. (Minnesota did so in 1950, for instance, in determining that its bar on ex-felons from holding office did not extend to congressional candidates.) But more generally, states cannot add qualifications to presidential candidates, either.

Continue reading Washington state law cannot bar felons from running for president
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“Ohio Legislature Passes Bill Ensuring Biden’s Spot on the Ballot”


The Ohio General Assembly has passed a legislative fix that ensures President Biden will be on the state’s ballot in November, averting a crisis that had been brewing for weeks over what is typically a minor procedural issue.

The secretary of state in Ohio, a Republican, had said that he planned to exclude Mr. Biden from the ballot because the president would not be officially nominated by his party until after a state deadline for certifying presidential nominees. That had threatened the possibility that the president would not be on the ballot in all 50 states.

The General Assembly resolved the issue by passing a bill that pushes back the deadline to accommodate the date of the Democratic nominating convention. Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill over the weekend, pending a legal review, according to a spokesman…

But the solution proposed in the Ohio Legislature was entangled in a separate partisan clash over foreign donations. The General Assembly adjourned last week without a fix in place, after the Ohio Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, advanced a bill that would have resolved the issue but included a partisan measure banning foreign money in state ballot initiatives. Democrats opposed that measure, and the speaker of the Ohio House did not take it up before the chamber adjourned.

Mr. DeWine then called a special legislative session to fix the problem, saying that legislators had failed “to take action on this urgent matter.” The General Assembly ultimately adopted two bills, one that fixed the ballot issue and another that banned donations in support of state ballot initiatives from foreign nationals, including immigrants with green cards.

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“Joe Manchin leaves the Democratic Party, files as independent”


Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) officially left the Democratic Party on Friday and registered as an independent.

Why it matters: Manchin, who flirted with an independent presidential bid earlier this year, has said he’s not running for Senate re-election. But leaving the party could give him the flexibility to change tack and run for Senate or West Virginia governor as an independent.

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“Independent presidential hopeful RFK Jr. files for NY ballot access”

South Shore Press:

Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. continues his aggressive campaign to appear on the ballot in all 50 states for the November presidential election.

On the day of the New York deadline, Kennedy submitted 135,519 signatures, which is just over three times the minimum requirement of 45,000 or 1% of the total number of votes in the prior gubernatorial election, whichever is less. Additionally, at least 500 signatures must come from half of the congressional districts in the state.

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“Libertarians Skip Over Trump and R.F.K. Jr. for Chase Oliver”


The Libertarian Party chose one of its own as its presidential nominee on Sunday night, capping a grueling day of elimination voting and a boisterous four-day event, where both Donald J. Trump and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. unsuccessfully sought to court the group’s backing.

The nominee, Chase Oliver — an openly gay former Democrat who in 2022 forced a runoff in a race for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia — beat out nine other candidates at the party’s national convention in Washington, including Mr. Kennedy.

Mr. Kennedy, who was a late addition to the official list of potential nominees on Sunday morning, was eliminated in the first round of voting Sunday afternoon, with 19 votes — just 2 percent of the total. Mr. Trump, who was not an official candidate, received six write-in votes in the first round.

The Libertarian Party is among the better-established minor parties, with name recognition and placement on the majority of state ballots in November. The Libertarian nominee is guaranteed to be on the November ballot in at least 37 states, a number that party leaders say they expect to grow in the coming months….

A theme of the party’s convention, displayed proudly on badges and signs at the convention, was: “Become Ungovernable.”

On Sunday, it almost was. The party took more than seven hours, and seven rounds of elimination voting, to get a presidential nominee — and even then the party nearly ended up without any candidate at all, as more than a third of the final voters cast ballots for “none of the above.”

Had the party failed to nominate a candidate, it would have likely lost ballot access in many states.

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“Gov. Mike DeWine calls special legislative session to address Biden ballot issue”

Gov. Mike DeWine has taken the rare step of calling a special legislative session, in effect summoning the General Assembly to make sure that President Joe Biden qualifies for the ballot this November.

DeWine announced in a Thursday evening press conference that he would be calling the special session for Tuesday May 28 . It marked the first time a governor has called a special session for 20 years. Otherwise, the legislature wasn’t scheduled to meet again until June 12.

“Ohio is running out of time to get Joe Biden, the sitting president of the United States on the ballot this fall. Failing to do so is simply not acceptable. This is ridiculous. This is an absurd situation,” DeWine said

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“Ohio Elections Official Threatens to Exclude Biden From the Ballot”


The Ohio General Assembly adjourned on Wednesday without addressing an issue that the state’s top elections official said would prevent President Biden from being placed on the ballot there, escalating a partisan clash that could result in the president not being on the ballot in all 50 states in November.

Frank LaRose, the Republican secretary of state, has said that he plans to exclude Mr. Biden from the ballot because he will be officially nominated after a deadline for certifying presidential nominees on the ballot. This is usually a minor procedural issue, and states have almost always offered a quick solution to ensure that major presidential candidates remain on the ballot.

The Biden campaign is considering suing the state in order to ensure Mr. Biden is on the ballot, while also searching for some other way to resolve the issue without moving the date of the nominating convention, according to a person with knowledge of the deliberations.

A legal fight could be expensive and arduous. The Supreme Court recently ruled that states could not bar Mr. Trump from running for another term under a constitutional provision, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, that prohibits insurrectionists from holding office. But it took six months of legal wrangling before the court put that issue to bed.

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Illinois state court blocks new law that changed ballot access rules after primary

Back on May 5, I highlighted a new election law in Illinois that changed the rules for ballot access after the primary election, blocking a number of candidates from obtaining major party ballot access through the alternative “slating” route that they were relying on. (I also noted the unusual lack of media coverage, and since then, there hasn’t been much more, but this AP story did cover it, and the president of the League of Women Voters of Illinois had this op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times critiquing the law.)

Yesterday afternoon, a state court judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law. You can see early coverage from the Chicago Tribune, the Center Square, and the Daily Northwestern. (And as with last time, no other apparent media coverage outside the state of Illinois.) Of note from the Daily Northwestern:

Attorney Hal Dworkin, who represented the Illinois Attorney General, argued the preliminary injunction could set several negative precedents for the Illinois government. For one, several previous court cases have applied strict scrutiny only when a change in electoral policy completely negated the election results, Dworkin said. 

The case may well be appealed, and this is only a preliminary injunction (final hearing is June 3), but it’s a swift reprisal in a state court, using (it appears) a state constitution’s “right to vote” provision, against a law enacted just a couple of weeks ago. We’ll see if we get a written order in the near future and how that might be used in future litigation.

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“Are R.F.K. Jr. Signature Gatherers Misleading New Yorkers for Ballot Access?”


Amy Bernstein, a traffic court judge in Brooklyn, was heading home from work one night in late April when, she said, a young man carrying a clipboard approached her on the subway platform, asking if she would sign a petition to help place independents on the ballot in New York.

The top of the petition was folded underneath itself, so that the names of the candidates were not visible, Ms. Bernstein said. She asked for more details and told the man she was a judge — at which point he yanked the clipboard away, she said, and asked: “Am I going to get in trouble?”

The petition was for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential campaign, which is working to collect the signatures needed to secure a spot for him on the November ballot in New York State. The campaign needs 45,000 but is aiming for more than 100,000. Candidates often collect far more signatures than they need in case some end up being invalidated for various reasons.

“At a minimum, it’s misleading,” Ms. Bernstein said of the interaction. “I was just pretty much taken aback.”

More than a half-dozen New York City residents, including two who are journalists at The New York Times and were approached randomly, have described similar encounters with signature gatherers for Mr. Kennedy in Brooklyn over the past three weeks. In each case, the resident was approached by a clipboard-wielding petitioner and asked to support “independent” or “progressive” candidates, or, in one case, to help get Democrats and President Biden on the ballot.

In three cases, the petitioners said that they were being paid for the work, the people who were approached said; in four cases, the petitioners said they had been told by a supervisor not to show or mention Mr. Kennedy’s name. Descriptions and photographs of the petitioners suggest that they are at least four different people. The petitioners themselves could not be identified or reached for comment.

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