Category Archives: ballot access

“New York moves to ban ‘independence’ from party ballot lines to reduce confusion”

State of Politics:

At the height of its power, the Independence Party in New York had registered more than 400,000 voters in the state. For years, political observers, elected officials and candidates suspected many of those voters were duped into enrolling in a party when they meant to register as “blanks” — no party affiliation at all.

A law signed this week by Gov. Kathy Hochul is meant to put an end to that.

The new law will restrict the use of “independence” or “independent” from the name of a ballot line in order to reduce the chances of confusing voters into registering for a party when they mean to be true registered independent voters.

A large enrollment for the Independence Party in New York enabled it to leverage real sway with candidates who sought their ballot line in general elections. Candidates in New York can run on multiple ballot lines.

“A party known for preying on independently-minded New York voters to inflate its rolls should have no place in our democratic system,” said state Sen. James Skoufis, a Democrat from the Hudson Valley who sponsored the measure with Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz of the Bronx.

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Third Circuit decision in Mazo v. New Jersey Secretary of State upholds conditions on ballot designations

The Third Circuit issued a decision today in Mazo v. New Jersey Secretary of State. (Disclosure: I filed an amicus brief in this case, joined by Professor Michael Dimino, in support of appellants.) Eugene Mazo (an election law professor at Seton Hall) and Lisa McCormick challenged New Jersey ballot rules that restricted what designations could appear on the ballot beside their names. New Jersey permits slogans up to six words to appear on the ballot beside candidates, expressly to allow candidates to “distinguish” themselves from one another, but it requires consent from individuals, or from New Jersey corporations, before those words may appear on the ballot. Plaintiffs sued to challenge this condition. The district court upheld the restriction, and the Third Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Krause, joined by Judges Shwartz and Roth, agreed.

Continue reading Third Circuit decision in Mazo v. New Jersey Secretary of State upholds conditions on ballot designations
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Blake Hounshell NYT Newsletter on the Revival of a Push for Fusion Voting


One of the great paradoxes of America’s polarized political system is that people seem to hate it, yet few can conceive of a way out.

Every once in a while, a third-party candidate catches fire — as the quirky billionaire Ross Perot did in the 1992 presidential race, appealing to a chunk of voters who were unhappy with deficits and trade deals. More often, though, such candidates fizzle.

Many people wring their hands about political polarization and calcification, but grudgingly accept it as the inevitable result of the way voters are sorting themselves by geography or education, or the baleful effects of social media and cable news, or the product of slicing and dicing by political operatives who stoke fear and outrage to win elections.

One of the latest and more intriguing efforts to try to change the system comes in the form of two forthcoming lawsuits by Protect Democracy, a nonprofit group, and a new outfit called the Moderate Party.

Starting the week after Thanksgiving, the two groups separately plan to sue the State of New Jersey to allow fusion voting, a practice the state banned in the 1920s. It’s legal in only a few states, including Connecticut, New York and Oregon.

Under fusion voting, multiple parties can nominate the same candidate, who then appears more than once on the ballot. Proponents say it allows voters who don’t feel comfortable with either major party to express their preferences without “wasting” votes on candidates with no hope of winning.

In New York, there are two prominent fusion parties: the Working Families Party, which often endorses Democratic candidates, and the Conservative Party, which typically backs Republicans.

What’s different about the New Jersey effort is that it is driven by the political center; the Moderate Party was co-founded by Richard A. Wolfe, a partner at the law firm Fried Frank and a former small-town mayor who told me he was repulsed by the Republican Party’s embrace of conspiracy theories and its fealty toward Donald Trump, but could not stomach voting for a Democrat.

Wolfe was a supporter of Representative Tom Malinowski, a moderate Democrat who lost his re-election bid to Thomas Kean Jr., a Republican. But when the Moderate Party petitioned the New Jersey secretary of state to allow Malinowski to be nominated on its ballot line, she ruled the move illegal.

The Moderate Party and Protect Democracy had originally hoped to file their suits appealing the ruling months ago, but held off amid concerns that the courts would not want to weigh in until after the election. Republicans also raised questions about the Moderate Party when news reports emerged that the House Majority PAC, a Democratic-aligned outside group linked to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was underwriting the party’s ads in support of Malinowski.

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Lower courts ruled this week in favor of easier access for voters and parties

BallotAccessNew reports two new cases in the lower courts:

  • A Montana state court has ruled that the Montana Constitution bars the legislature from having repealed election-day registration.
  • U.S. District Court has struck down Arkansas ballot access procedures for new or previously unqualified parties, finding the 3% petition, the early deadline, and the requirement that all signatures be gathered in 90 days too onerous.

More details on their site.

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Breaking–District Court preliminarily enjoins parts new Arizona voter law

The U.S. District Court for Arizona has preliminarily enjoined two key provisions of Arizona’s recent effort to regulate voter registration. Importantly, it found the statute’s provision seeking to criminalize efforts to register out-of-state voters is likely unconstitutionally vague and further that the registration cancellation provisions likely violate the National Voter Registration Act.

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“North Carolina’s Green Party says Democrats are working to keep it off 2022 ballot”


In North Carolina’s high-profile U.S. Senate race this November, the Green Party may not have the chance to play spoiler.

That’s because the state Board of Elections, which is controlled by Democrats, has — so far — refused to give the Green Party a spot on the ballot, citing possible fraud in their ballot petition.

That’s sparked complaints from the Green Party — along with Republicans — that the board is undermining the Green Party to boost Democratic Senate candidate Cheri Beasley as she faces off against Republican nominee Ted Budd.

The Green Party filed a lawsuit Thursday to try to force the state to give it a spot on the ballot.

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Richard Winger: “California’s Faulty Rules for Presidential Candidates Running Outside the Two Major Parties”

Richard Winger, author of Ballot Access News, has written this guest post:

California public officials are proud of the state’s protection for voting rights, but there is one area of voting rights in which California procedures are among the most restrictive in the nation.

The procedure for an independent presidential candidate requires almost 200,000 signatures, to be collected in 105 days.  The petition can’t start to circulate until after the presidential candidate has chosen his or her presidential elector candidates, because the names of the candidates for elector, with their addresses, must be printed on each petition sheet.  By contrast, in most states, the names of the presidential elector candidates don’t appear on the petition; instead the presidential candidate certifies their names after the petition is submitted.

Most states let independent presidential petitions circulate as early as the candidate wishes.

No presidential candidate has been able to comply with the California independent procedure for 30 years.  Ross Perot was the last candidate who used them, in 1992.

There is no election-administration reason to require almost 200,000 signatures.  There is no instance in which a state ever required more than 5,000 signatures for all procedures to get on the ballot (for presidential candidates running outside the major parties), and in which that state had more than nine presidential candidates on the November ballot.

Significant presidential candidates who failed to get on the California general election ballot, due to the state’s restrictive rules, include Evan McMullin in 2016, Ralph Nader in 2004, Eugene McCarthy in 1976, Norman Thomas in 1948 and 1944, and Congressman William Lemke in 1936. In Anderson v Celebrezze, the U.S. Supreme Court said states should have more lenient rules for presidential candidates than for candidates for other office.  California has it backwards.  The California rules for candidates for non-presidential partisan office only require 65 signatures plus a filing fee, and that does cause over-crowded ballots for Governor and U.S. Senator.  It makes no sense to require a gubernatorial candidate to submit only 65 signatures and yet to require a presidential candidate to submit almost 200,000 signatures.          

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Ballot Paper Shortage

The Bipartisan Policy Center will be releasing a report, Preparing for Ballot Paper Shortages in 2022 and 2024, that lays out recommendations to improve the supply and storage of ballot materials and contingency planning for last minute changes and delayed materials. On Monday at 12PM ET, it will be co-hosting a panel discussion with POLITICO about the nature of the problem, how election officials are preparing, and how state legislatures should support those efforts.

Participants include:
Moderator: Zach Montellaro, state politics reporter at POLITICO
Panelist: Amanda Grandjean, Director of Elections and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose
Panelist: Karen Brinson Bell, Executive Director of the North Carolina Board of Elections
Panelist: Matthew Weil, director of BPC’s Elections Project

Update: The paper is now available at this link (–rh).

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Breaking & Analysis —Commonwealth Court Issues Injunction in PA Republican Primary Recount

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of Dave McCormick’s petition for a “judicial declaration that ‘timely returned absentee and mail-in ballots may not be rejected due solely to the lack of a date in the declaration on the exterior envelope’” and a special injunction directing various county boards to count such ballots. McCormick argued both state and federal grounds, maintaining that “the dating provisions set forth in Sections 1306(a) and 1306-D(a) of the [PA] Election Code are not material to determining the qualifications of that voter under federal and Pennsylvania law.” In terms of the state law ground, McCormick emphasized that the Pennsylvania Constitution requires that “the Election Code is to be liberally construed so as not to deprive voters of their right to elect a candidate of their choice.”

The Commonwealth Court ruled McCormick is likely to succeed on the merits with respect to both arguments–ordering counties, inter alia, “to provide two vote tallies to the Acting Secretary, one that includes the votes from those ballots without a dated exterior envelope and one that does not” so that “when a final decision on the merits of whether the ballots that lack a dated exterior envelope must be counted or not, the Acting Secretary will have the necessary reports from the County Boards.”    

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Lawsuit Challenging New Jersey’s Obfuscating Primary Ballot Design to Proceed

U.S. District Court denied seven motions to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the design of New Jersey’s primary ballots yesterday. The case seeks to end the influence county party leaders exert over ballot placement. Among other things, the suit challenges a provision that allows candidates for different offices, who request that their names be grouped together, to be placed in more favorable primary ballot slots–arguing that the practice violates the United States Constitution. The essence of the challenge is nicely captured by this video comparing New Jersey’s ballot design to a reasonable ballot design.

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“New York on brink of major voting rights act”

Democrats in Albany are expected to pass major election reforms. The package is expected to also “create a so-called pre-clearance program that requires local governments with histories of discrimination against minority voters to prove that any changes they make to voting laws or election procedures would not harm voters of color before taking effect.” New York boasts one of the least hospitable election regimes, designed by party machines to repressed turnout.

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