“Fourth Circuit Upholds North Carolina March 3 Petition Deadline for Independent Candidates”


On July 6, the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion in Buscemi v Bell, 19-2355, a North Carolina ballot access case. The Fourth Circuit said the March 3 petition deadline for independent candidates, even presidential candidates, is constitutional. This completely contradicts the U.S. Supreme Court opinion Anderson v Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780, which struck down Ohio’s independent presidential petition deadline of March 20. Furthermore in the Ohio case, only 5,000 signatures were required; but in North Carolina in 2020, independent candidates need 70,666 signatures.

The decision does not mention Anderson v Celebrezze’s holding. Nor does it mention Anderson v Morris, 636 F.2d 55 (1980), in which the Fourth Circuit invalidated the Maryland independent petition deadline, which by coincidence was also March 3. The Fourth Circuit now says it is constitutional to put the independent candidate deadline on the date of the primary, or the day before. That may be true for independent candidates for non-presidential office, but it is not true for presidential independent candidates. If that were true, it would have been constitutional in 2008 for New Hampshire to have had an independent presidential petition deadline of January 8.

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