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Alabama: Another unintended (?) consequence of HB 425

Richard Winger of Ballot Access News emailed me: I am glad you are writing about HB 425. Next time you do a story, you should add that this bill, if not amended, threatens to overturn Alabama's petition procedure for how minor parties get on the ballot. HB 425 does not change the petition deadline directly, but it does change it indirectly. This is because existing law says the petition to put a minor party on the ballot is due on primary day. The bill does not change that, so if the bill passes, the petition deadline for minor parties will be in March.

The US Supreme Court ruled in Anderson v Celebrezze, 460 US 780 (1983) that state petition deadlines for minor parties and independent candidates, at least in a presidential race, cannot be as early as March. The court struck down Ohio's law, which required 5,000 signatures by March 20, 1980. The person who won that lawsuit was John B. Anderson, who had run as an independent presidential candidate in 1980 and who did get on the ballot in all 50 states. He had to sue 5 states that had petition deadlines earlier than May, and he won all those cases during 1980. In 1983 the US Supreme Court affirmed the lower court decision that had said Ohio's deadline was too early.

That is why the 11th circuit, and the US District Court, both ruled that Alabama's old April petition deadline for new parties was unconstitutional. See New Alliance Party of Alabama v Hand, 933 F 2d 1568 (1991). It said an April petition deadline, in conjunction with a 1% (of the last gubernatorial vote) was unconstitutional, and that didn't even involve a presidential election. Now Alabama has a June petition combined with a 3% petition.

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