Smaller Parties Clamor to Make California Ballot

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Two political parties claim in Federal Court that California’s ballot rules and deadlines are keeping their nominees off November’s presidential ballot.
     California Justice Committee and the Constitution Party of California seek an injunction against Secretary of State Debra Bowen. The ACLU of Southern California filed suit on behalf of the two parties, which say the state’s early party-qualification deadline violates the parties’ First and 14th Amendment rights.
     “The requirements include accumulating more than 103,000 voter registration affidavits reflecting voters’ intent to affiliate formally with the political body or submitting more than 1,030,000 petition signatures in support of recognizing the political body as a party, and the deadline for qualifying as a new party is in January,” the complaint states. “This January party qualification deadline applies even though recognized political parties do not need to participate in California’s June primary election in order to place their candidates for president and vice president on the November presidential election ballot.”
     The groups say that the early party-qualification deadline “impermissibly undermines the efforts” of the two parties, and means they are on an uneven footing with established parties such as the Republicans and Democrats.
     “Because California lacks even a legitimate interest in establishing this onerous party-qualification deadline a full ten months before the November presidential election, California’s party-qualification scheme violates plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights,” the complaint says.
     The groups say just seven parties have overcome the restrictions since introduction of the deadline in 1953. The Americans Elect Party is the only party to have prevailed since 1995, according to the lawsuit.
     “Although the plaintiffs in this action come from different places on the ideological spectrum and may fundamentally disagree on important issues, they share the belief that the state of California must abide by the United States Constitution and that government must be accountable and live up to the American ideal that political ideas should compete on equal terms in a free and open political process,” the complaint states.
     Though ACLU staff attorney David Sapp was not available to speak with Courthouse News, he criticized the measure further in a statement on the group’s website.
     “California’s party-qualification scheme violates the bedrock constitutional principle that like-minded individuals can join together freely and compete on fair and equal terms in the political arena,” Sapp said in a statement. “Courts have repeatedly struck down qualification deadlines that fall much closer to the relevant election, so California has no justification for continuing to enforce its January deadline, which is unquestionably among the most burdensome in the nation.”
     The Justice Party filed suit alongside its founding member Jeff Norman, treasurer John Gabree and Constitution Party treasurer Charles Michael Deemer.
     A spokesperson for the secretary of state did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
     Rocky Anderson is the Justice Party’s nomination for president. The Constitution Party has backed Virgil Goode.

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