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Third Parties Lose Appeal of Alabama Election Laws

(CN) - The 11th Circuit rejected a joint Green, Libertarian, and Constitution party challenge to Alabama's ballot-access requirements for third parties.

The three parties sued the Alabama Secretary of State in 2012, claiming that the state's ballot-access requirement for non-major political parties is overly burdensome. The 11th Circuit summarily dismissed their claims Tuesday.

"The record reveals that the plaintiffs filed suit despite having made no significant effort to secure the number of signatures needed to qualify for ballot access by petition," the court said in a five-page, unauthored opinion.

For the 2012 general election, Alabama third parties seeking a spot on the ballot were required to submit 44,828 signatures of registered voters - three percent of the total votes cast for governor in the previous election.

"Like the district court, we conclude that the plaintiffs did not present evidence showing that the legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the state's restrictions on petition-based ballot access unconstitutionally burdens their associational rights. Rather, the record shows that the burden on the plaintiffs was slight," the three-judge panel said.

The Atlanta-based appeals court attached the lower court's opinion, authored by U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins, as an appendix.

Watkins found that the plaintiff parties presented no evidence that a later deadline than March would have enabled them to collect the requisite number of signatures.

It is "beyond dispute that Alabama has an important interest in requiring minor parties to demonstrate some 'modicum of support' before they are entitled to a spot on the ballot," the district judge wrote.

He said the March deadline, eight months ahead of the election, gives the state time to verify petition signatures. "Plaintiffs have failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact that Alabama's election law 'completely insulate[s] the two-party system from minor parties'... competition and influence,'" Watkins said.

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