Friday, February 28, 2014

Michigan Socialist Party Wins Partial Procedural Victory

28 February 2014

By Richard Winger
Ballot Access News

"On January 9, a U.S. District Court Magistrate denied Michigan’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit Erard v Ruth Johnson, e.d., 2:12cv-13627. The case had been filed in 2012 by a Socialist Party candidate for Congress, Matt Erard. The case argues that Michigan’s ballot access laws for newly-qualifying parties are too severe. Currently the law requires 32,261 signatures, to be collected in six months. The petition blanks all say in large print, inside a box, "Petition to Form New Political Party. WARNING: a person who knowingly signs petitions to organize more than one new state party, signs a petition to organize a new state political party more than once, or signs a name other than his or her own is violating the provisions of the Michigan election law."

The magistrate, in a 71-page ruling, said that whereas some of the arguments in the lawsuit do not have merit, two aspects of the law are probably unconstitutional: (1) only Michigan residents can circulate the petition; (2) the wording on the petition intimidates many otherwise willing signers from signing, and also falsely forces them to say they are organizing the party. Similar wording on petitions to recognize new parties has been held unconstitutional in seven other states (Kentucky, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee).

The magistrate did not find that the Michigan law violates equal protection, even though Michigan requires approximately twice as many signatures for a party to get on, than it requires votes for an old party to remain on. She said all of the parties already on the ballot had to collect the same number of signatures. This is not true, because the Democratic and Republican Parties never had to submit any petition to get on the ballot. Before 1939, Michigan didn’t require a petition for any party to get on the ballot...."

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