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Alabama Ballot Access Fight Gets Hot

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Dear Editor,

On June 1, 2011 Alabama House Bill 425 was signed into law by Governor Robert Bentley. This Bill moved the Alabama Primary date from June to the second Tuesday in March. This also moved the petition deadline for newly qualifying parties and nonpresidential independent candidates to the same date. The Bill effectively makes qualifying as a non-Republican or Democrat in 2012 much harder in a state that already ranks dead last in many categories pertaining to Ballot access.

Bottom line: If you wish to run as an independent presidential candidate in Alabama in 2012 under this new law you merely have to produce just 5,000 signatures on a petition by August 30, 2012 to qualify. However, if you choose to run for president or any state office under the banner of a minor party, you must produce a whopping 45,000 signatures by early March 2012.

This is simply unacceptable and must be challenged. This challenge will likely be mounted is outlined in an article by Richard Winger in the July 1 edition of Ballot Access News:
“In 1990, a U.S. District Court ruled that the old petition deadline, 60 days before the primary, was unconstitutional. In 1991, the 11th Circuit unanimously affirmed that decision, New Alliance Party of Alabama v Hand, 933 F.2d 1568. Thus, that decision struck down an April petition deadline. At the time, the number of signatures was 1% of the last gubernatorial vote, and there had been many minor party and independent candidates on the ballot during the preceding ten years. The court opinion noted that the April deadline has not blocked all minor party and independent candidates from the ballot, but still struck it down because it couldn’t see any good reason for the deadline to be as early as April.”

A new lawsuit will likely be filed against the March petition deadline by the Constitution, Green and Libertarian Parties. That case will be stronger than the 1990 case because in the last eight years there have been no minor party or independent candidates on the statewide ballot. In 2010 Alabama was one of only five states with no minor party or independent candidates on the ballot for statewide office.

The new lawsuit will be stronger than the 2010 lawsuit because the 2012 lawsuit involves presidential elections. Precedents against early petition deadlines involving presidential elections are even stronger than precedents involving elections for other office, especially in the 11th Circuit.

A third reason the new lawsuit will be stronger than the 1990 case is that the new March deadline is earlier than the April deadline that had already been struck down.”

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It’s time for the people of Alabama answer this age old question posed by our Founding father Thomas Jefferson: “The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.”

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I have been quite vocal in my position that this is an offense against the Constitutional rights of the citizens of Alabama and I fully intend to participate in any lawsuit that is filed over this issue.

Richard Rutledge
Chairman, Conservative Party (Alabama)

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