The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed that member of the two wings of the ruling party have more rights than members of other political parties. In 2012, that court ruled that Michigan’s “sore-loser law” applied to Presidential candidates, despite the fact that in 1980, the Michigan Secretary of State decided otherwise. Most recently a judge from the 6th Circuit ruled, even though Rep. John Conyers did not have enough valid signatures to rightfully be placed on the ballot, that “because his failure to comply with the law appeared to be a good faith mistake,” Conyers should be placed on the ballot anyways.
I do agree with the judge on one point, “the law that kept Conyers off the ballot was likely unconstitutional.” The law in question is that people gathering petition signatures in Michigan are required to be registered voters in Michigan. This restriction is a hindrance to many candidates and parties that rely on paid petitioners, many of whom travel across the country to collect signatures.
The Hill reports, “The ACLU, which helped file the lawsuit on behalf of a number of people who gathered signatures for Conyers, noted the Michigan legislature amended its election law regarding referendum petition signatures earlier this year after similar complaints.”
The judge wrote, “Plaintiffs here have shown a substantial likelihood of success. The State’s interest in combatting election fraud is compelling, but the State may protect that interest through a less restrictive means,” adding, “because the State could plainly achieve its compelling interest in preventing election fraud through this less restrictive means, the Registration Statute cannot survive strict scrutiny.”
Before I continue, I will admit that occasionally the courts will concede that a minor party or independent candidate has been unjustly harmed by a ballot access statute. In 2008, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found, in the case of Nader v Blackwell, that similar laws in Ohio were unconstitutional.
Despite this ruling, the US Supreme Court “denied the Libertarian Party of Ohio its chance to get a gubernatorial candidate on the primary ballot… after his nominating petitions were challenged” because two of his petitioners failed to properly disclose their employers. This failure to disclose an employer was likely an honest oversight, though because these petitioners were not working for a major party nominee, it was not given the same leeway as the “mistake” by the Conyers campaign.
If there are to be government printed ballots, then the ballot access rules in place should be uniform. There should not be one set of rules for members of major parties and another set of rules for everyone else, and those rules should be applied in a consistent manner. Members of major parties should not be given favorable treatment by the courts or election officials.