Wyoming Says Country Party Petition is Short 550 Signatures, but Party is Free to Get More Signatures
Source: Ballot Access News
Last month, the Country Party submitted 6,387 signatures on its Wyoming ballot access petition. The requirement is 3,740 signatures. Even though the Country Party submitted 70% more signatures than the requirement, the state now says that the petition only contains 3,190 valid signatures. This means that the state believes that only 50% of the signatures submitted are valid.
The party is free to get more signatures. The deadline is June 1, 2012. The reason the validity rate is so low is that Wyoming election officials maintain that people who did not vote in 2010 are not eligible to sign petitions. They are legally classed as “inactive” voters, even if they voted in 2008. The federal Motor Voter law of 1993 makes it illegal for states to classify voters as “inactive” unless they skip two even-year general elections in a row. But, that federal law deosn’t apply to states that have election-day registration, and Wyoming has election-day registration.
Wyoming does not permit people to register to vote between elections unless they appear physically at the office of a county or state election official. Therefore, a substantial share of Wyoming adult citizens are not registered to vote in the period between elections. This, of course, makes it very difficult for petitions to have a normal validity rate. In some states, if an “inactive voter” signs a petition, and the signature and address matches the voter registration record, then that voter is automatically moved onto the “active voter” list. The whole purpose of the “inactive voter” concept is that the government is afraid that person no longer is registered at the current address. But an otherwise valid signature on a petition is evidence that that voter does still live at the same address, and logically that person should not only be allowed to sign the petition, but to be reclassified as an active voter. The restrictive Wyoming policy on signature validity is not logical.
In 1970 the U.S. Supreme Court summarily affirmed a decision of a lower 3-judge court in New York that said it is unconstitutional for a state to say that people can’t sign petitions if they hadn’t voted in the last election, even if they had registered to vote since the last election. That case was Socialist Workers Party v Rockefeller, 400 US 806. The logic of that decision implies that the Wyoming policy might be unconstitutional, especially in the context of how difficult it is for voters to re-register between elections.
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