Mar 31 2013

Vermont Supreme Court Upholds June Petition Deadline for Independent Candidates

Source: Ballot Access News

On March 29, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld the June petition deadline for independent candidates. Here is the decision in Trudell v State of Vermont, 2013-18.

The decision has some odd features. Vermont permits “sore loser” candidacies; in other words, candidates who run and lose in a partisan primary may then run as independents in November. Such candidacies are common in Vermont. The decision says one reason that the June petition deadline is fair is that in case someone is going to lose a primary and run as an independent, at least the voters will know what the sore loser is up to, before the August primary. Because the Vermont law requires primary petitions to be submitted in June, and also requires independent candidate petitions in June, if someone expects to lose in the primary and intends to run in November as an independent, the individual must submit simultaneous petitions, one for the primary and one for the general election.

The decision is also odd for admitting that if the independent petition deadline were in August, there would be no election-administration problem. The decision says on page nine, “The Secretary of State’s Office could process independent candidates’ petitions if filed during the first week of August.” But the decision goes on to say that since many independent candidates managed to qualify in both 2010 and 2012, under the June deadline, the burden is not severe.

The decisions seems to be inaccurate on page eight when it talks about a New Jersey federal precedent, Council of Alternative Political Parties v Hooks. In that case, the New Jersey April deadline was enjoined by the Third Circuit, and then the legislature moved the petition deadline to primary day. The discussion of the New Jersey case says, “The (New Jersey) Court concluded that New Jersey had a strong interest in treating all candidates equally by requiring them to file on the same day” but that is the opposite of what was decided in New Jersey.

Two of the five justices wrote a concurrence which is almost a dissent. The concurrence says “That the earlier deadline accomplishes this reduction in choice with a nearly imperceptible benefit is added cause for concern.” There is some reason to believe that the legislature will moderate the June petition deadline to a later deadline, even though the Vermont Supreme Court won’t be forcing the legislature to do that. Thanks to Jerry Trudell for the news about the decision.

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