Mar 20 2013

U.S. District Court Upholds Arizona Registration Form, Which Only Lists Democratic and Republican Parties, Even Though Arizona has Five Qualified Parties

Source: Ballot Access News

On March 19, a U.S. District Court upheld Arizona’s law concerning voter registration forms. The law says only the two largest parties should be given their own checkbox on the voter registration form, in the part of the form that asks voters which party they wish to register into. If a voter wants to register into any other party, qualified or not, the voter must write the name of that party on a blank line and check the “other” box. Here is the 15-page opinion in Arizona Libertarian Party v Bennett, cv 11-856. The Green Party is a co-plaintiff.

The opinion says that the form is not discriminatory. It also suggests that it is constitutionally permissible for a state legislature to pass laws that discriminate in favor of the Democratic and Republican Parties and against all other parties. See page 13, which quotes former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who wrote in 1996 that the state interest in “stability” (which Rehnquist did not define) permits it to pass laws that encourage a “healthy two-party system.” These quotes are from Timmons v Twin Cities Area New Party, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld laws that prevent two parties from jointly nominating the same candidate and having both labels on the ballot.

Page fourteen implies that the political party’s witness was mistaken when he said that Arizona was the only state with a voter registration form that listed some qualified parties, but not other parties. However, the witness (me) actually said that Arizona was the only state that held primaries for all qualified parties but listed some, but not all, qualified parties on the registration form. The Judge was informed of this at oral argument, but she seems not to have been listening.

Parties in Arizona need to boost their registration in order to remain on the ballot. Parties that petition to get on the ballot are removed from the ballot after two elections, unless they either polled 5% for Governor or President, or else increased their registration to two-thirds of 1% of the state total. The Green Party will probably be removed from the ballot later this year, because without being listed on the form, chances are dim that it can get its registration up that high. Libertarians generally keep their registration above that level, but it is always a struggle, and the goal would be much easier to reach if these parties were listed on the voter registration form.

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