ACLU Challenges Deadline for New Political Parties Seeking a Spot on the 2016 Ballot

June 15, 2015 2:00 pm

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal lawsuit challenging a South Dakota law that moved the deadline for new political parties striving for a place on the 2016 ballot.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of South Dakota’s Libertarian Party and Constitution Party, challenges a section of the law that shifted the deadline for new parties to submit declarations to participate in primary elections backward by four weeks — from the last Tuesday in March prior to the date of the primary election to the first Tuesday in March. The plaintiffs are asking the deadline be set for no earlier than March 29 for a party that wants to participate in South Dakota’s primary election, and August 1 for a party that does not need to participate in a primary election.

“This new deadline is unreasonable and far too early. It forces new parties to decide whether to participate in the primary election before potential nominees of larger parties are known, and requires new parties to collect signatures during the coldest months of South Dakota’s winter. Courts have invalidated deadlines that were much shorter than the 95 days required by the new law as unconstitutionally burdening candidates and voters and effectively blocking new parties from participating in elections, “said Laughlin McDonald, director emeritus of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

The case, Libertarian Party of South Dakota v. Krebs, was filed in the U.S. District Court of South Dakota in Sioux Falls. It charges the new deadline violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and seeks to stop state officials from enforcing that deadline.

“South Dakota’s new deadline is anti-democratic. The new law makes it nearly impossible for anyone except the major parties to place party candidates on the ballot. The major parties have bent over backwards to unfairly squelch potential opponents,” said Stephen Pevar, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program.

He adds, “Given the historical pattern of third parties not emerging until after the selection of major party candidates, an early filing deadline that prevents new parties from advancing their candidates for the state’s highest offices conflicts with an important political tradition that has proven its value over the course of American history.”

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of South Dakota, and Brendan Johnson of Robins Kaplan LLP.

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