ACLU Hails Victory in Virginia Ballot Labeling Case

August 16, 2001 12:00 am

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RICHMOND, VA–In a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, a federal judge in Richmond today ordered the State Board of Elections to identify minor party candidates by the name of their political party when they appear on ballots.

The court order resolves a lawsuit filed last month challenging a new state law that would have placed party labels on ballots for major party candidates but required all others, including minor party candidates, to be identified as independents. The case was filed by lawyers with the ACLU of Virginia and the Southern Regional ACLU representing Virginia Libertarian Party candidates and supporters.

“With elections coming up in a little more than two months, it was important to come to a quick resolution of this case,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “Had this law stayed in effect, major political parties would have received an unfair advantage over smaller parties.””

“”In addition,”” he said, “”voters would be misled by ballots showing Republicans and Democrats running against Independents who are actually members of the Libertarian or Green Party.”

Although the court’s action does not strike down the state law, it requires the Board of Elections to identify minor party candidates on ballots in all elections for state offices until the law is changed. In addition, the state has agreed to pay $25,000 to the ACLU for legal fees and costs.

Under the law challenged by the ACLU, candidates nominated for office by “recognized” political parties would have their names and party affiliation printed on ballots.

However, in order to be “recognized,” a party must have run a candidate for statewide office in at least one of the two preceding elections, and that candidate must have received ten percent or more of the vote in one of those elections.

Under this definition, only Republican and Democratic Party candidates would be qualified to be identified on ballots by their party name. All other qualified candidates, whether running as individuals or for a political party, would be labeled as Independents.

The four Libertarian Party candidates represented by the ACLU are: William Redpath, candidate for Governor; Gary Reams, candidate for Lieutenant Governor; and, Timothy Belton and John Girardeau, both of whom are candidates for the House of Delegates. Two additional plaintiffs, John Buckely and Shelley Tamres, are Virginia voters who regularly support Libertarian Candidates.

ACLU lawyers representing the Libertarian Party are Bryan Sells, Neil Bradley and Laughlin McDonald of the ACLU’s Southern Regional Office in Atlanta, and Rebecca K. Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia.

A copy of the complaint and the memorandum in support of the motion for preliminary injunction can be found on the ACLU of Virginia website ( Click on Legal Action and look under Voting Rights cases.

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