The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Arkansas Green Party’s First and Fourteenth Amendment challenge to the state’s ballot access policy this week, demonstrating that the court will not haphazardly overturn state laws to assist political parties in gaining access to election ballots.
A candidate in Arkansas has two main ways to get her name on the ballot as a party’s candidate: She could run as the nominee of a state-certified political party, or she could declare herself part of a new political party and file a petition of 10,000 registered Arkansas voters’ signatures collected within a 90-day period.
There's a catch to being a new political party: a new party that fails to obtain 3 percent of the total vote cast in a gubernatorial or presidential election ceases to be a party.
Members of the Arkansas Green Party challenged the Arkansas law under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, arguing that the law is not narrowly tailored to advance a compelling state interest. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law, finding that it does not severely interfere with the party's right of association and therefore does not impermissibly burden the Green Party's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The Arkansas Green Party argued that new political parties in Arkansas have struggled to avoid decertification after gaining ballot access, and pointed to Ross Perot's Reform Party as the only party other than the Republicans or the Democrats that has succeeded in satisfying the 3 percent support requirement.
The court, however, said that the decertification argument was insufficient to prove that candidates were denied access to the ballot because "achieving ballot access is a task that can be, and has been, accomplished with regularity. The petition process permits the Green Party to secure ballot access by submitting 10,000 signatures from any registered Arkansas voters, including those that later choose to vote in another party's primary election."
The Arkansas Green Party has not announced if it will appeal its First and Fourteenth Amendment claims. It will begin its petition drive over Labor Day Weekend on September 3.
- Green Party of Arkansas v. Mark Martin (Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals)
- FindLaw's Eighth Circuit blog (FindLaw)
- S. Carolina Green Party v. S. Carolina State Election Comm'n, 09-1915 (FindLaw Case Summaries)
- Election Law, Government Ethics & Lobbying (FindLaw's Library)