The United States is basically a two-party system. Republicans versus Democrats. Before that, there were Whigs, Federalists, and a few others, but for the most part, there has never been a true third party.
Is it tradition? Popular preference and/or apathy? Or is it a matter of ballot access?
Since the last election, we've seen lawsuit, after lawsuit, after lawsuit, most brought by the Libertarian Party, regarding access to the ballot. Today's lawsuit: fighting Alabama's odd requirements for having one's party label affixed to candidates' names.
Ballot Access? Easy. Party Labels? Not as Easy
The Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties all got their candidates on the ballot. Doing so only requires 5,000 signatures to be submitted by September 6, two months before the general election.
However, to have one's party affiliation next to his or her name, the party must either obtain 20 percent of the entire vote cast for a state officer in the prior general election, or, a candidate must submit a petition with as many signatures as 3 percent of the votes cast for governor in the last general election. (44,828 or more, for the November 2012 election.) The petition must be submitted prior to the March primary election.
Parties' Argue: Deadline is 'Manifestly Burdensome and Unnecessary'
The district court denied the political parties' motion for summary judgment, holding that the plaintiffs "failed to provide an evidentiary basis to conclude Alabama's election law imposed an unconstitutional burden on them." (internal quotes omitted). The parties argue, in their brief to the Eleventh Circuit:
"The district court grounded its analysis in two false premises, namely, that plaintiffs had to prove that Alabama's March filing deadline imposed severe burdens on their First Amendment rights and that they made diligent efforts to comply with the deadline. In denying the relief plaintiffs sought, the district court contravened this Court's decision in New Alliance Party of Alabama v. Hand, 933 F.2d 1568 (11 Cir.1991) and the methodology for analyzing ballot access restrictions developed by the Supreme Court in Anderson v[.] Celebrezze, , and its progeny.
Under the applicable authorities, the plaintiffs should only have had to establish that the March filing deadline imposed a significant burden on their rights and that the burden was not necessary to advance the state's legitimate interests. This, the plaintiffs accomplished. In fact, the early deadline is manifestly burdensome and unnecessary."
The brief also notes that Alabama's deadline is the earliest in the country.
Briefing and Other Cases
The brief notes that the political parties are not requesting oral arguments, which should speed up the resolution of this case. BallotAccess.org notes that, as of December, there were three ballot access cases pending in the Eleventh Circuit alone.
- Stein v. Bennett (Brief of Plaintiffs-Appellants via BallotAccess.org)
- Ninth Circuit Says Montana Can Limit State Campaign Donations (FindLaw's Ninth Circuit Blog)
- 9th Cir: 'None of these Candidates' Can Stay on Nevada Ballot (FindLaw's Ninth Circuit Blog)