Friday, August 26, 2016

READ: Why Arizona Supreme Court Upheld Republicans' Challenge Of Libertarian Senate Candidate

The Arizona Supreme Court today released its opinion in the Robert Graham v Frank Tamburri case.  The Legislature's 2015 election law overhaul provision that (among other things) greatly increased the number of signatures required for Libertarians is constitutional.

It had previously announced its unanimous vote affirming the striking of the Libertarian Tamburri from the ballot for U.S. Senate in next week's primary election - and thus possibly leaving the Libertarians without any candidate in November. The interesting piece of this is that the signature challenge was brought by Robert Graham, the Chair of the Arizona Republican Party, in an effort to assist the GOP nominee in November.

The 2015 law (passed by Republicans on party line votes) increased the number of valid signatures Tamburri needed to collect from 133 to 3,034. He submitted more than the latter number. However, the Republicans found enough invalid signatures to bring him below 3,034 but above 133.

Tamburri appealed the decision on Constitutional grounds.

The Supreme Court, however, found that he could not show that the increase caused such a severe burden that the law would face close scrutiny. Then, the Justices unanimously determined that there was an important state interest in limiting the number of candidates on the ballot, and that the increased signature requirements were rationally related.  (This, despite the fact that there are already significant hurdles for a potential party to be recognized by the state.)

The law increased the number of signatures necessary for third parties by reducing the percentage of signers necessary but greatly increasing the pool of who can sign the Libertarians' petition (to include all registered voters (independents, etc.) who are not registered to another (recognized) party.

Chief Justice Scott Bales authored the unanimous opinion, and concluded it thusly:
(W)e conclude that the 0.25 percent signature requirement is rationally related to the state’s legitimate interest in ensuring that candidates who appear on the general election ballot have some significant modicum of support. Accordingly, we reject Tamburri’s contention that the signature requirements in §§ 16-321 and - 322, as amended by H.B. 2608, unconstitutionally burden a candidate’s exercise of First Amendment rights.
The Libertarians do have a write-in candidate for Tuesday's primary.  If Merissa Hamilton garners more than 3,000 write-in votes on Tuesday, she will be printed on the November ballot along with the Democratic and Republican candidates.

Hamilton tells Arizona's Politics that she stepped up after Tamburri was taken off, and says she has been getting significant support from the national Libertarian Party. She is also buoyed by the strong polling that Libertarian Presidential nominee Gary Johnson is receiving in Arizona (12% in this week's CNN/ORC poll).

(This article written by Tempe election law attorney Paul Weich.)

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