Nevada District Court Denies Ballot Access to Green Party
In the current political climate, with the two vibrant personalities of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton clashing on every issue, it would be easy for minor political parties to be forgotten. In spite of this, the Green Party has pushed their way into the national spotlight. Yet, despite national recognition, and thousands of voters across the country supporting the Green Party’s presidential nominee, some states have refused the Green Party access to the ballot for the upcoming presidential election. In Nevada the Green Party’s petition to appear on this year’s ballot, subsequent appeal with the Secretary of State, and judicial plea for a temporary restraining order to force the Secretary to accept the Green Party’s nominee, have all been denied. According to the First Amendment to the United States’ Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This right is engrained in all Americans; Americans believe to their very core they have the right to say what is important to them, especially in forums created to voice such opinions. Crucially, in all of those forums, by all of the mediums through which one can communicate their views, none is arguably more important casting a ballot for the President of the United States.
Each state is permitted to regulate the requirements that a minor party or independent presidential candidate must meet to qualify for the ballot. In most states, such as Nevada, these laws require an aspiring party or candidate to make a preliminary showing of support for the candidate in advance of the election, usually through collecting a certain percentage of eligible voters’ signatures. The point of these laws is to keep unknown and inconsequential individuals or groups from flooding the ballot, confusing voters, or needlessly burdening a state’s responsibility to properly execute an election. In line with this policy, candidates for the two major political parties—the Republicans and Democrats—have been consistently allowed on states’ ballots despite missing deadlines or other similar requirements. However, all too often these laws are misapplied or abused to keep other legitimate third-party candidates off of the ballot, with the resulting effect of suppressing the right of voters who support those candidates to choose who they want to vote for.
Unfortunately, such was the case in Nevada. The Green Party, an international political party with millions of supporters that is historically strongly in Nevada, was denied access to the presidential ballot on a mere technicality—they were about 650 signatures short of meeting the number of required signatures to qualify for the ballot. As this result clearly distorts the purpose and policy behind the applicable Nevada laws, the Nevada Green Party appealed this decision to the Nevada Secretary of State. When the Secretary also denied the Nevada Green Party’s request to consider supplemental signatures, Barnes Law assisted the disenfranchised minor party to bring a civil suit and motion for a temporary restraining order in the United States’ District Court of Nevada. Yet, again, the Nevada laws were misinterpreted to prohibit the Green Party from accessing Nevada’s ballot. In doing so, the Court accepted the Secretary of State’s hypothetical that if the Nevada Green Party had begun collecting signatures earlier, it could have collected an additional 700 or more signatures and then qualified for the ballot—complete fiction.
After all of this, it is important to reiterate the purpose and meaning behind this dispute. This case has nothing to do with political ideologies or the platform of the Nevada Green Party. This case has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or the policies and issues debated in this electoral cycle. At issue in this case is simply the voters’ right to choose whom to place on the ballot. Over 8,000 voters in Nevada signed the petition to place the Green Party’s presidential candidate on Nevada’s ballot. The decision of the Secretary of State and the District Court effectively disenfranchises those voters, plus all the others that align with the Green Party’s platform that didn’t have an opportunity to add their signature to the list.
–By Tony Nasser, Esq., Barnes Law
Tony Nasser is an attorney licensed to practice law in California.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.