Green Party Faces Uphill Fight on Arizona Ballot Deadlines

Arizona’s Green Party got a chilly reception from the federal appeals court hearing the party’s constitutional challenge Wednesday to the state’s180-day signature-gathering deadline to qualify for the primary ballot.

The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal peppered Green Party lawyer Julia Damron with questions about the seeming lack of evidence that the party struggled to get signatures in the allotted time, or spent lots of money on it.

The party must show Arizona’s law creates an “undue burden” by requiring new parties hoping to appear of the ballot to get more than signatures from roughly 23,000 people at least 180 days before the ballot.

“Usually a ‘severe burden’ is not mere platitutes [such as those in the Green Party’s briefs] but contain more,” said Judge Margaret McKeown.

“We don’t know what the party tried to do,” said Judge Michelle Friedland.

Damron admitted the evidence was “a little paltry on this point,” but she said the Green Party tried but failed to get signatures in time to get on the ballot in time for 2014.

“But neither did I,” Friedland quipped. “How do we know how much they tried?”

Judge Joan Lefkow, a visiting judge from Illinois’s Northern District asked how the court could pick a new deadline if 180 days was too short.

Arizona’s lawyer got James Driscoll-MacEachron argued Arizona has had the 180-day deadline since 2000 and the parties have recognized it, “including the Green Party.”

Lefkow quizzed him about why the state needed the 180-days and why with new technology the state couldn’t qualify parties with a different deadline.

Driscoll-MacEachron cited more early voting rules, a requirement that military get ballots 45 days ahead of elections and that meant ballots had to be printed earlier. Each deadline pushed back the time for new parties to be recognized. And the state needed time to verify signatures.

One oddity about the Arizona law seemed to confound the judges. The law allows any candidate to put a three-word title after their name, which could include “Green Party,” but if the party tries and fails to qualify for the ballot, Green candidates may not use the “Green Party” designation.

The panel will issue it’s ruling at a later date.

Case: Arizona Green Party v. Bennett, No. 14-15976



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