Judge Refuses To Block Law Aimed At Keeping Minor Party Candidates Off Ballot

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Monday, May 30, 2016 - 10:34am

A federal judge is refusing to block a 2015 Arizona law that its supporters admit was designed to try to keep minor party candidates off the ballot.

Before this year, candidates could qualify for the ballot by getting the signatures of a certain percentage of people registered with their party. But the law was changed to also include Independents in a move that increased the signature requirement for a Libertarian candidate by more than 20 times while not really altering it for Republicans or Democrats.

The Libertarians sued last month. But U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell said they waited to file too close to next week's petition filing deadline for him to rule on whether to apply the law this year. In doing so, he sidestepped the admission by Republicans like Rep. J.D. Mesnard of Chandler, who said during one of the debates on the law that its aim was to keep Libertarians off the ballot because they were essentially stealing votes from Republicans and thus helping elect Democrats.

"I believe that if you look at the last election there was at least one, probably two congressional seats that may have gone a different direction, the direction I would have liked to have seen them go, if this requirement had been [in place]," Mesnard said.

In refusing to block the new signature requirements for this year's race, Campbell made it clear he was not ruling that the law is valid. Instead, he wants both the challengers and the state to have the time to fully develop their arguments.

Attorney Oliver Hall, who represents the Libertarians, said he's convinced Campbell will void the requirement ahead of the 2018 election. "We are confident that we will ultimately prevail in the case. But it's just unfortunate that the court was not able to grant relief in time for 2016," he said.

No date has been set for a hearing.

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