Texas State Trial Court Keeps Injunction Against Filing Fees for Minor Parties in Place

On January 24, a state trial court held a hearing in Dikeman v Scott, Harris County, 11th judicial district, 2019-76841. At the conclusion of the hearing the judge denied the state’s motion to lift the injunction against requiring minor party candidates to pay filing fees. Here is the one-page order. The state had prepared the order and had written that the Secretary of State’s motion is “granted.” But the judge lined out the words prepared by the state, and inserted, “Denied” in their place.

The state had argued that the injunction against the 2020 fees is obsolete because the legislature modified the filing fee law in 2021. The legislature in 2021 had made the fees even more severe. Whereas the original 2019 filing fee law appeared (vaguely) only to apply to nominees of convention parties, the 2021 law says the fees even apply to candidates who ask a convention for a nomination.

Texas does not require independent candidates to pay a filing fee. Traditionally, in Texas, only candidates running in a primary have ever been required to pay filing fees. Their purpose is to keep the primary ballot from being too crowded, because there is no petition needed for a candidate to get on a Texas primary ballot.

This is a Libertarian Party case. The Libertarian Party is now seeking declaratory relief against the fees, not only in this case, but in a parallel federal case that will be argued in February. Thanks to Jim Riley for this news and for the link.

Oral Argument in Ninth Circuit over Arizona Ballot Order Goes Well for Democratic Party

On January 14, the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in Mecinas v Hobbs, 20-16301. This is the Democratic Party’s lawsuit against the Arizona law on the order of candidates on the general election ballot. The law gives the top line to the nominees of the party that carried that particular county in the last gubernatorial election. Because the Republican nominee for Governor in 2018 carried all but four counties, in 2020 most voters in the state had ballots in which Republican nominees had the top line.

The oral argument went very well for the Democratic Party. All three judges seemed deeply skeptical of the lower court decision, which had said that the Democratic Party doesn’t have standing. Watch the 31-minute oral argument at this link. Two of the three judges were in the courtroom, while the third judge appeared electronically. The attorneys for both sides also appeared electronically.

Reply Brief Filed in Georgia U.S. House Redistricting Lawsuit

On January 20, the voters opposed to the current Georgia U.S. House redistricting plan filed this brief in Pendergrass v Raffensperger, n.d., 1:21cv-5339. The brief fiercely attacks the state for suggesting that it is already too late to change the U.S. House boundaries. As the brief mentions on page 20, Governor Brian Kemp did not act on the redistricting bill for more than an entire month after he received it from the legislature. Of course, it was impossible for anyone to sue over the districting plan until after he had signed it into law.

This case has implications for Georgia ballot access in 2022 for U.S. House. Under a federal precedent from Georgia in 2002, when the redistricting is uncertain after the petitioning period for independent and minor party candidates has started, the petition requirement must be reduced. Parker v Barnes. The petitioning period in Georgia started January 13, and ends July 12.

Also, the Secretary of State still has not calculated how many signatures are needed in each district. The calculation is time-consuming, because the new boundaries must be imposed on voter registration data from October 2020. The Secretary of State probably doesn’t want to do the work until the actual 2022 districts are settled.

Wyoming Republican Party Likely to be Sued over Procedure for Choosing Nominees to Fill Vacancy in Public Office

On January 22, the Wyoming Republican Party state central committee met and chose three nominees to fill the vacancy in the office of the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. Because the Republican Party nominee for that office had been elected in 2018, and because that office is now vacant due to a resignation, state law says the Republican Party may choose three replacement nominees. Then, the Governor chooses one of them.

The party is being threatened with a lawsuit because it chose its three nominees under a system in which each county party had three votes, despite extreme population disparities between counties. See this story.