Richard Winger, Ballot Access News, May 28, 2008
On May 27, Judge Robert H. Hobgood signed a 17-page opinion, upholding North Carolina’s ballot access laws for new and previously unqualified parties. Judge Hobgood is a Superior Court Judge in Wake County. Superior Court Judges in North Carolina do not have law clerks, so it is customary for judges to ask each side to write a proposed opinion. In this case, Judge Hobgood signed the opinion that had been written by the Attorney General’s office. The only reasons this opinion mentions for upholding the petition requirement are that any lesser restriction would result in a large ballot, which would cause election-administration problems.
Since this opinion was written by the Attorney General’s office, it naturally omitted a great deal of evidence that this fear is unfounded. The plaintiffs, the Libertarian and Green Parties, will appeal.
No lower state court has ever held that its state requires too many signatures to place a party, or a candidate, on the ballot, under the constitution (whether federal constitution or state constitution). The only state courts that have ever declared the number of signatures unconstitutional have been the highest state court in that state. These instances were in New York in 1912, Michigan in 1981, Alaska in 1982, and Maryland in 2003. In all four cases, the lower courts had upheld the challenged laws.
The opinion has no immediate impact on the Libertarian Party, since it completed this year’s petition anyway. But it will keep any other party from qualifying this year. The law requires 69,734 valid signatures this year, and probably 80,000 or so in 2010.