On February 22, Rocky De La Fuente, an independent presidential candidate in 2016, won his lawsuit against a Washington state law that requires petitioning candidates for president to publish a notice in a newspaper, in each county in which the petition will be circulated, at least ten days in advance of beginning to petition. De La Fuente v Wyman, w.d., 3:16cv-5801. De La Fuente had been kept off the Washington ballot in 2016 because of this law, even though he submitted the required 1,000 signatures of registered voters. Here is the 13-page decision. The decision is by Judge Benjamin H. Settle, a Bush Jr. appointee.
The decision says the burden of running the notices is slight, but still strikes down the law because it does restrict voting rights to some extent and the state couldn’t show that the law is needed for any rational purpose. The decision says, “The present case illustrates how a minor party or independent candidate may be capable of mustering what the State considers to be a significant modicum of support — in this case the signed petitions of over 1,000 registered voters — yet still be excluded from the ballot for failing to give notice.”
The real harm the law does is effectively make the filing deadline earlier. Already Washington state had one of the earliest presidential independent petition deadlines (July 23) and the 10-day publication law make this deadline realistically July 13. Late-announcing candidates like Evan McMullin (who didn’t declare until August 8, 2016) are the type of candidate the law injured.
This is the first constitutional ballot access case any minor party or independent candidate has won in Washington since 2004, when the Libertarian Party won a decision in state court against the old law that required a minor party or independent candidate to poll at least 1% of the vote in the blanket primary. That win lost all significance after Washington state abandoned the blanket primary afterwards.