Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Arkansas Petition Deadline for New Parties in Presidential Years is in September of Year Before Election

Ballot Access News

There have been many outlandish petition deadlines for newly qualifying parties, but the most extreme such deadline that ever existed is the Arkansas deadline. In presidential election years, the petition is due in September of the odd year before the election. New parties in Arkansas nominate by convention, not by primary, so there is no election-administration reason for such an absurd deadline.

Arkansas has lost lawsuits against early petition deadlines in the past. In 1977, when the deadline was April, it was struck down. The legislature moved it to May. But then in 1987 it moved the deadline to January. That was struck down in a Reform Party case in 1996, and the legislature moved it to May. But in 2013 it moved the deadline to 60 days before the filing period for candidates running in a party primary. The primary was in May in 2014, so the deadline automatically became December of the year before the election, worse than it had ever been before.

In 2015 the legislature moved the primary from May to March (for presidential election years only), so that automatically moved the petition deadline to September of the year before the election, in presidential years.

Given U.S. history, in which important new parties were organized in the election year and participated in that year’s election, it is difficult to understand the philosophy of Arkansas legislators. For instance, the Republican Party was formed on July 6, 1854, and went on to win a plurality in the U.S. House in the autumn 1854 elections.

The new deadline hasn’t yet been challenged in court, because the only party that has attempted to qualify in Arkansas in the last three elections has been the Libertarian Party, and it always got the petition done in the middle of the odd year before the election year, so it couldn’t claim that the deadline injured it. But if some other party attempts to get on the ballot in Arkansas in 2024, such a party would have standing and would win a lawsuit against the September 2023 deadline. If it were interested in the 2022 election, it could also win a lawsuit against the December deadline.

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