A Modest Victory for the Moderate Party

Kenneth Block, founder of the Moderate Party of Rhode Island, has won a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Rhode Island's ballot access laws. The Providence Journal reports that Federal Judge William Smith:
threw out as unconstitutional a provision of state law that forced new political parties to wait until Jan. 1 of an election year to collect the signatures they need to get on the statewide ballot. And while he hinted he’d have liked to toss the state requirement that those new parties collect signatures equal to 5 percent of the turnout in the previous statewide election . . . Smith said there was enough precedent to let stand that part of the state’s ballot access law.
Ballot Access News provides some context:
This decision is the first constitutional ballot access victory in calendar year 2009 so far, and only the second decision to strike down a “start date” for petitions to create a ballot-qualified party. The first such decision had been won in U.S. District Court in Arkansas in 2001.
As quoted in the Providence Journal piece, Judge Smith pointed out the obvious in his decision:
“This court can surmise perhaps that one of the reasons for the high hurdles is to keep potential challenges to comfortable incumbents to a minimum,” Smith said.
The decision may have far reaching effects in Rhode Island politics. In a profile of the state's political landscape (see Independent in a One-Party State), I suggested that the radically lopsided Democratic majority in the Ocean State may, paradoxically, foster the development of third party and independent campaigns for office. Smith proved cognizant of the connection as well. Again, from the Providence Journal:
“Historically so much of the value of a minor party lies in what it can do before an election,” he wrote, “spark debate, introduce new ideas, educate voters, and challenge the status quo. The bedrock First Amendment principles implicated here are especially vital in a state such as Rhode Island, where two major parties operate but where only one, the Democratic Party, increasingly dominates the legislative political landscape.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As Peter Griffin might say, "Score one for Peter."

It's really a victory for equality as well. Everyone deserve equal billing on the ballots.