Scalia Rejects Third-Party Candidate from Appearing on Louisiana Ballot

I’ve written before about the controversial efforts of purging newly-registered voters from the rolls here in the Great State of Louisiana. Today, the New York Times (a paper Governor Palin is suddenly fond of quoting) is reporting that the voter purging efforts in many swing states appear to be illegal, and unfortunately, Louisiana is on the list (though we’re not considered one of those swing states).

In addition to this controversy, Louisiana has also battled court cases protesting the state’s registration deadline for placing nominees on our ballot. Apparently, the deadline occurred on the same day Hurricane Gustav hit, a storm that devastated parts of Baton Rouge (where the Secretary of State’s office is located) and forced the Secretary to extend the qualification period, though, importantly, this extension was allegedly not adequately advertised. The Secretary of State eventually denied the requests of the Libertarian and Socialists parties from being on the ballot. The Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr, sued, and the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court; they rejected Barr’s argument (more later).

Back to the New York Times. Quoting:

Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times.


The actions do not seem to be coordinated by one party or the other, nor do they appear to be the result of election officials intentionally breaking rules, but are apparently the result of mistakes in the handling of the registrations and voter files as the states tried to comply with a 2002 federal law, intended to overhaul the way elections are run.

This is unfortunate.

Although much attention this year has been focused on the millions of new voters being added to the rolls by the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama, there has been far less notice given to the number of voters being dropped from those same rolls.

States have been trying to follow the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and remove the names of voters who should no longer be listed; but for every voter added to the rolls in the past two months in some states, election officials have removed two, a review of the records shows.

The six states seem to be in violation of federal law in two ways. Some are removing voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election, which is not allowed except when voters die, notify the authorities that they have moved out of state, or have been declared unfit to vote.

Some of the states are improperly using Social Security data to verify registration applications for new voters.

In addition to the six swing states, three more states appear to be violating federal law. Alabama and Georgia seem to be improperly using Social Security information to screen registration applications from new voters. And Louisiana appears to have removed thousands of voters after the federal deadline for taking such action.

Under federal law, election officials are supposed to use the Social Security database to check a registration application only as a last resort, if no record of the applicant is found on state databases, like those for driver’s licenses or identification cards.

We’re removing voters EVEN AFTER THE DEADLINE.


Anyone who believes in the rule of the law and in a fair and equitable democracy should be outraged by these efforts. Purging voters from the rolls after the federal deadline is a violation of the law, and these efforts don’t just affect our political parties; they undermine our ability to function as a representative democracy.

Even more disturbing:

In three states — Colorado, Louisiana and Michigan — the number of people purged from the election rolls since Aug. 1 far exceeds the number who may have died or relocated during that period.

In other words, this isn’t responsible oversight; it’s out and out disenfranchisement.

The Secretary of State is duty-bound to correct these discrepancies and respond to these charges of illegal purging and disenfranchisement. Our Secretary of State should celebrate the increased voter registration, and he should resist using his office in order to disenfranchise voters who may not subscribe to his particular political agenda. I can only hope that Mr. Dardenne is instructing his office to adhere to the law and the deadlines proscribed by federal law.

But this is not comforting:

In Louisiana, at least 18,000 people were dropped from the rolls in the five weeks after July 23. Over the same period, at least 1,600 people moved out of state and at least 3,300 died.

That is a total of 13,100 voters removed.

A spokesman for the Louisiana secretary of state said that about half of the numbers of the voters removed from the rolls were people who moved within the state or who died. The remaining 11,000 or so people seem to have been removed by local officials for other reasons that were not clear, the spokesman said.

Secretary Dardenne, a Republican who considered running for the United States Senate this year, needs to make those reasons clear.

Why have over ten thousand voters been denied their fundamental right to vote in our representative democracy?

And getting back to the story about a third-party candidate taking his case against Louisiana all the way to the top: Perhaps it is also appropriate to ask why the inclusion of a third-party candidate on our State’s ballot could possibly become a case worthy of the Supreme Court’s attention.

With all due respect to the Secretary, the correct response about the verdict is:

“Of course, it’s unfortunate that this dispute wasted the time of the highest court in our democracy. My office would never attempt to subvert or neglect an eligible candidate from seeking any office, but we must adhere to deadlines to ensure equal opportunity.”

But unfortunately, they couldn’t issue such a statement, because as the New York Times points out, in Louisiana, deadlines are meaningless, depending, of course, on whether you’re hoping to be enfranchised or disenfranchised.

Instead, the statement was:

“Obviously we’re pleased that we will not have to reprint the presidential ballots, which already have been mailed to military and overseas voters.” Dardenne said. “Reprinting would have resulted in confusion, increased expense to the taxpayers, a setback in the absentee-by-mail voting process and, potentially delayed election results.”

Wow! Our arbitrary deadlines for our own purposes were held up, even as we allegedly violate deadlines for purging our voter rolls!

And guess who decided all of this?

Antonin Scalia!

Under Supreme Court rules, the case was presented to Justice Antonin Scalia who referred the case to the entire court. The Court denied the application in a one-sentence decision.

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