Thursday, May 31, 2018

ACLU Challenges NE High Bar for Independent Candidates Ballot Access

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a Federal Lawsuit challenging the Constitutionality of a recent Change in Nebraska Election Law that has virtually blocked Independent Petition Candidates from gaining access to Nebraska's Statewide Ballot.

The New Law, enacted in 2016, increased the Signatures required from about 4,000 to what currently would be more than 121,000, or 10% of Registered Voters. "This represents an increase of more than 3,000 percent and is the highest signature threshold in the country," the ACLU and allied Litigants stated Tuesday in a News Release.

The New Requirement essentially Blocked Sen. Bob Krist's original plan to seek the Governorship this year as an Independent Candidate, sidestepping the Primary Election and gaining Access to the General Election Ballot by Petition. Krist subsequently considered forming a New Political Party, but ultimately decided to change his Party Registration to Democratic after already changing from Republican to Independent.
In reaching that decision, Krist (D-10th District, including part of Omaha) also decided to Withdraw his own Lawsuit. Krist won the Democratic Primary Election earlier this month and will challenge Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts in November.

State Sen. Lynne Walz (D-15th District) was chosen as Democrat Bob Krist's Running Mate.

Sen. John Murante of Gretna, who supported the New Independent Candidate Signature Requirement as part of an Elections Reform Bill, has argued the increased number is comparable to the Number of Votes required to win a Statewide Primary Election and gain Access to the General Election Ballot.

The sharp Increase in the Independent Signature requirement "serves no legitimate state interest (and) creates an unequal playing field giving an unfair advantage to partisan candidates," said Danielle Conrad, Executive Director of ACLU of Nebraska.

Plaintiffs in the Lawsuit are Kent Bernbeck of Elkhorn, who seeks to be an Independent Candidate for State Treasurer, and Michael Warner of Lincoln, a Registered Voter who says he wants to have the Opportunity to Vote for Bernbeck.

The New Law makes it prohibitively Expensive and therefore essentially impossible for an Independent Candidate to achieve Ballot Access, the Lawsuit argues.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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