On July 19, U.S. District Court Judge W. Keith Watkins refused to enjoin Alabama’s March petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties. The case is Stein v Chapman, Middle District, 2:12-cv-42. His 19-page opinion says that the three plaintiff parties, the Constitution, Green, and Libertarian Parties, failed to show that the March deadline injured them.
The opinion acknowledges the U.S. Supreme Court precedent Anderson v Celebrezze, which struck down Ohio’s March 20 deadline for independent presidential candidates. It also acknowledges the 11th circuit opinion New Alliance Party v Hand, which struck down Alabama’s April petition deadline in 1991, at a time when Alabama only required signatures of 1% of the last gubernatorial vote, instead of the 3% currently required. But it says those cases submitted much more evidence about the harm done by the early deadlines. That is a peculiar conclusion. The point of precedent in law is that once a law has been declared unconstitutional, if a state continues to enforce that law (or if the state repeals the law but later restores it), plaintiffs in a new lawsuit should not be required to build an evidentiary record from scratch; the prior precedent is supposed to control.
The opinion mentions Bergland v Harris, which says that states have less interest in keeping presidential candidates off their ballot than in keeping other candidates off the ballot. But the opinion does not discuss Bergland v Harris; there is just a sentence acknowledging that the judge is aware of the decision.
The case is still alive, and a decision about declaratory relief is months away, and won’t effect the 2012 election in Alabama.