Ballot Access Hearing in Vermont

On July 31, arguments were held in Superior Court in Montpelier in the ballot access lawsuit filed by the Justice Party. The case is Anderson v State of Vermont. Rocky Anderson and the Justice Party submitted petitions to 22 town clerks in a timely manner, and the Justice Party did have at least 1,000 valid signatures. But because some of the town clerks didn’t check the signatures quickly enough, the petitions were not available by the state deadline to submit them to the Secretary of State.

In court, the state testified that the Party for Socialism and Liberation petition this year succeeded. What the state did not say is that the PSL is the only minor party or independent presidential petition that succeeded in Vermont this year. The Constitution Party, the Green Party, and the Justice Party petitions all failed (Americans Elect and the Libertarian Party did not need to petition because they were already qualified parties, along with the Progressive Party and Liberty Union).

During the course of the hearing, the Judge asked what difference it made if the Justice Party got on the ballot, because in any event the party had no chance of winning. The attorney for the Justice Party then explained the historical importance of minor parties in introducing new ideas into the system. The judge seemed to accept that idea. It is very difficult to predict how he will rule.

The state said the Justice Party should have imitated the tactics of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which submitted petitions from only three large towns. Larger towns tend to have more personnel available to check petitions. Of course, that theory completely violates Equal Protection, because it gives voters in large towns more opportunity to nominate candidates by petition than residents of smaller towns.


  1. Benjamin Eastwood · · Reply

    Aloha, I am one of the plaintiffs, and the Vermont Point Person for the campaign.
    Not only does the state’s position that independent candidates should stick to the Burlington area violate equal protection and disenfranchise voters for the reasons listed above, it also severely limits the pool of potential signatories, as there are only about 90,000 total people in the 4 towns suggested by the state and by focusing only on those 4 towns it would also mean the higher likelihood of contaminated petitions from folks that have already signed a different candidate’s petition, as voters are only allowed to sign one petition.

    That being said, we DID seek the sec. states advice, and we did follow it as much as was humanly practicable. We did focus on gathering signatures in the Burlington area, and never stopped canvassing there right up to the deadline, but most of the people that were out on the street live in outlying towns.
    The problem is that we then needed to travel to each of those towns to get the petitions certified, or mail them, and risk losing them in the mail or throw them out and only certify the Burlington area, disenfranchising rural voters.
    The Sec state prohibited us from using faxes or photocopies in order to get the petitions verified. Unfortunately, the Voters in Vermont are human beings, and as such, despite our best efforts to insure one town per page, we ended up with pages with multiple towns. These pages needed to be schlepped from one town to another to another to get each signature verified. This was such a big time drain that the office manager for the national campaign, Nancy Karter, had to fly to Vermont and take time from her national campaign duties in order to schlepp papers. We have done everything humanly possible to follow the directives by the sec state, but the combination of the unconstitutional laws, and the new early deadline have made a perfect storm where ballot choice for president is severely hampered.

    As an independent candidate for state rep, I wasn’t required to go through any town verification process. It is interesting to note that the state is arguing that the process is to assure that there is some modicum of interest in an independent candidate, and prevent ballot crowding, but only independent presidential candidates are required to go through this process… With the same number of signatures we collected for one President (1400+/-) could add roughly 28 state reps to the ballot, without the burdensome town clerk verification. Clearly there is no justification for this law which is clearly meant only to protect a Democrapublican monopoly on the presidential election.

    It was in interesting day, and I will post more as I digest the events of the morning.

    ~Regards, Ben Eastwood, Montpelier, VT

  2. Casual Bystander · · Reply

    Perhaps Vermont could adopt a “Top Two” system so they wouldn’t have to go to such lengths to disenfranchise minor parties and independent candidates.

  3. Benjamin Eastwood · · Reply

    Actually, minor parties in VT have their own set of standards, which are easier as they do not require verification. However, Vermont has an unusual biennial party formation process, where every party (even the major ones) has to reorganize, and folks can form new parties. Unfortunately, the Justice Party was not formed in time to register as a minor party in VT, so, while we are a national party, the justice party will not achieve minor party status until next year.

  4. Benjamin Eastwood · · Reply

    Another interesting tidbit, the state did not mention that apparently the one independent candidate that did make it isn’t even constitutionally eligible to be president, as she is only 28, and her running mate is also barred as she was born in Columbia. The state’s assertion that the law is to insure ballot integrity is belied by the fact that all of the constitutionally eligible independent candidates were barred from the ballot, and the one independent candidate that did get on is ineligible. Obviously the law failed in it’s stated purpose.

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