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Nader v. Cronin

September 1, 2010

RALPH NADER; PETER MIGUEL CAMEJO; ROBERT H. STIVER; MICHAEL A. PEROUTKA; CHUCK BALDWIN; DAVID W. PORTER, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
KEVIN B. CRONIN, CHIEF ELECTION OFFICER, STATE OF HAWAII, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii Alan C. Kay, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 1:04-cv-00611-ACK-LEK.

Per curiam.

FOR PUBLICATION

Argued and Submitted June 17, 2010 -- Honolulu, Hawaii

Before: Betty B. Fletcher, Harry Pregerson, and Richard R. Clifton, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Independent candidates for president, denied access to Hawaii's ballot for the 2004 election, appeal the district court's holding that the relevant provisions governing such access do not violate the Equal Protection Clause or the First and Fourteenth Amendments. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and we affirm.

BACKGROUND

Hawaii law provides two ways for candidates to obtain access to the ballot for the presidential election. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 11-113. An independent, or nonpartisan, candidate must file an application along with a petition "containing the signatures of currently registered voters which constitute not less than one per cent of the votes cast in the State at the last presidential election" sixty days before the election. Id. § 11-113(c)(2). Political parties that have qualified to place candidates on the primary and general election ballots must file a sworn application with the chief election officer 60 days before the general election to have a candidate placed on the ballot. Id. § 11-113(c)(1). The application must include the candidate's name and address, a statement that the candidate meets the constitutional requirements for the office, and a "statement that the candidates are the duly chosen candidates of both the state and the national party, giving the time, place, and manner of the selection." Id.

Separate and apart from the rules governing placement on the ballot for the presidential election, Hawaii provides a method for parties to achieve "qualified party" status. Id. § 11-62. To qualify as a party, the proposed party must submit a petition 170 days before the next primary declaring the intention of the signers to form a statewide political party. Id. § 11-62(a). The petition must "[c]ontain the name, signature, residence address, date of birth, and other information as determined by the chief election officer of currently registered voters comprising not less than one-tenth of one per cent of the total registered voters of the State as of the last preceding general election." Id. § 11-62(a)(3). After a party has achieved qualified party status by petition for three consecutive general election cycles, the party "shall be deemed a political party for the following ten-year period." Id. § 11-62(d). A party can be disqualified, however, if certain conditions are not met. Id. § 11-61.

None of the appellants who sought ballot access did so as a member of a party, but rather all followed the procedures for independent candidates. These candidates had to submit petitions with 3,711 signatures, the equivalent of one percent of the 371,003 votes cast in the 2000 presidential election, 60 days before the general election to qualify to appear on the ballot. Ralph Nader and his running mate, Peter Miguel Camejo, submitted 7,184 signatures, of which 3,124 were valid, falling short of the required number. Michael A. Peroutka and his running mate, Chuck Baldwin, also submitted nearly 7,200 signatures. Of those signatures, 3,471 were valid. As a result, although Nader, Camejo, Peroutka, and Baldwin submitted petitions by the date required, none of the candidates met the signature requirements of Hawaii Revised Statute § 11-113. Both the Nader/Camejo and Peroutka/Baldwin campaigns challenged the signature counts through administrative hearings, but did not qualify to appear on the ballot. Before the general election, the appellants appealed the administrative decision in both state court and federal court, the resolution of which is not at issue in this appeal. At the same time, the appellants challenged the constitutionality of the provisions in federal court. The district court rejected these claims, granting summary judgment in favor of Hawaii's Chief Election Officer. The candidates appeal that decision.

DISCUSSION

We review de novo questions of law, including constitutional rulings, resolved on summary judgment. Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce v. City of Long Beach, 603 F.3d 684, 689 (9th Cir. 2010).

[1] "The Constitution provides that States may prescribe '[t]he Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives,' and the Court therefore has recognized that States retain the power to regulate their own elections." Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428, 433 (1992) (quoting U.S. Const. Art. I, § 4, cl. 1). In fulfilling this role, states "invariably impose some burden upon individual voters" in creating election laws. Id. "The Supreme Court has held that when an election law is challenged, its validity depends on the severity of the burden it imposes on the exercise of constitutional rights and the strength of the state interests it serves." Nader v. Brewer, 531 F.3d 1028, 1034 (9th Cir. 2008). In considering a constitutional challenge to an election law, we "must weigh 'the character and magnitude of the asserted injury to the rights protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments' against 'the precise interests put forward by the State as justifications for the burden imposed by its rule.' " Id. (quoting Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780, 789 (1983)). Therefore, "the severity of the burden the election law imposes on the plaintiff 's rights dictates the level of scrutiny applied by the court." Id. (citing Burdick, 504 U.S. at 434). "[A]n election regulation that imposes a severe burden is subject to strict scrutiny and will be upheld only if it is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest." Id. at 1035 (citing Burdick, 504 U.S. at 434). A state may justify election regulations imposing a lesser burden by demonstrating the state has "important regulatory interests." Id. (citing Burdick, 504 U.S. at 434).

[2] On its own, the burden on independent presidential candidates seeking access to Hawaii's ballot is low. Candidates need obtain the signatures of only one percent of the number of voters in the previous presidential election. They have until 60 days before the general election to submit the required signatures. We have little trouble concluding that, in isolation, the burden on independent candidates for president and vice-president is minimal. See Jenness v. Fortson, 403 U.S. 431, 442 (1971) (upholding requirement that independent candidates demonstrate "a significant modicum of support" by filing a petition with signatures from five percent of the number of voters registered in the last election for the office sought); see also Am. Party of Texas v. White, 415 U.S. 767 (1974) (upholding requirement that independent candidates file a petition signed by one to five percent of registered voters depending on the office sought and capping the requirement at 500 signatures for district office); Nader v. Connor, 332 F.Supp.2d 982, 987 (W.D.Tex. 2004) ("Requiring that an independent presidential candidate demonstrate that voters equal in number to one percent of those who voted ...


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