Ballot Access

Can David French (Or Anyone Else) Get on the Ballot for President this Year?

By signature collection or by lawsuit, hard, but not impossible.

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The notion of a new independent presidential candidate is in the news again with the trial balloon floated of running conservative commentator David French for president.

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I wrote back in January about the difficulties that Michael Bloomberg, rumored at the time to be thinking about it, would face in launching such an independent presidential bid.

Again relying on information gathered in a paper-only copy  (it is online as well) of the indispensable Ballot Access News, edited by Richard Winger (who I would say had forgotten more than you'll ever know about third parties and ballot access except I have no evidence he's forgotten much), a list of states whose ballot access paperwork deadlines are earlier than two months from now. (Aug. 1 or later).

Following each state name in parentheses is the number of signatures required to get on the ballot. Collecting them, in accordance to generally varying state requirements, can be complicated and expensive, but it is a problem that money and organization can solve.

Deadine already past: Texas

Deadlines in June: Illinois (25,000), Indiana (26,700), New Mexico (15,388), North Carolina (89,366)

Deadlines in July: Delaware (6,500), Florida (119,316), Georgia (49,336), Michigan (30,000), Missouri (10,000), Nevada (5,431), Oklahoma (40,047), South Carolina (10,000), Washington (1,000)

Of the August 1 or later deadline states, only seven of them (Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania) require over 10,000 signatures.

I have not yet done all the math about electoral college votes involving the states least likely to make the cut by legal signature deadlines, and there could be and likely are local complications that make things not as clear-cut as the above might indicate, but those are the official facts as complied by Winger.

I have heard rumor-y rumblings that Kristol and his team, if indeed there is a team, blithely assume that they can also sue their way through any existing timing barriers with ballot access laws even if they run afoul of them.

This isn't a crazy dream, I am told by Winger in an email interview today. Some of his historical observations:

• "Five states have had June petition deadlines held to be too early: Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, South Dakota, Kansas.  The lower courts were following Anderson v Celebrezze, which outlawed early petition deadlines for independent presidential candidates."

•  "Robert La Follette didn't decide until July 4, 1924, to run as a progressive independent, and he got on in 47 of the 48 states, and the one he missed, Louisiana, was not a deadline problem."

 • "Strom Thurmond in 1948 didn't decide to run until mid-July, and he got on in all the southern states, the only ones he cared about."

• "In the early years of government-printed ballots in the US, the typical state deadline was October."

• "The Libertarian Party wins about half its constitutional ballot access lawsuits….Minor parties and independent candidates have won 55 lawsuits against early deadlines, including in California a few years ago.  The old January deadline for a new party to get on the ballot is now July."

What defines whether a ballot access challenge wins or loses? Winger writes that:

The biggest and most important variable is which judge we get.  Some judges are instinctively sympathetic to underdogs and believe in the ideals of the founders.  Other judges are not. It is sad but very, very true.  We can have a weak case and get a good judge and we win.  We can have an overwhelmingly strong case and get a bad judge and we lose.

Recently, a US District Court Judge in Arkansas refused to enjoin a new law that says a non-presidential independent must submit his or her petition in November of the year before the election, even though 3 times in the past, later independent non-presidential deadlines had been struck down, and one of them was summarily affirmed by the US Supreme Court.

So, the French for America campaign may be absurd on many levels, but it is not necessarily an impossibility.

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63 responses to “Can David French (Or Anyone Else) Get on the Ballot for President this Year?

    1. Shouldn’t he follow script and change his name to ‘Freedom’?

    2. #NeverFrench

      It works on so many levels.

    3. He’ll just end up surrendering.

  1. I would sell my vote in a second, but it’s worth nothing because I live in Los Angeles.

    1. Time to bring back rotten boroughs!

  2. This is why the two-party thug-opoly needs to end. Too many partisan hack judges who’ll keep out “threats” to the old guard statists.

    1. True. Runoff elections seem like a nice idea atm.

      1. Agree.

  3. So, the French for America campaign may be absurd on many levels, but it is not necessarily an impossibility.

    What’s absurd about it? The French were for America from the beginning, and they gave us the greatest sex symbol in the world: Lady Liberty.

    1. Actually the Spanish were first you racist nativist.

      1. ?Qu?? Spanish, French ? same thing.

        Your comment does not appear to be written in an English script. Please comment in English

        My original reply was just “?Qu??”

        Reason is racist!

    2. TIL Clint thinks really old ladies are sexy.

      1. Only if they don’t show too much skin.

  4. You know who else would have a hard time getting on the Presidential ballot this year?

    1. Not *this* year!

      1. No, Rich, the ballot access laws are so terrible that even Hitler would have a hard time.

        1. *** ponders “Downfall” parody ***

    2. Kanye West?

  5. And do you know who would have a super easy time collecting 10,000 signatures?

    1. Kim Kardashian?

  6. Pretty sure not having Texas rules him out with a 99.999999% certainty. We can just stop there.

    1. Not so fast. Like Johnson, all he needs is enough to deny Clinton or Trump victory. Then the country gets to watch Paul Ryan play kingmaker.

      1. Then the country gets to watch Paul Ryan play kingmaker.

        Or Jonah Ryan.

        1. Possibly even Jonah Hill……..

    2. The third wheel only needs to win one state, stop Clinton or Trump from getting a majority, and then the top 3 go to the House of Representatives, which votes with one vote per state delegation.

    3. Sure there’s no party with ballot position in TX whose nomination they can get? Maybe if someone already nominated there declines?

    4. Sure there’s no party with ballot position in TX whose nomination they can get? Maybe if someone already nominated there declines?

  7. The ONE guy I can’t digest and you guys consider him?

    /throws pear at wall.

    1. Only one guy considers him, Rufus. Sheesh.

    2. Rufus, I had no idea. So David French is all fiber?

      1. David French has a certain je ne sais quoi. The problem is no one else knows either.

  8. If the idea is to get Hillary elected, they only need to be present in states where they can get votes off Trump.

    1. Without some tremendous public relations campaign, an overwhelming Gallic charismatic seduction, or a severe loss of trust in trump by his supporters, there is not one of obama’s 57 states in which french would garner enough votes to influence the rounding error.

      Furthermore, in the improbable case that french would attract votes it would be mainly in the states going for hillary anyway, with a rump republican party of sterile, npr-listening losers – in other words, billkristolandia. In those few states over which trump and hillary would be seriously vying, I could see french taking more votes from hillary than trump. Because french would have no appeal whatsoever – in fact, negative – to the class of voter under contention in those states, but he would offer the middle-of-the-road economically comfortable professional and academic classes an alternative to an irritating and unsavory hillary for whom they would otherwise vote.

  9. The ballot access laws only matter if you’re trying to keep people you don’t want off the ballot. It’d take all of about 24 hours to get exemptions for certain narrowly-defined sorts of candidates* written into the laws by Democrats wanting to see the GOP vote split and NeverTrumpers wanting a GOP alternative to Trump in just about all 50 states. For “fairness”, of course.

    *Not Bernie.

  10. David French? Impressive. Said no one ever.

    It would seem like an equal protection lawsuit would have some merit, since Clinton and Trump did not have to file petitions by the tens of thousands to get on state ballots. Why do they get a free pass?

  11. Though I’ve never heard of any court using this legal theory, let me suggest it anyway: Ballots are “designated public forums,” places to advertise your candidacy. I mean, except maybe Hawaii they all have a write-in vote option, so you can be eligible for election even if you’re not on the ballot, so the question is who gets to advertise their candidacy on the ballot?

    By analogy, imagine a city-run bus which has advertising space. They say, “you can buy advertisements, but you need to have x number of signatures supporting your attempt to get advertising space.” Say, what? That would be unconstitutional discrimination against potential advertisers based on their popularity.

    But the same thing should apply if the government says, “to advertise your candidacy on our ballot you need x signatures.” Say, what? Sounds just as unconstitutional to me.

    1. No write-in option allowed in Oklahoma, either.

      1. I was registered in Oklahoma in 2012. It was literally the only state in the nation where a Johnson vote was impossible and a Johnson write-in was uncountable.

        I liked Romney better but the state was such a safe win for him that I voted Obama purely as a symbolic FU to the Republicans who wrote the ballot access laws.

        1. You admit to all that?

    2. While the numerical signature requirement in certain states is certainly way too steep, letting anyone on the ballot who asks to be is probably an impractical idea. I’m sure as hell not searching through a list of 350 candidates for president when I go to the polls.

  12. I think French Stewart is as qualified as any of the other candidates but what has he done since Third Rock?

    1. Or Victor French.

  13. French rankings:

    French Kissing French food French Fries French’s Mustard David French

    1. fucking HTML tags. There are supposed to be greater than signs between each of those.

  14. RE: Can David French (Or Anyone Else) Get on the Ballot for President this Year?
    By signature collection or by lawsuit, hard, but not impossible.

    We must not let the unwashed masses into the ‘Ol boys club.
    Only democrats and republicans need apply.
    Members only.
    Otherwise the little people might get in positions of power and destroy the fine kleptocracy we’ve made for ourselves.

  15. Brian, he doesn’t have to. What he needs to do is get on the ballot of enough states that he has a chance of winning, deny all candidates 270 electoral votes, and then win in the House. Could French win those states? Probably no. But one candidate could have.

    It was a path designed for someone like Rand Paul who could have gotten the Libertarian nomination and been on all states ballots. And he could have won Kentucky, and been competitive in a few more. But alas, no courage.

      1. A Jackand Ass did.

  16. Maybe there’s a hidden agenda in play? It costs the LP plenty to hire paid petitioners in Penna. and other states (because it is hot, tiring work and few parties have enough activists to pull of voluntary petition drives.). Maybe French’s backers up the ante to, say, $5 per signature thus siphoning off all the petitioners who like to get paid for their work? If this prevents the LP from getting on the ballot in 10 states, then the mojo about “all 50 states” is lost of Johnson/Weld.

  17. Obviously if he gets enough wealthy Republicans behind him, he can just magically skip all the rules that the Libertarian Party has to go through.

  18. the behind the scenes talk radio have dutifully fallen in line.. I havent heard the mainstream talk about French yet.

    i know nothing about the man other than he’s being pushed and that he won the Ronald Reagan award at a CPAC convention. He’s a Jesus botherer. And an ambitous politician. He means its time to cut off all ties with the Republicans. We have nothing in commen.

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