ACLU Charges Unconstitutional Arkansas Rule Illegally Bars Green Party From Ballot
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arkansas filed a lawsuit
today in a federal court in Arkansas challenging Arkansas Secretary of
State Charlie Daniels' decertification of the Green Party of Arkansas
as a political party. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Arkansas voters
and the Green Party, charges that the decision violates state law and
the free speech rights of third parties.
"The First Amendment protects not
only the right of third parties to compete in the political arena but
also the right of individual voters to support the candidates who best
reflect their political views," said Bryan Sells, a senior staff
attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. "A lot of voters are
dissatisfied with the choices offered by the major parties, and
Secretary Daniels' decision means that the voters of Arkansas could
have even fewer choices on the ballot when they go to the polls in the
Daniels decertified the Green Party
under a state law requiring a political party's candidates to earn at
least 3 percent of the total votes cast in gubernatorial or
presidential elections in order to retain access to the ballot in the
next election cycle.
In the 2008 election, the Green
Party's candidates received hundreds of thousands of votes, far
surpassing the three percent threshold. Green Party candidate Richard
Carroll won a seat in the State House of Representatives, and several
other Green Party candidates for the U.S. House and Senate earned over
20 percent of the vote. Daniels nonetheless decertified the Green Party
because its candidate for president, Cynthia McKinney, did not earn
more than three percent of the vote in the presidential race.
"The Green Party clearly represents
the interests of a large number of Arkansans," said Rita Sklar,
Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas. "But the Democratic and
Republican parties have set up an unconstitutional system to deny
ballot access to legitimate third parties that have substantial voter
support in order to shield themselves from competition. That's just not
the way democracy is supposed to work."
According to the ACLU, Arkansas'
party-recognition regulation also illegally forces political parties to
compete in gubernatorial and presidential elections. Third parties like
the Green Party do not always have gubernatorial or presidential
candidates, making it impossible to earn 3 percent of the vote for
candidates in those elections.
The ACLU of Arkansas has urged
lawmakers to pass legislation that would bring Arkansas law in line
with the U.S. Constitution. Without a legislative cure parties and
persons wishing to exercise their First Amendment rights are forced to
file lawsuits to have those rights respected.
Attorneys on the case are Sells and
Laughlin McDonald of the national ACLU Voting Rights Project and Holly
Dickson of the ACLU of Arkansas.
The complaint in the case, Green Party of Arkansas, et al. v. Daniels, is available online at: www.aclu.org/votingrights/
More information on the work of the ACLU Voting Rights Project is available at: www.votingrights.org
More information about the ACLU of Arkansas is available at: www.acluarkansas.org/
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.