For Immediate Release
ACLU Tells Appellate Court South Carolina's Ballot Access Law Is Unconstitutional
Group Argues "Sore Loser" Statute Violates Free Association Rights
in a federal appeals court in Virginia today that South Carolina's
so-called "sore loser" statute unconstitutionally violates the rights of
voters and parties to select the candidates of their choosing. The
statute prevents candidates who seek nominations from multiple parties
from appearing on the ballot if they lose any one party's nomination.
The challenged statute blocked Eugene
Platt, the Green Party's chosen candidate for the state House of
Representatives, from appearing on the ballot in the November 2008
elections because he later lost the Democratic Party's primary
"Voters and parties have the right to
put the candidates of their choice on the ballot," said Bryan Sells,
senior staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, who argued
the case today. "The U.S. Constitution provides special protection for
the process in which a political party selects a nominee that best
represents its ideology and preferences."
South Carolina is one of only a
handful of states that permit fusion voting, which allows multiple
political parties to nominate the same candidate. However, the state's
"sore loser" statute blocks a candidate from appearing on the ballot if
he or she loses any party's nomination even if another party selects
that candidate as its nominee.
The ACLU's lawsuit charges that the
statute imposes an unjustified burden on the First Amendment's free
association rights of candidates and voters as well as political
parties' right to select their preferred candidates.
"South Carolina's election scheme
rejects the First Amendment's fundamental protections and makes the
outcome of one party's primary dependent on the outcome of every other
party's nominating process," said Sells. "The real losers here are the
democratic process and the voters of South Carolina who are being denied
greater choices at the ballot box."
Attorneys on the case, South Carolina Green Party et al. v. South
Carolina State Election Commission et al., are Sells and Laughlin
McDonald of the ACLU Voting Rights Project.
The ACLU's legal brief in the case is
available at: www.aclu.org/voting-rights/
More information on the work of the
ACLU Voting Rights Project is available at: www.votingrights.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.