Elections 2020JudicialTexas Supreme Court Rejects GOP Lawsuit Challenging Libertarian Candidates’ Ballot Eligibility

After a Texas Supreme Court decision, Libertarian candidates who did not meet the certification requirements will remain on the ballot.
September 8, 2020
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A lawsuit filed by a group of Republican organizations and candidates to remove Libertarian candidates who did not meet ballot requirements was rejected by the Texas Supreme Court (SCOTX).

Consolidated by the Texas House Republican Caucus, the suit alleged that the Libertarian Party chair had a duty to reject the applications of its candidates that did not meet the ballot requirements, such as paying a filing fee or submitting a valid number of voter signatures.

The plaintiffs also argued that the date by which this challenge must be filed is not August 21, but September 18 — the date at which mail-in-ballots are sent to eligible voters. The August date was the deadline to challenge the eligibility of the candidate’s ballot appearance.

But SCOTX ruled that the Republicans’ challenge was belated and incorrectly oriented. 

“The available mechanism for seeking the Libertarians’ removal from the ballot for failure to pay the filing fee was a declaration of ineligibility. However, the deadline by which such a declaration can achieve the removal of candidates from the ballot has passed,” the opinion reads.

The Texan Mug

Three weeks ago, Texas’ 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Texas Democrats seeking to remove Green Party candidates from the ballot. The Democrats won their attempt and argued the case SCOTX said the Republicans should have — and did so on time, according to the court.

The Green Party did not appeal the decision and removed their qualifying candidates from the ballot.

Republicans filed two similar petitions in the same appeals court on August 21, but the court deemed them tardy and therefore ineligible for review.

With that option closed, Republicans challenged the candidate’s alleged errantly approved application.

SCOTX’s decision hinges on the fact that the Libertarian Party does not file any ballot applications as they choose candidates via nominating conventions and not primary elections, arguing that nothing exists to challenge the validity of the candidates under this provision of the election code.

Ultimately, SCOTX ruled that the election code distinguishes between convention applications and ballot applications, with the former applying to convention-based parties, like the Libertarians, and latter to primary-based parties like the Republicans and Democrats. 

In Sec. 141.034 of the code, the aforementioned “convention application” is not addressed but “application[s] for a place on the ballot” is specifically addressed. Based on this, SCOTX ruled the statute cited by the plaintiffs does not apply to the defendants.

“Parties holding primary elections are subject to one set of rules, and other parties are subject to other sets of rules. These differences may seem to benefit or burden one class of parties or another, depending on the circumstances,” SCOTX stated, further underscoring their ruling.

House Bill 2504 filed in 2019 was written with the intention of leveling the playing field between the two parties in terms of ballot certification.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office, on behalf of the Secretary of State, filed an amicus brief with SCOTX which argued there was still time to remove the Libertarian Party candidates without violating state code.

Whitney Bilyeu, chair of the Libertarian Party of Texas, told The Texan, “The Texas Supreme Court rejected the latest move by the Republicans to eliminate competition, and the court’s opinion supported the arguments made by our side.” 

“Voters are demanding an alternative to the old parties. Republicans and Democrats seek to deny voters’ choice. The old parties insist on perpetuating the duopoly that continues to expand government, increase spending and taxes, and limit personal liberty. This is the antithesis of Libertarian principles,” she concluded.

The Republican and Democratic parties will likely continue their efforts to oust challengers that could split their potential voting block, particularly in a highly anticipated and contentious election year. Libertarians contend that any such attempt is an affront to liberty or electoral choice.

Due to the SCOTX ruling, this petition is dead in the water. However, there may still be time for the Green Party to appeal the appeals court’s decision.

But as it sits now, Democrats have gotten their way, while Republicans have not. Those Green Party candidates will not appear on ballots, and the Libertarian candidates will.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.