- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 26, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by three independent candidates in Arkansas who argued the state unfairly restricted their access to the ballot.

U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. threw out the suit Tuesday, but acknowledged the plaintiffs’ arguments had merit, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1KNdEea ) reported.

The plaintiffs had taken issue with a 2013 state law which shortened the time period for independent candidates to submit petitions to get their name on the ballot. The petition process starts 90 days before the filing period begins. Before the law, independent candidates previously had until May 1 to submit the petitions but must now turn them in by March 1.

Independent candidates have to gather signatures, usually a number equal to 3 percent of registered voters, while Democratic and Republican candidates pay a filing fee to the state party to file for state or federal office.

Deputy Secretary of State A.J. Kelly, an attorney who represented Secretary of State Mark Martin, said the new deadline was established to effectively manage elections while conforming with federal laws. He denied the change was intended to hurt independent candidates.



Kelly argued the plaintiffs lacked standing, or a personal stake in the outcome of the lawsuit, and that the issue is moot because the election is over.

Mark Moore of Benton County and Michael Harrod of Washington County ran in 2014 for lieutenant governor and the District 84 House of Representatives seat, respectively. Moody said they successfully argued they have standing as citizens and that the issue is capable of being repeated so it isn’t moot.

The third plaintiff, William Chris Johnson who was a contender for a county judge, later moved to Arizona and dropped out of the suit.

Still, the judge determined the new law’s restrictions are meant to advance the state’s interest in timely certifying candidates and petitions, meeting a “compelling interest” requirement for the secretary’s earlier deadline.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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