The Supreme Court today declined to hear an appeal of a case brought by Ralph Nader against the state of Arizona, and its law requiring Independent candidates to register earlier than candidates affiliated with the two political parties.
Nader originally challenged the law by saying that it violated his First Amendment rights, and his right to freedom of association. The district court originally declared the law constitutional, but this decision was overruled by the Ninth Circuit. Nader’s legal team argued that the law which required Independent candidates to register in June was unconstitutional due to the fact that the two political parties don’t hold their conventions until the fall. Thirteen other states adopted a law similar to the Arizona law, and 15 other states have ballot access cases pending.
Nader’s attorney Robert Bernhoft said, “By letting that decision stand, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that American democracy hinges on giving people a voice and a choice. Today’s decision is not only a victory for Ralph Nader, but a seminal victory for all who care about free speech, free and open elections, and a more participatory democracy.”
“What makes this case unusually significant is that it involved two distinct, important issues, and liberalized ballot access prevailed on both,” says Richard Winger, editor of the Ballot Access News. For as much as Democrats mock and complain about Nader’s presidential candidacies, he is willing to fight for an open democracy, even when this assuredly doesn’t make him the most popular person in the room. Both Democrats and Republicans have supported laws like the one in Arizona. They would love nothing more than to legally become a closed two party system.
If the Arizona law would have been found constitutional, it would have set a dangerous precedent. If states were allowed to set different registration deadlines for different candidates, then it could set up barriers to restrict the entry of certain candidates into the process. When ballot access is restricted the voice of the people is muted and our democracy is neutered. Our political system needs to be opened not closed, and whether one likes Ralph Nader or not, he has used his career to fight battles that benefit his nation. To me, this is the definition of a true patriot.