We’re not “there” yet, but the man on the left is we independents’ favorite judge this year, well maybe for the last couple of decades! That's Federal Judge Robert Pitman, who serves on the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. Last Friday, Judge Pitman issued this great big danged deal ruling that gives independent and minor party candidates in Texas a path to fair ballot access petition rules!
Though the unconstitutionality of Texas’ ballot access scheme to impose discriminatory and severely burdensome requirements on independents and minor parties has been in contention for many decades, this case was filed in July 2019 by the Center for Competitive Democracy (CCD). The CCD had pro-bono legal support from the prestigious global law firm of Shearman & Sterling, and the backing of Mark Cuban. (See LIV's report here.) The case, like everything else in our lives, was slowed due to COVID.
Quoting from Judge Pitman's order is his recognition that the paper petitioning process violates our fundamental rights:"…because the challenged provisions, to the extent they require paper petitions, violate Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights” ", and "…because the challenged provisions, to the extent they require a paper petitioning process, impose unequal burdens on Plaintiffs in violation of the Equal Protection Clause".
Although the Judge came down unequivocally on the paper petitioning procedure in favor of electronic petitioning and does not appear (as we hesitate to second-guess any judge) likely to change his mind, he handed down a split decision on other allegations in the complaint. Knowing that either side might appeal some element of his decision, he is giving the parties two weeks to come to an agreement out of court that will avoid an appeal of any of his decisions, including his rejection of paper petitions. If the parties don’t reach full agreement, they will at least submit the form of order they are looking for, and Judge Pitman will then make his final ruling.
LIV Board Member, Jeff Harper said,
"Clearly, we will wait for this other shoe to drop, but again, this is HUGE. We await, and cherish the moment, to see what comes out of this exciting development for competitive elections in Texas!"
Join LIV today, y'all! We independents must be ready for the 2023 legislative session where we can expect interference from both parties in fair ballot access for independents and new and minor parties.