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Evan McMullin to sue for ballot access in Texas

You know, that guy who recently turned up as the latest NeverTrump dreamboat? He wants on the ballot in Texas.

Will not be on the ballot

Will not be on the ballot

Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, an ex-CIA officer and congressional policy wonk who launched his campaign last week to offer “Never Trump” Republicans a conservative option, faces a steep political challenge gaining enough support to affect the November election.

And by jumping into the race so late, McMullin will need to clear significant legal hurdles, as well. Filing deadlines for independent candidates in more than half of the states have already passed, and several more deadlines are fast approaching.

That will mean going to court — including in Texas, where an independent had to gather nearly 80,000 signatures by May.

“Our intention in Texas is to file a legal challenge, and we think that the great people of Texas will agree with us that there shouldn’t be artificial boundaries on the kinds of people that can run for president,” said Joel Searby, the campaign’s chief strategist.

Noting that Texas’ May 9 petition deadline — by far the earliest in the country — fell long before the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions, Searby argues that prospective independent candidates were unable to take into consideration the choices of the two major parties before deciding whether to run.

“There’s just so many restrictions on ballot access in Texas, and Texas is generally a very open and independent and free-thinking kind of place,” Searby said. “So we don’t think the people of Texas are going to want to keep that law.”

A general counsel is coordinating the campaign’s ballot access efforts across multiple states, Searby said, and the campaign has also been in touch with Texas lawyers. Garland attorney Matthew Sawyer, who worked on Texas business magnate Ross Perot’s Reform Party presidential run in 1996, has reportedly been involved with the effort. Reached by phone last week, Sawyer directed all questions to the campaign.

Ballot access experts are split on McMullin’s chances of winning a federal lawsuit. To Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News and a longtime activist on the issue, McMullin’s case is a slam dunk, particularly in Texas.

“Texas is in a class by itself. The Texas deadline is impossible to defend,” Winger said. Pointing to the later deadline for independent candidates running for offices in Texas other than president, Winger contends there is “powerful evidence that the presidential deadline is unconstitutional, and that’s all he needs to show.”

But prominent Texas election attorney Buck Wood, who has represented several state-level candidates challenging independent ballot restrictions in the past, sees it exactly the other way.

“I don’t see any possibility of him getting on the ballot in Texas,” Wood said. “Just because you made your decision too late is not an excuse. You have to go back and say, even had we made the decision back then, it still would have been so onerous as to have been unconstitutional, and the chances of that are nil.”

The story recounts the process for getting on the ballot as an independent in Texas, and also notes that Ralph Nader tried and failed to sue his way onto the ballot in 2004 after coming up short in the signature-collecting process. My money’s with Buck Wood on this one, but I don’t really care one way or another. Nobody knows who Evan McMullin is – he basically got zero percent in that PPP poll – and he’s extremely unlikely to raise the kind of dough to become any better known to Texas voters. If I had to guess, I’d say that any votes he does get will come primarily at the expense of Gary Johnson, who is already an alternative for some NeverTrumpers who can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton. McMullin could do what Nader ultimately did in Texas and file a declaration to be counted as a write-in candidate, but the deadline for that is Monday, and he doesn’t have a running mate yet as required. So, you know, tick tock tick tock. I’ll keep an eye on this because that’s what I do, but I don’t expect anything interesting to come of it. Link via Burkablog.

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7 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    As I recall, there are usually plenty of candidates for president on the Texas ballot. The bar to get on the ballot here must not be that high. It shouldn’t be Texas’ fault that the time to get added to the ballot here has passed. Then again, the popular thing to do is to sue anytime you don’t like a rule promulgated by Texas, and it seems that most of those suits are successful, so I won’t be surprised if this guy gets on the ballot, although I will be surprised if he gets any more votes than his immediate family and that one guy.

  2. brad m says:

    Bill,

    You don’t know what your are talking about. Your “recall” may be thinking about primary ballot voting for president. What do you compare for your “bar” for getting on the ballot time-wise, # of petition signatures-wise, primary screenout-wise, etc?

    Granted McMullin was simply late to the independent candidate game which is his fault, but a read of John Anderson’s efforts in 1980 gives him a chance.

    I hope McMullin wins his legal challenge to provide opportunity for future other political parties and/or independent candidates for general election ballot access. But even if he does win his challenge to a petition submission date then he’ll still have to cross the high threshold of petition signatures.

  3. voter_worker says:

    It’s not just the early deadline that makes Texas’ requirements daunting; petition signatures have to be from registered voters who did not vote in either the R or the D primary that year. It’s a stacked deck, but one that the Greens and the Libertarians have to a large extent overcome. Nevertheless, they are still ignored by the vast majority of Texas voters. Joel Searby’s contention that the people of Texas favor increased ballot access isn’t borne out by their voting patterns.

  4. Mainstream says:

    I don’t see much political impact whether he gains ballot access in Texas or not. Most disgruntled Republicans who would consider voting for McMullin find Gary Johnson and the Libertarians to be an acceptable protest/alternative. He lacks name ID, past executive experience. The share of Mormon voters in Texas is miniscule. I don’t see him being a factor here, even if granted a line on the ballot.

  5. Bill,

    I just looked back through all of the Presidential year returns on the Secretary of State website, which go back to 1992. The most recent “Independent” candidate on the ballot was Pat Buchanan in 2000; he ran on the remnant of what had been Ross Perot’s Reform Party. Perot himself of course was on the ballot in 1992 and 1996, and there were two other oddballs on the ballot in 1996, but otherwise that’s it. Everyone on the ballot was from the R/D/L/G spectrum, and all the other names listed in the returns were write-ins.

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    @Brad:

    I guess you are correct, I’m thinking of primary votes with a bunch of options for president. I was wrong.

    And, I agree with you that all things considered, I’d prefer it to be easier rather than harder for someone to get on the ballot for any given office.

    @Kuff:

    Thanks for the corroboration. Again, I was wrong, thinking about primary vs. general ballots.

  7. brad m says:

    Charles,

    The Texas Secretary of State’s election results are sloppy. I am not surprised.

    Buchanan was the Reform Party candidate in 2000, not an Independent as noted on the SOS site.

    The Reform Party lost their ballot access with Buchanan’s sub 5% results.