Fort Smith, Arkansas
Party Put On Election Ballot
By David Robinson
TIMES RECORD firstname.lastname@example.org
LITTLE ROCK A federal judge ruled Thursday that a candidate from the Green Party of Arkansas may join the 3rd District congressional race in northwest Arkansas.
After a 25-minute hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr. declared an Arkansas election law unconstitutional and ordered Secretary of State Sharon Priest to recognize the Green Party of Arkansas in the Nov. 20 special election.
Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said the ruling is a wonderful victory for democracy.
It enables people who have a minority viewpoint to express their views and to have those views voted on by the people, Sklar said. It also gives the people the opportunity to choose the candidate which represents their interests.
Attorneys for the secretary of state and attorney general said theyll wait for Howards written ruling before deciding on an appeal.
Sarah Marsh, 25, an architect who lives in Fayetteville, is the Green Partys nominee and a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed by the ACLU. She will join a race that has had seven contenders four Republicans and three Democrats.
The special general election is Nov. 20.
Under existing Arkansas law, it is impossible for new or emerging political parties to get on the ballot in elections that occur in odd numbered years, Marsh argued.
Assistant Attorney General Jeff Priebe said that it was the Green Partys fault for not going through the signature gathering process required of new parties in advance of general elections, which occur in even-numbered years.
The signatures of 3-percent of the voters in the most recent gubernatorial or presidential election must sign petitions for a party to be recognized by the state.
They should have known the Arkansas statutory scheme for becoming a recognized party, Priebe said. They chose not to.
Howard responded with a tone of disbelief, asking How would they have known that (former U.S.) Rep. (Asa) Hutchinson (R-Ark.) was going to resign? Are you saying they should have indulged in conjecture and speculation in a nation of the people, by the people and for the people?
Priebe said Marshs interests do not outweigh that of the state, whose existing law is necessary to avoid confusion and preserve the democratic process.
Howard disagreed, saying the states interests do not outweigh Marshs First Amendment rights, equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment.
Consequently, the court is declaring the provision unconstitutional, Howard said.
Consumer advocate and environmentalist Ralph Nader was the Green Partys presidential nominee in 1996 and 2000.
The Green Party pledges to work for human rights, peace, grassroots democracy, social and economic justice and an ecologically sound and sustainable society, according to its Web site.
Marsh issued a statement read by her campaign coordinator, Ed Tarvin of Elkins, after Thursdays ruling.
Both the Green Party of Arkansas and those who have supported my candidacy are pleased that the court has ruled in our favor, she said in the statement. We are grateful for the support provided by the ACLU. We look forward to beginning our campaign and giving the voters of the 3rd congressional district a rational alternative in this election.
Tarvin said Marsh likely wont crank up her campaign until after the Sept. 25 primary.
He said Marsh wont take time off her job, and the campaign wont have the resources of other major party candidates.
Marsh is a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and works for the firm of Maurice Jennings and David McKee in Fayetteville, a firm that succeeds that of renowned architect Fay Jones, Tarvin said.
Ralph Forbes of London, a former member of the American Nazi Party, also tried unsuccessfully last month to file as a third-party candidate of the Freedom Party of Arkansas, which he founded recently.
Sklar said it was unclear to her whether Forbes status in the special election would be affected by Howards ruling.
Forbes had requested in a letter to Sklar that the ACLU complaint be amended to include the Freedom Party. Sklar said the decision was made not to do so because her organization felt it could settle the issue without the Freedom Party.
We dont have the resources to take every client that approaches us, she said. Its a question of getting the issue settled.