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Libertarian Bob Barr sues to have McCain, Obama cast off Texas' ballot

12:00 AM CDT on Friday, September 19, 2008

By CHRISTY HOPPE / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr is trying to force a long-shot legal showdown in the Texas Supreme Court to keep Barack Obama and John McCain off the November ballot.

HARRY CABLUCK/The Associated Press
HARRY CABLUCK/The Associated Press
Hope Andrade, Texas' new secretary of state, was sworn in by Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday in Austin. Her office is named as a defendant in Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr's lawsuit over the ballot.

The issue is whether both major parties certified their presidential and vice presidential candidates by the Aug. 26 deadline to get on the Texas ballot. The attorney general argues that the secretary of state already has decided to place the names on the ballot, so the lawsuit has no merit.

Mr. Barr personally filed an emergency request before the court on Thursday, asking that ballots slated to be mailed overseas to military personnel on Saturday be held until the issue is resolved. The court denied the request, but it has asked all those involved in the dispute to file briefs on the larger ballot case by Monday.

"We are here today to establish very clearly that there is at least one political party out there that stands for the rule of law," said Mr. Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia.

The Libertarians contend that the Democratic and Republican nominees are disqualified from the ballot because they missed the deadline. Mr. Obama didn't officially become the Democratic nominee until the national convention vote on Aug. 27 and Mr. McCain claimed the GOP nomination Sept. 3.

No one can legally certify something that has not yet happened, Mr. Barr argued. In addition, Sarah Palin wasn't named to the GOP ticket until Aug. 29, so it would be impossible to certify her name by the deadline.

The Libertarians claim that both major parties knew of the late conventions and didn't go to the Legislature or the courts to seek a remedy.

Mr. Barr recognized that he is asking an all-Republican court to remove Mr. McCain's name from a ballot and jeopardize the Republican's almost certain win of Texas' 34 electoral votes. But, he said, he has faith in the legal system.

In their letters and statements, neither the attorney general nor the two parties claimed to have met all statutory deadlines, but they argued that sufficient steps were taken to satisfy the secretary of state to place the names on the ballot.

"Quite frankly, I find it very ironic that those in the Libertarian Party, who have in the past been champions of ballot access, are now making attempts to limit that access here in Texas," said state Democratic Party chairman Boyd Richie.

Hans Klingler, Texas GOP spokesman, said that the Libertarians' attempt to stop ballots from going to military personnel was truly unfortunate. "As this is now a matter for the state of Texas, we will await its resolution," he said.

Part of the legal basis for the suit is the Bush vs. Gore ruling, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that "the clearly expressed intent of the legislature must prevail," and that election laws must be uniformly applied and interpreted.

"Sound familiar, Mr. Bush? Sound familiar, Republicans?" Mr. Barr said, adding that the state law is unambiguous.

State Libertarian chairman Patrick Dixon said that in 2004, the party was required to collect 80,000 independent signatures in 75 days to get on the ballot, and in the past has been excluded "for the most minor of details."

"We may not like the rules, but we have to play by them," Mr. Dixon said.

In Texas, Democratic and Republican nominees for president have appeared on every ballot for over a century.

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