Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, March 7, 2013


Page 3


Court Revives Challenge to Law on Nomination Papers Circulators


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Libertarian Party and two of its members have standing to challenge a state law requiring that circulators of candidate nominating papers be voters within the constituency of the office, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.

In an opinion by Judge Susan P. Graber, the panel overturned a ruling by U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez that the plaintiffs lacked standing in the absence of a genuine case or controversy between themselves and election officials over Elections Code Secs. 8066 and 8451.

The statutes provide:

“Circulators shall be voters in the district or political subdivision in which the candidate is to be voted on and shall serve only in that district or political subdivision.”

Graber said the case-or-controversy requirement was met because the plaintiffs had a “concrete plan” to violate the statutes and the defendants had made clear that they intended to enforce those enactments.

The judge explained:

“For example, Plaintiff [Christopher] Agrella alleges that he was ‘a candidate for the House of Representatives[] who circulated petitions in his own behalf in this last election cycle, but was barred from circulating petitions for a state senate candidate that overlaps his district because he does not reside within the state senate district for which that candidate was running.’ He also alleges that he intends to gather signatures for such candidates in future elections but will be prohibited by state law from doing so.”

Those allegations, Graber wrote, distinguish the case from one in which standing was denied because a plaintiff declared an intent to violate an assertedly unconstitutional law, but was vague as to  where, when and how.

The judge went on to say that instructions for circulating nominating papers, published by the secretary of state on her website, constitute the threat to enforce the statutes, requisite to an actual case or controversy.

Graber emphasized in a footnote that the panel was not ruling on the constitutionality of the statutes.

Judges Harry Pregerson and Marsha Berzon joined in the opinion.

The case is Libertarian Party v. Bowen, 11-55316.


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