Monday, July 22, 2019
Panel Spurns Contentions of Businessman Who Wanted Name on 2016 General Election Ballot as Presidential Candidate
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Presidential candidate Roque De La Fuente is depicted on his campaign website. The Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday affirmed a summary judgment upholding California statutes that require an independent candidate to gather signatures of one percent of the state’s voters in order for his or her name to appear on the statewide general election ballot. De La Fuente, who was kept off the November 2016 ballot as a presidential candidate, claimed his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments were inhibited.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday affirmed the rejection of a challenge by a minor presidential candidate to California laws which restrict the candidacy of independents in the statewide general election to those who muster signatures from one percent of the state’s registered voters—which means more than 170,000 signatures.
The appellant is entrepreneur Roque De La Fuente who ran in the 2016 Democratic primary in California, receiving only .2 percent of the vote. He then wanted to run in the general election as an independent but found the signature requirement daunting, estimating that enlisting an army of paid canvassers would cost from $3 million to $4 million.
De La Fuente sued in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, claiming that the state laws impermissible burden his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald granted the state’s motion for summary judgment.
Running as the nominee of the American Delta Party, which he founded, De La Fuente did get his name on the general election ballots in Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota and Mississippi. He received 0.02 percent of the popular vote nationally and no electoral votes.
He has announced he will seek the 2020 Republican presidential nomination. It is on the basis of his stated intention to run again for president that the Ninth Circuit on Friday said he has standing to maintain his appeal.
Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote the opinion for a three-judge panel. She said:
“The right to access the ballot is important to voters, candidates, and political parties alike, but it must be balanced against California’s need to manage its democratic process….Although the number of signatures the Ballot Access Laws require may appear high, it accounts for only one percent of California s voter pool, the largest in the country. This low percentage threshold prevents candidates without established support from appearing on the ballot….”
“The Ballot Access Laws reasonably relate to California’s important regulatory interests in managing its democratic process and are proportionate to California’s large voter population.”
Candidate Has Standing
On the matter of standing, McKeown reasoned:
“De La Fuente has suffered a concrete injury that is not merely speculative. De La Fuente’s declaration confirms that he is running for President of the United States in 2020. Whether he will run as an independent or in a major political party’s primary, as the Secretary argues, does not affect his injury. Either path is all but certain to lead to De La Fuente running as an independent in the general election. As many well-known and not so well-known candidates know, winning in a party s presidential primary is no guarantee of running as that party’s general election candidate. De La Fuente s experience in 2016 reflects this reality. After De La Fuente ran (and lost) in the Democratic primary election, the only way he could appear on California’s presidential general election ballot was to run as an independent. It is likely that if De La Fuente runs in the 2020 Democratic primary, history will repeat itself. Whichever path De La Fuente chooses, he will suffer an ‘injury in fact.’ He therefore has standing.”
The case is De La Fuente v. Padilla, 17-56668.
Last year, De La Fuente ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in nine states. In California, he received two percent of the vote in the primary.
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