IA-Gov: Iowa Supreme Court rejects Narcisse bid for spot on primary ballot

State Senator Jack Hatch will be unopposed on the Democratic primary ballot for governor. The Iowa Supreme Court issued a short opinion on March 31 affirming without comment a District Court’s decision rejecting Jonathan Narcisse’s claim that he submitted enough signatures to seek the Democratic nomination for governor. The Supreme Court justices agreed to hear the case on an expedited schedule because primary ballots need to be sent to the printer soon. They did not explain the reasoning behind affirming the lower court’s decision. Reports last week indicated that three of the seven Iowa Supreme Court justices would hear Narcisse’s appeal: David Wiggins, Daryl Hecht, and Edward Mansfield. However, the ruling released yesterday indicates that all justices concurred except for Brent Appel, who recused himself.

Speaking by telephone this morning, Narcisse confirmed that he will run a write-in campaign for the Democratic primary. He said he was “disappointed the Supreme Court affirmed the decision without reviewing the evidence.” He acknowledged his campaign’s oversight in not making sure the “governor” line was filled in on all the nominating petitions: “Ultimately, this happened because we messed up, but the law was not equitably applied. This was not a disqualifiable offense.” He particularly objected to how the District Court considered a 2012 election law ruling from Arizona but rejected as evidence the Iowa panel ruling from the same year allowing State Senator Joe Seng to run for Congress, despite missing information on some of his nominating petitions.

Narcisse said he has “no illusions about a write-in campaign” but is compelled to keep talking about issues that need to be addressed, including the “disparity in justice,” the “phony war on drugs which is really a war on the poor,” and Iowa’s “bipartisan alliance brutalizing poor working people.” In his view, Hatch “has not fought the good fight the way he should have.” Narcisse said he has not decided yet whether he would mount a second bid for governor as an independent.

After the jump I’ve posted a more extensive comment from the Narcisse campaign about the lower court’s ruling on his ballot access.

UPDATE: Added a comment below from Alfredo Parrish, who represented Narcisse.

Statement from Jonathan Narcisse campaign, March 28:

District Court Denies Both Recent Practice & Precedent Set by Secretary of State, Attorney General, Auditor and Petitioners’ Affidavits as Evidence

Narcisse Appealing Matter to Iowa Supreme Court

DES MOINES | March 28, 2014 – Yesterday, in the Iowa District Court for Polk County, the ruling on Narcisse v Iowa Secretary of State was filed at the Clerk of the District Court at 1:31 p.m. Case number CVCV 47388, titled Ruling on Petition for Judicial Review.

Narcisse was forced to mount this challenge when the Secretary of State denied his petition nomination paperwork on technical errors, last week. Similar technical errors were accepted in 2012 when state senator Joe Seng petitioned to run for the US House.

The decision by the Election Division of the Secretary of State’s office to accept Seng’s petitions, despite the fact they violated Iowa code was made because the technical error was not considered substantive enough to disenfranchise both the candidate and the voters since every other requirement to qualify for the ballot had been met by the Seng campaign.

The decision by Matt Schultz’s office was challenged. A Panel hearing of Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Attorney General Tom Miller and Chief Deputy Warren G. Jenkins, all determined a conclusion of law that as long as reasonable objectives of the election statutes are assured, Seng’s technical omissions “should be liberally construed to the benefit of the electors in order to provide every lawful opportunity for the electors to express their preference at the ballot box.”

However, in this election cycle a review of similar technical omissions, the Polk County District Court would not allow any of the exhibits Narcisse’s counsel Alfredo Parrish submitted as evidence – including the 2012 Seng Conclusions of Law.

Below is Jonathan Narcisse’s statement on Thursday’s District Court filing:

“Yesterday’s ruling was disappointing but not surprising. Polk County politics from the bench to the ballot have often been biased and motivated by factors other than justice.

From the very beginning a separate set of rules have applied to my pursuit of ballot access, including a Des Moines School Board seat and an independent run for governor. Yesterday’s ruling is evidence that when Secretary Schultz and Attorney General Miller choose so, the double standard becomes the standard.

Miller’s motives are apparent with his endorsement of the only other nominee for Democratic Governor, Senator Jack Hatch. Senator Hatch in the Iowa Poll, after spending half a year and close to a quarter of a million dollars, some of it his own money, could not out poll Bob Krause even in the Iowa Poll. Hatch’s weakness as a candidate makes him vulnerable to any candidate and that weakness has been protected by a political machine that is fixing the game.

Schultz’s motives are less apparent but point to why a Narcisse candidacy is to be avoided at all costs.

My ability to bring independents and republicans to the Democratic primary is a capability that anyone running in a six man race for Iowa’s Third Congressional District in the Republican primary would fear. And, Schultz is not willing to risk any defectors who do prefer a Branstad alternative to get in his way to the U.S. House nomination.

The law the Secretary of State’s office invoked to disqualify me has a history of being ignored as a technical glitch by the Election Division in preference of creating ballot access when substantial compliance has otherwise been met.

The 2012 case of Sen. Joe Seng is proof of the inconsistency in both the Secretary of State’s ruling and rhetoric. Following ballot certification of Joe Seng a challenge was made to his certification. Secretary of State Matt Schultz and Attorney General Tom Miller personally set aside the letter of the law and voted unanimously for voter franchisement. Miller especially bragged about Iowa’s long standing tradition of voter franchisment.

In my case, however, both of these politicians have now developed selective amnesia. Not only did the Secretary of State’s office apply a different standard in determining my ballot access at the time of certification but the Attorney General’s office and the Secretary of State’s office joined forces in opposing my ballot access despite their documented rhetoric and positions on the importance of fairness and franchisement of the voters.

The Attorney General’s Office acknowledged there was no fraud. Yet a technical error on petitions in two counties – one in Audubon County where the other petitions listed the office and Taylor County where the office was listed except on one petition – was ignored.

Because of the omission of the title governor on two petition pages, ballot access has been denied.

This is not justice. This is not “equal protection under the law” as guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution.

We will appeal this decision to the Iowa Supreme Court with the hope that a less politically vested, and more reasonable judgement will prevail.

If ballot access is denied, however, we will mount an aggressive write-in campaign and seriously consider ballot options beyond the primary.

Voters deserve an alternative to a career statehouse politician who entered the Capitol hand-in-hand with Governor Branstad in the early 80s and represents no substantive difference from our current Governor, only stylistic differences.”

Statement released by Alfredo Parrish:

Having been nurtured by some of our country’s greatest advocates of voter enfranchisement, I am deeply disappointed with the two recent rulings of the district and Iowa Supreme Court denying Mr. Narcisse an opportunity to appear as a candidate for Governor in the Democratic Primary.  Iowa’s history of enfranchisement is a cornerstone of its uniqueness.  Rules and procedures that are not equally applied to all candidates seeking office diminish the process. It creates cynicism that will weaken a vibrant democratic process.

Although, the judicial system denied Mr. Narcisse a place on the Democratic Primary ballot, it is encouraging that recognition was given to the importance of his claim by considering and deciding his case promptly.

Mr. Narcisse, in his law suit asked to court to consider a fair and impartial review of a candidate’s nomination papers, an equitable rule for all candidates and distinguishing technical violations from substantive ones.  Mr. Narcisse’s law suit pointed to clear deficiencies in the nomination process that will lay the groundwork for needed improvements.

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