Iowa's third-party candidates have more time to qualify for ballot

Iowa candidates not affiliated with the Republican or Democratic parties will have until August 26 to qualify for the general election ballot, under a recent federal court ruling.

A law enacted in 2019 required third-party and independent candidates to submit nominating papers by the same mid-March filing deadline that applies to Democratic or Republican primary election candidates. But Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Helen Adams ruled the law unconstitutional earlier this month, saying the early deadline “imposes a substantial burden” on the Libertarian Party of Iowa’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Whereas major parties are allowed to nominate candidates after the June primaries, the law forced “non-party political organizations” or independent candidates to collect signatures during the winter months. They also had to recruit all of their candidates “well before the political landscape is fleshed out, before the primary elections in June, before the Political Party candidates are solidified and finalized, before the current election issues are fully developed, and before voters are truly engaged in the election process,” the court determined.

Bleeding Heartland’s review of recent candidate filings indicated that fewer third-party candidates seeking state or federal offices qualified for the ballot after the 2019 law went into effect. No independent candidates filed for statewide or federal offices before this year’s March filing deadline. The Libertarian Party of Iowa fielded a ticket for governor and lieutenant governor, but no candidates for other statewide offices or for U.S. House or Senate.

A brief the state submitted to the federal court this week acknowledged that since the March deadline has been declared unconstitutional, “the filing deadline that existed prior to the 2019 amendments remains in force.” Under that version of the code section, independent or third-party candidates running for state or federal offices must submit nominating papers to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office “not more than ninety-nine days nor later than 5:00 p.m. on the seventy-third day before the date of the general election to be held in November.”

By my calculation, that sets this year’s filing window from August 1 through August 26. (Communications staff for the Secretary of State’s office did not respond to an inquiry.)

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Court: Iowa's early filing deadline for third parties unconstitutional

A federal judge has ruled that Iowa’s early filing deadline for third-party candidates “imposes a substantial burden” on the Libertarian Party of Iowa’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Iowa legislators changed the state’s election law in 2019 to require independent candidates or those affiliated with a non-party political organization (like the Libertarian or Green Party) to file nominating papers for state or federal offices by mid-March, the same deadline as for Democrats and Republicans running in primaries.

The Libertarian Party and Jake Porter, the party’s 2018 nominee for governor, filed suit in 2019, saying the change put “heavy burdens” on third parties, and the adverse treatment served no legitimate state interest.

Helen Adams, chief magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, ruled on April 8 that Iowa’s legal framework places third parties “at a disadvantage” compared to the major parties, and the state’s “articulated interest in effective and equitable administration of election laws” did not justify those burdens.

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Barriers for third-party candidates reduced Iowa voters' choices

New laws enacted by Republican legislators and Governor Kim Reynolds succeeded in limiting third-party competition for Iowa’s state and federal offices.

According to the general election candidate list published by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office on March 21, only one minor-party candidate qualified for a federal office this year: Bryan Jack Holder, who is running in the fourth Congressional district. Libertarians are fielding candidates for governor and lieutenant governor: Rick Stewart and Marco Battaglia. In 2018, Libertarian candidates were on the ballot for all of Iowa’s statewide and federal offices.

No independent candidate filed for any federal or statewide office in Iowa this year. For most of the last decade’s elections, independent candidates were on the ballot for several of those offices.

Only two candidates not representing a major party filed for any of the the 34 Iowa Senate seats on the ballot in 2022; both are running in Senate district 17. Across the 100 Iowa House races, only three Libertarian candidates and four independents will appear on the November ballot.

Before Republicans passed new restrictions in 2019 and 2021, Iowa voters were able to choose candidates not representing either major party in more elections.

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Four thoughts about Mary Ann Hanusa's state auditor campaign

Former State Representative Mary Ann Hanusa finally gave up her Congressional ambitions and announced on January 5 she’s running for state auditor. She won’t face any competition in the Republican primary, coming out of the gate with endorsements from Governor Kim Reynolds, Senator Chuck Grassley, and Senator Joni Ernst.

Democrat Rob Sand won the 2018 state auditor’s race by 660,169 votes to 601,320 for GOP incumbent Mary Mosiman (50.9 percent to 46.4 percent). Turnout set a modern midterm record for Iowa that year. Participation could be far lower in 2022—perhaps 1.1 million to 1.2 million voters.

Whether Hanusa emerges as a strong challenger will become more clear as her campaign unfolds, but here are some initial thoughts.

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Revised GOP election bill would exclude thousands more Iowa voters

UPDATE: Governor Reynolds signed the bill on March 8. Top Democratic election attorney Marc Elias posted on Twitter, “This is the first major suppression law since the 2020 election. Expect litigation here and elsewhere GOP legislatures follow this path.” Bleeding Heartland covered the lawsuit Elias filed here. Original post follows.

On a party-line vote of 30 to 18, the Iowa Senate on February 23 approved Senate File 413, a new version of a bill that would restrict every aspect of the early voting process. The following day, the Iowa House approved the bill on a party-line 57 to 37 vote. Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to sign the bill; Republican Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley have each endorsed limits on early voting in recent days.

Although State Senator Roby Smith’s amendment addressed a few of the concerns raised by county auditors and advocates for vulnerable populations, the revised legislation would make it even harder for thousands of Iowans to have their absentee ballots counted. In a new twist, it shortens election-day voting hours as well.

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Nate Boulton to face Libertarian ToyA Johnson in Iowa Senate district 16

Less than two years after ending his campaign for governor and facing widespread calls to resign from the legislature, State Senator Nate Boulton drew no Democratic primary challenger or Republican general election opponent in Iowa Senate district 16.

However, Libertarian ToyA Johnson submitted nominating papers to run in this district shortly before the March 13 filing deadline.

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