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Federal judge rejects challenge to Indiana ballot access laws

Stickers sit on a table at the Wicker Park Social Center polling place during the first day of early voting in Indiana on Oct. 6, 2020, in Highland, Indiana. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indiana’s laws limiting ballot access for minor parties do not violate the Constitution, a federal judge has ruled. 

Judge James Sweeney handed down his decision Monday in a lawsuit filed by the Libertarian and Green parties.

The parties plus several independent candidates had sued hoping to overturn an Indiana’s 2% law.

The law allows any party which receives at least 2% of the vote in the Secretary of State’s race to have automatic ballot access for the next four years.

Any party that doesn’t receive 2% of the vote, or any independent candidate, must collect petition signatures equal to 2% of the previous Sec. of State election to get on the ballot.

The law also requires the signatures be distributed to the state’s 92 county clerks.

In his ruling, Sweeney suggested he might agree with the parties but is bound by previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have upheld similar access laws.

“The State—the body politic as it exists independently of the party-affiliated individuals who fill its offices—has no legitimate interest in shielding established parties from either outside competition or internal dissent,” Judge Sweeney wrote.  “For now, under the Supreme Court’s lenient standard for state burdens on minor-party ballot access, a 2% petition requirement, even accompanied by tedious procedural burdens, is constitutionally permissible.”

The court’s ruling cited estimates that collecting the signatures could cost $500,000 per candidate.

No independent or third-party candidate has successfully petitioned for ballot access since Pat Buchanan in 2000.