News Release: Judge Rules Libertarian Candidate Off November Ballot, Appeal Planned

Judge Rules Libertarian Candidate Off November Ballot, Appeal Planned
Tim O’Brien

CONTACT: Tim O’Brien

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Michael Harrison ruled today that Libertarian Party State Board of Education candidate Jon Coon cannot appear on the November ballot.

Nominated along with 110 other candidates at the LP’s May convention, Coon refused to sign a new Supplemental Affidavit of Identity. The form requires the candidate to swear under penalty of perjury that every statement, form and other requirement for compliance with Michigan’s increasingly complex campaign finance laws has been satisfied by everyone ever connected with any of his or her campaigns for public office.

“How could I sign such a statement under penalty of perjury?” an incredulous Coon asked. “I know for a fact that there are still open questions about the campaign committee I formed back in 1993 in my run for U.S. Senate.”

The judge ruled that the Bureau of Elections was justified in not certifying Coon for the ballot since he had not complied with the new requirement.

“The decision was made on very narrow grounds,” said attorney Ghazey Aleck who appeared on behalf of both the candidate and the party. “Judge Harrison said that candidates were only being required to swear that all statements, reports and so forth had been filed — not that the information contained on them was true and accurate. That’s an interesting hair to split,” Aleck said. “In fact the Bureau of Elections attorney didn’t even try and make that argument until the judge suggested it,” he added.

“Unfortunately, Judge Harrison never addressed our main contention,” Aleck observed. “The Michigan Constitution authorizes the legislature to regulate ‘the time place and manner’ of elections. The Supreme Court has ruled that this is so that elections are “fair and honest’ to assure that ‘order rather than chaos accompanies the democratic process.’ But the new requirement concerns candidates’ reports about how they raise, spend and account for money in running their campaigns. It has nothing to do with the actual electoral process. The legislature has simply used the threat of denying a candidate access to the ballot to enforce this essentially unrelated campaign finance disclosure requirement. Even if there is a ‘compelling government interest’ in such disclosures, that is something that could be accomplished by far less draconian means than summarily denying them a place on the ballot.”

The Libertarian Party and its candidate, Jon Coon, are already planning an appeal. “Maybe we can get the Appeals Court to address the substance of our case,” said Tim O’Brien, the party’s executive director. “Judge Harrison certainly didn’t.”

Attorney Aleck said the appeal would be filed within the required 21 days. The party still expects the new law to be thrown out by a higher court. However, that will not happen in time to get Jon Coon back his place on the ballot in the November election.

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