Carole Keeton Strayhorn has filed suit over how Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams (a Perry appointee) plans to verify signatures on her petition for ballot access.
Texas Comptroller Strayhorn and satirist Kinky Friedman each need to gather 45,540 valid Texas voter signatures by May 11 to get on the ballot in November as independent candidates for governor.
Williams has said he will not begin verifying the petitions until after the May 11 deadline passes.
Williams also has said he will have his staff manually verify each signature instead of using a statistical analysis as has been done in the past. That verification process could take two months and might not be done until just before he must certify the November ballot on Sept. 13.
McClellan invited Friedman's campaign to join the lawsuit.
Friedman spokeswoman Laura Stromberg said the campaign is reviewing the Strayhorn lawsuit and will decide whether to join it next week. She said Friedman is mostly concerned that state law discriminates against independents to favor major party candidates.
"Williams isn't being unfair. State law is unfair," Stromberg said.
Third party and independent petition drive lawsuits in the past have been unsuccessful in Texas. Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader lost a lawsuit challenging the Texas system in 2004.
But independent campaign consultant Linda Curtis of Austin said a Texas Supreme Court ruling in January favoring two Republican Texas Court of Criminal Appeals candidates "could open the door" for a successful lawsuit by Strayhorn.
The court ruled the candidates should have an opportunity to "cure" problems in their ballot petitions even though the deadline for submitting them had passed.
Strayhorn's lawsuit seeks a federal injunction against Williams ordering him to use statistical analysis as a method of petition verification. It also wants him to begin verifying signatures as Strayhorn turns petitions in so she has an opportunity to "cure" any defects before the May 11 deadline.
To be valid, signatures on the petitions must be from registered voters who did not cast ballots in Democratic or Republican primaries or runoffs this year. Also, if someone signs both petitions, only the signature that is dated first counts toward ballot access.
[SOS spokesman Scott] Haywood said that is why a manual count is required.
"Given the fact there are multiple individuals vying for a spot on the ballot as an independent, verifying every signature is the surest way to protect the integrity of our elections and confirm the validity of a candidate's name on the ballot," Haywood said.
On the other hand, I presume that the method for doing this will involve entering each name, address, and so on from each petition into a computer so they can be checked against various databases for validity and against the voter rolls from March to ensure they handn't participated in a primary. I further expect that's how they plan to determine if a signer is a repeat customer.
Assuming that I'm not being naive here, and that the SOS plan is not to have some poor sap start at the top of one petition and then scan the entirity of the other to look for a match, then I see no reason why this needs to take so long. Even if I'm wrong about that - indeed, especially if I'm wrong about that - I see no reason why the SOS should feel compelled to wait until May 11 to get cracking. You don't need to know if a signature is unique to check to see if its address is valid or if its owner had already voted. If it were up to me, I'd order him to start processing each petition page as soon as he gets it. I really can't think of a reason why you wouldn't do that.Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 25, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack