Arizona Libertarian Party v. Bennett

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 04-24-2015
  • Case #: 13-16254
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Tashima for the Court; Circuit Judges McKeown and Berzon; Concurrence by McKeown
  • Full Text Opinion

A statute that presents only a de minimis burden on a party’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights is subject to rational basis review.

Arizona statute § 16-152(A)(5) requires the two largest political parties (measured by the number of registered voters) to be listed on a voter registration form, as well as a blank space for “other party preferences.” The Arizona Libertarian Party, along with four other plaintiffs, brought suit against Ken Bennett, as Arizona Secretary of State, challenging the statute. The Arizona Libertarian Party claimed that its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated, and argued that a minority candidate’s ability to gain a place on a ballot was substantially burdened. The district court granted summary judgment to the State, and the Arizona Libertarian Party appealed. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit used a balancing test that the Supreme Court implemented to weigh the “state’s interest in preserving fairness and integrity in the voting process,” and a party’s injury from violation of protected First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The severity of the burden on constitutional rights determines the level of scrutiny the court should apply. The panel looked at other Arizona statutes and saw that all political parties must follow the same procedures to get on the ballot, and therefore the burden of § 16-152(A)(5) was de minimis. The panel therefore applied rational basis when evaluating the statute’s constitutional burden. Under rational basis review, the Arizona Libertarian Party has the burden of proof to show that the Arizona Legislature did not have a legitimate state interest that was rationally related to the statute. The panel found that the Arizona Libertarian Party provided no such evidence. The panel held that the state interests of reducing errors in voter registration, ensuring that voters are able to participate in their party’s primary election, and increased cost effectiveness were legitimate and rationally related to uphold § 16-152(A)(5). AFFIRMED.

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