Judge Smith Throws Out Part of RI Election Law

In a recent decision, Block v. Mollis, Judge William E. Smith ruled that part of our State’s election law is unconstitutional.

In a case brought by the Moderate Party of RI and its representative, Kenneth Block, Judge Smith held valid the RI law requiring that a third-party obtain signatures equal to 5% of the voter turnout in the previous election.  Judge Smith, however, held unconstitutional the provision of the law that requires the political party to wait until January 1 of the election year to obtain the signatures they need to get on the State ballot.

The ruling eases some of Rhode Island’s ballot access laws which are among the toughest in the country.  The moderate party website includes a graph indicating just how tough it is to get on the ballot in Rhode Island (i.e. only three States in the country require signatures equal to 5% of the prior voter turnout.)

This is a victory for anyone who desires a more open electoral process, including smaller political parties.  While such parties will still need to obtain a great number of signatures, they will have a longer period of time to obtain them.

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One response to “Judge Smith Throws Out Part of RI Election Law

  1. A decision this afternoon by Secretary of State Mollis eases the way for new political parties to be officially recognized under state law.

    We will not appeal last Friday’s U.S. District Court decision striking down the constitutionality of a state law that restricts the amount of time new parties have to seek public support in a bid to become a so-called recognized party.

    “The decision gives third parties a fair amount time to collect signatures while ensuring there is a reasonable demonstration of the support of the people,” says Mollis.

    Ken Block – the founder of the nascent Moderate Party – had filed a suit challenging a state law that required new parties to wait until January 1 of an election year to begin collecting signatures in an effort to become a recognized party. U.S. District Court Judge William Smith let stand the portion of the law that set the signature threshold at 5 percent of the votes cast for president or governor in the previous election.

    “Now that the law has been clarified, I look forward to working with all of the parties involved to map out the process new parties will follow in pursuit of becoming a recognized party,” says Mollis.

    In his official capacity as the state’s chief election official, Mollis was one of three parties cited in Block’s suit.

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