For Immediate Release: Contact: Dave Roland
January 30, 2015
ONLY POLITICAL INSIDERS WELCOME: Freedom Center Sues St. Louis County For Banning Independent and Third-Parties From Election
St. Louis, Missouri—Democracy in the United States is frequently described as a “two-party” system, but it is both common and necessary for the health and integrity of our political system for voters to have the option of casting their ballots for third-parties and independent candidates. But as a special election approaches for a seat on the St. Louis County Council, the local election board says voters can only cast their ballots for candidates representing the Democrat or Republican parties.
Cindy Redburn is a member of the Constitution Party, a group committed to electing candidates that will embody the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. When Redburn’s St. Louis County Council representative, Steve Stenger, recently became the new St. Louis County Executive, the Council called a special election to fill the seat Stenger vacated. Redburn believes that many people in her County Council district are frustrated with both the Democrat and Republican parties, and she wants to give them an alternative by presenting herself as the Constitution Party’s candidate in the special election.
But when Redburn offered her paperwork to the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners, the Board’s deputy director refused to accept it.
“I qualify for the office and had all the documents required to declare my candidacy, but Board officials told me that the special election could only feature the nominees from the Democrat and Republican parties,” Redburn said. “I asked if I could run as an independent candidate, but was told that third parties and independent candidates are completely banned from participating in this election. There is simply no way for me to get on the ballot.”
In rejecting Redburn’s candidacy the Board pointed to a section of the St. Louis County Charter that says when there is a vacancy on the County Council “the two parties casting the highest vote for governor in the last election” shall nominate candidates to be voted on in a special election. The text of the Charter does not seem to authorize any other candidates, which is why the Board refused to accept Redburn either as the Constitution Party’s nominee or as an independent candidate.
Today, Redburn, the Constitution Party of Missouri, and several voters from the Sixth County Council District filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming that St. Louis County’s ban is unconstitutional.
“Court decisions on this point are exceptionally clear,” said Dave Roland, director of litigation for the Freedom Center of Missouri and the attorney representing the plaintiffs. “Voters have a right to cast their ballots for candidates who represent their political perspectives, and an election law that removes any opportunity for a minority party or an independent candidate to access the ballot violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”
Recent national polls have shown that more than half of Americans think neither Democrats nor Republicans adequately represent voters’ interests, and nearly sixty percent of respondents said American voters need a third-party option.
“We are pursuing this lawsuit because we believe voters deserve a real choice when it comes to who will represent them in office. We are making sure that governments cannot pass laws that insulate political insiders against the fresh ideas and perspectives other parties and independent candidates can offer,” Redburn concluded.
Founded in November 2010, the Freedom Center of Missouri is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to research, litigation, and education in defense of individual liberty and constitutionally limited government. The Freedom Center is one of Missouri’s leading legal advocates for the constitutional protection of liberties secured by the First Amendment. Additional information about the Freedom Center’s mission, cases, and activities can be found online at www.mofreedom.org.
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[NOTE: To arrange interviews on this subject, journalists may call Dave Roland at (314) 604-6621.]