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Fuente v. State

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 10, 2019

Roque De La Fuente, Plaintiff,
v.
State of Arizona, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          HONORABLE JOHN Z. BOYLE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are Cross Motions for Summary Judgment (docs. 55, 58), Defendant's Daubert Motion (doc. 78), and Defendant's Motion to Strike (doc. 85). The Court will grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 55) and deny all others (docs. 58, 78, 85).

         I. Summary.

         In this action, Plaintiff challenges the constitutionality of two Arizona statutes (A.R.S. §§ 16-341, 16-801), which limit access of independent candidates for President of the United States to the State's general election ballot. The Court finds that Plaintiff fails to show that the statutes impose a “severe” burden under the Anderson/Burdick framework established by the Supreme Court, and thus applies the Ninth Circuit's “sliding scale” balancing test to evaluate the constitutionality of the challenged statutes. Ultimately, the Court finds that Arizona's stated interests are sufficient to justify the burden imposed on candidates. Accordingly, the Court will grant summary judgment in favor of Defendant Hobbs, and against Plaintiff.

         II. Background.

         On July 20, 2016, Plaintiff initiated this action by filing his Complaint. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff subsequently amended his Complaint twice. (Docs. 12, 53.)

         In his Second Amended Complaint (SAC), Plaintiff challenges the constitutionality of A.R.S. § 16-341 and § 16-801 on three collective grounds: (1) ”the signature collection requirement of Section 16-341 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, as applied to Plaintiff and all independent presidential candidates, violates rights guaranteed under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution” (doc. 54 at 5-6); (2) ”the signature collection requirement of Section 16-341 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, as applied to Plaintiff and all independent presidential candidates, violates rights guaranteed under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution” (id. at 6-7); (3) “the signature distribution requirement of Section 16-801 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, as applied to Plaintiff, violates rights guaranteed under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution” (id. at 7-8).

         A.R.S. § 16-341 requires that independent candidates for statewide office obtain signatures totaling at least three percent of the number of registered independent voters in the State.[1] For the 2016 election, an independent candidate was required to obtain approximately 35, 514 signatures to be placed on the state's general ballot. (Doc. 56, ¶ 4.) For the 2020 election, based on current available information, that number will increase to approximately 37, 141 valid signatures required. (Id., ¶ 6.)

         A.R.S. § 16-801 provides that:

A new political party may become eligible for recognition and shall be represented by an official party ballot at the next ensuing regular primary election and accorded a column on the official ballot at the succeeding general election on filing with the secretary of state a petition signed by a number of qualified electors equal to not less than one and one-third per cent of the total votes cast for governor at the last preceding general election at which a governor was elected. From this number, at least five different counties shall be included as the county of registration among the required total of qualified electors and at least ten per cent of the required total of qualified electors shall be registered in counties with populations of less than five hundred thousand persons.

A.R.S. § 16-801(A). In 2020, the required number of signatures to form an independent political party is expected to be 31, 603. (Doc. 56, ¶ 11)

         Plaintiff, in his pleadings and papers, alleges the following facts with respect to his participation in the 2016 presidential campaign and his plans for the 2020 campaign:

• Plaintiff campaigned for the Democratic Party's nomination for President from September 2015 until the Democratic Party's 2016 National Nominating Convention (DNC) in July 2016 (id., ¶¶ 14, 15);
• Plaintiff spent approximately 10 to 14 days in Arizona actively campaigning for the Democratic nomination for President, and was a candidate on the 2016 Arizona primary ballot for that nomination (id., ¶¶ 16-17);
• Plaintiff did not win any state's primary election or caucus in 2016, and did not receive the Democratic Party's nomination for President (id., ¶¶ 18-19);
• After the DNC ended, approximately three months before the general election, Plaintiff decided to run as an independent candidate for President (id., ¶ 20);
• Plaintiff spent one week trying to gather the 35, 514 valid signatures necessary to qualify for the Arizona ballot as an independent candidate for President (id., ¶ 23);
• Plaintiff relied entirely on hired signature gatherers to collect signatures in Arizona, and collected between 4, 000 and 9, 000 signatures (id., ¶ 24-25);
• Plaintiffs signature gatherer, Marci Burton, estimated a validity rate of 20% among signatures collected (id., ¶ 26);
• Based on this rate, Plaintiff estimated he would need to collect 150, 000 signatures in order to meet Arizona's requirement for valid signatures to be placed on the ballot as an independent candidate for president (id., ¶ 27);
• Plaintiff subsequently decided to cancel his signature gathering efforts in Arizona (id., ¶ 29);
• Plaintiff qualified as a write-in candidate for President, representing the American Delta Party, and received 29 total votes (id., ¶ 30);
• In 2016, Plaintiff did not attempt to gather signatures in Arizona, or take any other steps, to attempt to qualify the American Delta Party or any other new political party for ballot access (id., ¶ 31);
• Plaintiff has officially declared his intention to run for President in 2020, but was initially unclear as to whether he will be campaigning as an independent candidate, or seeking a party's nomination (id., ¶ 33). Plaintiff has since made clear that he will be running for President in 2020 as either an independent or third-party candidate. (Doc. 61, ¶¶ 5-6.)

         On November 29, 2018, the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 55 (Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (“DMSJ”)), 58 (Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment (“PMSJ”)).) Both Motions have been fully briefed.[2] On February 4, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion in limine to Exclude the Expert Testimony of Richard Winger. (doc. 78), and the Motion is fully briefed (docs. 84, 88). On February 21, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion to Strike Plaintiffs Reply in support of his MSJ (doc. 83) and the “Second Richard Winger Declaration” (doc. 83-1), which was filed as an attachment to that Reply. (Doc. 85.) Plaintiff has filed a response (doc. 86), and Defendant has replied (doc. 87). The Court will address each Motion below.

         III. Standing.

         As a threshold matter, the Court must first determine whether Plaintiff De La Fuente has standing to bring his challenges in this Court. “Standing to sue is a doctrine rooted in the traditional understanding of a case or controversy. The doctrine developed in our case law to ensure that federal courts do not exceed their authority as it has been traditionally understood.” Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016). It is well “established that the ‘irreducible constitutional minimum' of standing consists of three elements[:]” Plaintiff must have “(1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.” Id. Plaintiff, as the party invoking federal jurisdiction, bears the burden of establishing these elements. Id. (citing FW/PBS, Inc. v. Dallas, 493 U.S. 215, 231 (1990)).

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff fails to establish standing in this case because “the injuries he asserts are speculative and contingent by definition.” (Doc. 55 at 7.) The Court disagrees. “[T]he injury required for standing need not be actualized. A party facing prospective injury has standing to sue where the threatened injury is real, immediate, and direct.” Davis v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 554 U.S. 724, 734 (2008). Here, Plaintiff has made clear that he intends to run as an independent or third-party candidate in the 2020 election, and thus Plaintiff is directly threatened by the allegedly unconstitutional signature requirements in the challenged statutes. Plaintiff's prospective injury is directly traceable to the challenged statutes, and it would clearly be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.

         Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiff has standing to bring his challenges to A.R.S. ...


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