SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota's Libertarian Party is suing Secretary of State Jason Gant to try to get its Public Utilities Commission candidate on the ballot.
The lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court asks a judge to put Ryan Gaddy on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, joining Republican, Democrat and Constitution party candidates for the office.
Gant last week ruled Gaddy ineligible to run, saying Gaddy did not comply with a state law that requires candidates to be members of the party that nominates them. Gaddy changed his party affiliation from Republican at the Libertarian convention, and the paperwork wasn't filed until later. That meant Gaddy was still a Republican at the time of his Libertarian nomination, according to Gant.
The Libertarian lawsuit argues that the law is unconstitutional.
"Secretary Gant's refusal to place the (party's) nominee on the ballot implicates the party's right to free association and an individual's basic rights to expressive political activity," the lawsuit states.
The Libertarian Party also claims that Gant has "failed to show any precise state interest that is served by withholding Mr. Gaddy's name from the ballot box."
Gant has said he is not allowed to consider whether state laws are constitutional when deciding whether to enforce them, according to the Argus Leader newspaper.
"My job is to follow state law," Gant said. "If there's constitutional requirements, I'm leaving that up to the attorneys and the judges."
Attorney General Marty Jackley told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the state will file its response to the lawsuit by midday Wednesday. He said the state will argue that Gant is required to follow South Dakota law, and that a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in another case indicated that such a law protects the political party process and "guards against party-raiding and sore-loser candidacies by spurned primary contenders."
Several federal courts have cited a 1986 Supreme Court ruling in overturning similar laws in other states, according to the Argus Leader.
Gant last week certified another Libertarian candidate for the ballot, saying attorney general candidate Chad Haber had complied with the state law because he filled out his party affiliation form at a recognized voter registration facility the day before the Libertarian convention.
The Libertarian lawsuit is the second this month challenging Gant's candidate approval decisions. He lost a lawsuit filed by independent governor candidate Mike Myers asking Gant to let him change his running mate.
The Libertarian Party's lawsuit was assigned to the same federal judge who ruled in favor of Myers, Lawrence Piersol. Attorney Edward Welch, who represented Myers, is also representing the Libertarians.