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Green Party places Arizona ballot hopes on 1996 ruling

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The co-chair of the Arizona Green Party is relying on a 20-year-old court ruling in a bid to give his party’s presidential nominee a chance at getting some votes here.

Angel Torres does not dispute that his party failed to meet a June 1 deadline for getting the names of its  11 proposed electors to Secretary of State Michele Reagan. He said, though, that no one from that office notified the Green Party of the deadline, coming more than five months before the general election.

Despite that lack of notice, the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties all managed to get their lists in under the wire. But Torres said Wednesday he believes there is legal precedent to excuse the delay.

In 1996, officials from the Arizona Libertarian Party also let the deadline slip, resulting in then-Secretary of State Jane Hull rejecting their late filing.

But party attorney John Buttrick, now a federal magistrate, got Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Norman Hall to order Hull’s office to accept the late filing. That allowed Arizonans to vote for Harry Browne. And that order did not come until the middle of August.

Browne got 14,358 votes out of more than 1.4 million cast that year.

Ballot Access News, reporting on that lawsuit at the time, said the basis for that decision was the court’s conclusion that the state had no interest in setting such an early deadline. One factor working against a June 1 deadline is that some of the parties Arizona recognizes have yet to formally select their presidential nominees whose names will actually appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

There also have been reported instances in other states where the two major parties missed similar deadlines but were still given ballot access.

“We’re consulting our legal counsel,’’ Torres said Wednesday, with a lawsuit the likely outcome.

Reagan spokesman Matt Roberts said that 1996 ruling appears to be similar “and perhaps could provide a road map’’ for the Green Party moving forward. But he said it will take a court order to get Jill Stein, the party’s presidential nominee, on the November ballot.

“We could not identify any statutory authority to waive that (June 1) deadline or accept late nomination papers,’’ Roberts said.

“We are required to follow the laws in statute,’’ he continued. “However, moving forward we will certainly act in accordance with any court ruling should one be issued.’’

If a court does not side with Torres and party officials, the choices voters will find on their November ballot are Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Libertarian Gary Johnson.

Even if an Arizona judge orders Stein’s name added to the list, she still will not be an option across the country. Each state has its own rules for when a party and its nominees qualify for the ballot.

Green Party spokesman Scott McLarty said Stein already has qualified in 21 states. He said the party is shooting for the same 36 states plus the District of Columbia it had four years ago.

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