UPDATE: The U.S. District Court deemed South Dakota’s deadline far too restrictive, and agreed that it infringed on the right to vote and the freedom to associate. See the full decision here.
In 2015, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit challenging a South Dakota law that moved the deadline for new political parties striving for a place on the ballot.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of South Dakota's Libertarian Party and Constitution Party, challenges a section of the law that shifted the deadline for new parties to submit declarations to participate in primary elections backward by four weeks — from the last Tuesday in March prior to the date of the primary election to the first Tuesday in March. The plaintiffs are asking the deadline be set for no earlier than March 29 for a party that wants to participate in South Dakota’s primary election, and August 1 for a party that does not need to participate in a primary election.
The lawsuit argues that the new deadline is unreasonable, too early, and forces new parties to decide whether to participate in the primary election before potential nominees of larger parties are known. It also requires new parties to collect signatures during the coldest months of South Dakota's winter. Courts have invalidated deadlines that were much shorter than the 95 days required by the new law as unconstitutionally burdening candidates and voters and effectively blocking new parties from participating in elections.
The new early deadline makes it nearly impossible for anyone except the major parties to place party candidates on the ballot. Given the historical pattern of third parties not emerging until after the selection of major party candidates, an early filing deadline that prevents new parties from advancing their candidates for the state's highest offices conflicts with an important political tradition that has proven its value over the course of American history.
The case, Libertarian Party of South Dakota v. Krebs, was filed in the U.S. District Court of South Dakota in Sioux Falls. It charges the new deadline violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and seeks to stop state officials from enforcing that deadline.