Peta Lindsay, a 27-year-old who fancied herself a presidential candidate, saw the dismissal of her attempt to grab a place on California’s 2012 presidential primary ballot upheld by a federal appellate court on Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. had ruled that Lindsay, far below the minimum age of 35 to be eligible to be president, had no constitutional right to be on the ballot. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen had left Lindsay off the ballot.
Lindsay had challenged Bowen’s decision, saying that the U.S. Constitution did not prevent her from being on the ballot, despite Article II, Section 1, clause 5 stating that no person under 35 “shall … be eligible to that Office.”
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Burrell, asserting that Lindsay had no right to “clutter” the ballot. Chief Justice Alex Kozinski wrote, “Like (comedian) Stephen Colbert before her, Peta Lindsay didn’t want to become president of the United States. She just wanted to run.”
Lindsay had written in 2012, “I am a young socialist with a great deal of experience in the major struggles of the day, a great deal of optimism and energy and a proven dedication to fighting for justice for all people. I think all of this will be useful as a presidential candidate.”
Lindsay was somehow on the ballot in 2012 in other states as the candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
But the three appellate judges ruled that California’s age regulation hardly infringed on Lindsay’s First Amendment rights.
Kozinski wrote, “Although regulation of who can appear on the ballot ‘inevitably affects’ free speech, association and voting rights, we uphold restrictions that impose only a ‘lesser burden’ on those rights so long as they are reasonably related to the state’s ‘important regulatory interest.’ ” If Lindsay’s name were on the ballot, it “would mean that anyone, regardless of age, citizenship or any other constitutional ineligibility would be entitled to clutter and confuse our electoral ballot. Nothing in the First Amendment compels such an absurd result.”
Kozinski added that nothing “in the Twentieth Amendment’s text or history suggested that it precludes state authorities from excluding a candidate with a known ineligibility from the presidential ballot. The amendment merely grants Congress the authority to determine how to proceed if neither the president elect nor the vice president elect is qualified to hold office.”