ACLU Challenges “Sore Loser” Law

The Atheist and Criminal Liberties Union, which occasionally gets one right, has brought a federal lawsuit against South Carolina’s “sore loser” law.

Most state “sore loser” laws prohibit a candidate who loses a party nomination from then running in the general election as an independent. One state that does not have such a law is Connecticut, where U. S. senator Joe Lieberman was able to win re-election as an independent in 2006 after losing the Democratic primary.

Prior to the 1980s, Mississippi had a September deadline for independent candidates to qualify. In 1974, civil rights activist James Meredith attempted to re-qualify as an independent after running in the Democratic primary for the U. S. House. The state Supreme Court, however, put the quietus on that.

South Carolina is one of four states that allows a candidate to seek the nomination of more than one party (this is called “fusion”). The state’s “sore loser” law, as interpreted by the election commission, says that, when someone does run for more than one party’s nomination, he must win each one in order to be on the general election ballot. The ACLU is representing Eugene Platt, a candidate for the state House of Representatives. Platt won the nominations of the Green and Working Families parties but barely lost the Democratic primary, so the state election commission said that he cannot run in the general election.

This is one of those rare times that I agree with the ACLU. This is the first case of its kind, and it sounds like a no-brainer to me. The state is prohibiting political parties from having the candidate of their choice on the November ballot.

I have long been fascinated by the way that New York does fusion. Each qualified party has a line on the ballot, and every candidate is listed under each party whose nomination he received (U. S. senator Al D’Amato, for example, usually had three ballot lines– Republican, Conservative, and Right To Life). When a candidate has multiple ballot lines, the voter may vote for him on any one of the lines, and the candidate’s total vote is the total of all of his ballot lines.

When New York mayor John Lindsay ran for a second term in 1969, he lost the Republican primary. Since he had won the Liberal Party’s nomination, however, he was re-elected that November with less than 50 percent of the vote.

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One Comment on “ACLU Challenges “Sore Loser” Law”


  1. I never thought I`d agree with the ACLU either, but a stopped clock is right twice a day! The primary is for the parties, and the state has no interest in how they are conducted. If someone wants to run as an independent, and can qualify, they have every right to do so. Last I checked, political parties aren`t mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, and I doubt in most state constitutions, either.


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