Mass. SJC Rules Signature Requirements for Ballot Access Unconstitutional During COVID-19; Grants Relief to Bipartisan Plaintiffs Represented by Ropes & Gray
On April 17, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court granted relief to a bipartisan group of three political candidates and other similarly situated individuals in their emergency petition for relief from the current signature collection requirements for primary ballot nominations, citing violations of the Massachusetts and United States Constitutions. Following oral arguments on April 16, the SJC issued an opinion agreeing with Ropes & Gray’s argument that the COVID-19 global public health crisis has placed an unprecedented and potentially insurmountable burden on candidates across the state seeking ballot access.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly and quickly changed the way our society functions,” said partner Rob Jones, who led the pro bono team of litigators. “With its swift decision in the face of this public health crisis, the Court rightly recognized this and acted appropriately to protect the fundamental constitutional right of Massachusetts citizens to seek elective office.”
For all candidates seeking to appear on the Massachusetts primary ballot on September 1, 2020, the Court reduced the number of signatures required by 50%; extended the deadline for state district and county office candidates to file certified nomination papers; and allowed for the submission and filing of nomination papers with electronic signatures.
Led by Rob, the Boston-based Ropes & Gray team includes litigation & enforcement associate Patrick Roath.
The Mass. SJC’s opinion can be found here.