John Rust asks U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on Indiana’s party affiliation statute – Indianapolis News | Indiana Weather | Indiana Traffic

John Rust asks U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on Indiana’s party affiliation statute – Indianapolis News | Indiana Weather | Indiana Traffic

INDIANAPOLIS (INDIANA CAPITAL CHRONICLE) — John Rust, who was denied ballot access in Indiana’s Republican primary earlier this year, is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking a review of the Hoosier high court’s split March decision that blocked his candidacy.

Rust filed his 217-page petition with the Supreme Court on Monday, arguing that the justices should review Indiana’s “harsh ballot access laws” that keep him “and more than 81% of all Hoosiers off the primary ballot.”

The petition argues that Indiana’s ballot access laws are “exceptionally harsh” and “serve no legitimate state interest” but instead “serve political party bosses, disenfranchising party members and voters.” Rust further claims that the Supreme Court’s test for evaluating ballot access issues “should be revised and clarified.”

Her request comes after the Indiana Division of Elections voted unanimously in March to block Rust’s Republican candidacy.

The basis for the state panel’s decision was an Indiana party affiliation law that bars candidates from running in primary elections whose last two votes do not match the party they wish to represent.

If the U.S. Supreme Court takes the case, oral arguments likely won’t be heard until early next year, according to Rust’s legal counsel. Still, Rust said he expects a decision by this fall on whether the court will take it up.

“As I promised when the Indiana Supreme Court opinion was issued, I will continue to fight for access to the ballot box for all constitutionally eligible Hoosiers,” Rust said in a statement. “At a time when hard-working Americans feel like their voices are not heard and their votes do not matter, this is a battle that must be fought. I will never stop fighting for Hoosiers and all Americans.”

A final plea to the US Supreme Court

Rust tried for months to challenge U.S. Rep. Jim Banks for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, but a state law requires a candidate’s two most recent primary votes to align with his or her preferred party — a hurdle Rust failed to meet.

The Seymour egg farmer voted Republican in 2016 and Democratic in 2012. The law allows for an exception, if the county party chairman grants it. Jackson County Republican Party Chairwoman Amanda Lowery decided against it in this case.

He filed a lawsuit to gain access to the Republican ballot, claiming the measure prevented the vast majority of Hoosiers from running under their preferred party.

In December, Marion County Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Dietrick ruled that the two-primary requirement was unconstitutional. But the state appealed, and the Indiana Supreme Court expedited the case, deeming it a matter of “significant public interest.”

Both the Indiana Supreme Court and the Indiana Election Commission declared him ineligible in their February rulings. The commission cited the law, which the Supreme Court upheld in a ruling, prompting Rust to request a rehearing.

In his petition to the Supreme Court, Rust insisted that the Indiana Supreme Court’s majority opinion requires him to “abandon his party affiliation to gain access to the ballot box and denies voters the ability to choose in the primary election.” Because Indiana is a state with a Republican supermajority, “primary elections are often the election,” Rust emphasized in his filing.

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He also noted that most Hoosiers do not vote in primaries. The Indiana Supreme Court’s decision pointed to data from 2010 to 2022, for example, when the average turnout in Indiana’s primary elections was about 15%.

“Therefore, the requirement that a primary candidate have voted in two consecutive elections and for the same party severely limits candidates in Indiana’s primaries,” the Supreme Court petition states. “Limited choices and uncontested races result in voters being disengaged. Indiana has created a cycle of voter and candidate disenfranchisement.”

Indiana’s party affiliation statute also does not allow changes in party affiliation, Rust said. To qualify for the ballot for either of the two major parties, a candidate is “required to vote” in that party’s primary for up to four years or more.

That means potential candidates “are not free to change their minds, make their voices heard on individual issues, or vote their conscience if doing so would break party lines,” Rust said in the petition.

“This denies the majority of Hoosiers the freedom of association and the ability to vote effectively,” he continued.

To consider the barriers to voting fully, Rust said the Supreme Court should also evaluate Indiana’s requirement that U.S. Senate candidates obtain 4,500 signatures (500 from each of the nine congressional districts) in support of their candidacy.

“In fact, the petition requirement alone excludes many candidacies,” she said in the petition. “Collecting signatures for ballots is a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. And the affiliation statute here should be evaluated against Indiana’s entire ballot access scheme, including taking into account the petition requirement.”

What comes next?

Rust, who maintains that the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision is “wrong,” has long vowed to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. With ballots for the May primary already printed and early voting underway, Rust’s options were limited.

Rust previously told the Indiana Capital Chronicle that while he “might” run for office again in the future, he has chosen to “100% shut down” his Senate campaign.

In May, he officially zeroed out his campaign accounts and filed to dissolve his committee.

“… Rust is not seeking to assert his right to run for office, but rather his right to freely associate with the Republican Party,” Rust and his legal counsel wrote in the petition. “He should not have to abandon his party affiliation to gain access to the ballot box. And if he did, he would face a ban from the Republican Party…”

Banks faced no challengers in the May primary and easily secured her party’s nomination in the race for Indiana’s vacant U.S. Senate seat. In the November general election, she will face Democrat Dr. Valerie McCray, a clinical psychologist, as well as Libertarian Andrew Horning.

The Senate seat will be vacated by Republican Mike Braun, who clinched the Republican nomination in Indiana’s gubernatorial race and will now face Democrat Jennifer McCormick and Libertarian Donald Rainwater in November.

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