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Texas Prisoner on Idaho Presidential Primary Ballot in 2008

During the 2008 Democratic primary election, Idaho voters had three choices for president: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Keith Russell Judd.

At the time, Judd was serving time at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Texas on a 1999 conviction for making threats on the University of New Mexico campus. He received 734 votes, or 1.7 percent of the Idaho primary vote.

Judd had worked to get his name on the ballot for president in numerous states, and qualified as a write-in candidate in several. Idaho was the only state that put his name on the ballot for the Democratic primary, though that won’t happen again in 2012.

“We weren’t real happy he was on our ballot,” said Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. “There were some changes made.” Those changes were intended to eliminate a state law that allowed Judd to have his name placed on the ballot by simply sending in a notarized form and paying a $1,000 fee. Lawmakers responded by reinstating a previous law that required candidates to collect signatures in the state to make the ballot.

The change wasn’t actually needed, however, because Idaho’s Democratic presidential primary does not actually determine the winning candidate. Rather, for many years, Idaho’s Democrats have selected their presidential delegates at caucuses. The Republican Party’s central committee recently voted to do the same. As such, Idaho really should just do away with its presidential primary election, said Ysursa.

Judd wasn’t the only driving force behind Idaho’s law change. In 2009, a Ralph Nader supporter filed a federal discrimination suit challenging Idaho’s election laws. Arizona citizen Donald Daien alleged that Idaho law violated the Constitution by requiring petition gatherers to be Idaho residents and setting the number of qualifying signatures to put an independent candidate for president or vice president on the Idaho ballot at 1 percent of those who voted in the previous presidential election.

Daien prevailed on both counts, and on March 30, 2011 the court awarded him $54,349.80 in attorney fees and costs. An additional $14,831.05 in fees and costs was awarded on November 21, 2011. See: Daien v. Ysursa, U.S.D.C. (D. Idaho), Case No. 1:09-cv-00022-REB.

In response to the lawsuit, Idaho law was amended to reduce the number of qualifying signatures to 1,000. Which is still a high hurdle for Judd or other prisoners who want to have their names placed on the presidential primary ballot.

Source: The Spokesman-Review

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Related legal case

Daien v. Ysursa