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Constitution Party candidate sues to get on St. Louis County ballot

The conservative Constitution Party is suing over a charter provision blocking third-party candidates and independents from the ballot in a special election for a vacant St. Louis County Council seat.

The Constitution Party of Missouri wants to nominate prospective candidate Cynthia Redburn for the south St. Louis County seat vacated when Steve Stenger became county executive last month. Redburn, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed Jan. 30 in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, ran unsuccessfully for a state representative seat in 2014.

But Mary Wall, deputy director of the county Board of Election Commissioners, refused to accept Redburn’s paperwork for a spot on the April 7 ballot, according to the lawsuit signed by attorney David Roland of the Freedom Center of Missouri.

Wall cited a charter provision limiting candidates on the ballot to those belonging to “the two parties casting the highest vote for governor in the last election,” said the lawsuit. That limits candidates to nominees from the Democratic or Republican parties.

The plaintiffs, who also include seven Constitution Party supporters, ask for Redburn to be placed on the ballot or for the special election to be delayed until the Constitution Party has a “constitutionally adequate opportunity” to qualify for a listing on the ballot.

“Ultimately the election is pointless if voters don’t have a legitimate option on the ballot, in particular third parties,” Roland said in a phone interview.
It’s not clear whether a write-in candidacy would be possible, and it wouldn’t be “an adequate expression for voters, especially in comparison to actually having someone on the ballot,” Roland said.

The plaintiffs will seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, Roland said.

St. Louis County Counselor Peter Krane said the county is reviewing the lawsuit and then will decide what to do. The charter provision, amended in 1979, hasn’t faced a challenge before, Krane said.

“We don’t have any history to lead us,” Krane said.

Green Park Alderman Tony Pousosa is the Republican candidate for the County Council seat. Democratic officials chose Kevin O’Leary, 62, of Oakville, as that party’s candidate, according to a Jan. 21 Call newspaper article.

The case is Constitution Party of Missouri, et al., v. St. Louis County, et al., 4:15-CV-207.