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Arizona Green Party sues to block 11 'sham candidates'

The Arizona Green Party is asking a judge to kick more than half of the group's nominees off the November ballot and overturn the state law the let them on the ballot.
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

The Arizona Green Party is asking a judge to kick more than half of the group's nominees off the November ballot.

The unusual request, filed in federal court Tuesday, also asks the court to declare as unconstitutional the state law that allowed the hopefuls to qualify as write-in candidates with as little as one vote.

The move follows the nomination of 11 candidates allegedly recruited by Republican operatives to siphon votes from Democratic candidates.

Unless the judge intervenes, Arizona voters will be able to vote for a tarot card reader to be state treasurer or a street performer to regulate utilities.

It's all thanks to a little-known provision in state law that allows Green Party candidates to get the party's nomination with just one write-in vote. They don't even have to collect petition signatures.

The candidates say they're serious about changing government and energized to make their voices heard. Democrats claim they're being used as a dirty trick.

The suit and its request for a temporary restraining order comes four days before Maricopa County elections officials begin printing ballots, and as Secretary of State Ken Bennett is certifying candidates nominated in the Aug. 24 primary.

"We're obligated to uphold the law," Bennett told The Arizona Republic newspaper, adding that until a judge rules otherwise, election preparations will continue.

Investigation sought
Democrats have called for a criminal investigation.

"We in the Arizona Green Party want our team to play by the same rules as other teams, and not have somebody in the stands deciding to be a player on our team," party co-chair Claudia Ellquist said in a statement Tuesday.

The current law amounts to "our opponents recruiting field-rushers, and handing them a uniform, and sending them out to disrupt a fair game," Ellquist said.

Democrats and Greens say the 11 disputed candidates don't represent the Green Party and are being used as pawns.

"They're playing games with the voters," said Jennifer Johnson, an Arizona Democratic Party spokeswoman. "This is the ultimate disrespect to the voter, putting up sham candidates who don't represent the party that they're listed with."

Democrats say Green Party candidates attract left-leaning voters, making it tougher for Democrats to get elected.

Help from ex-lawmaker
Steve May, a former state lawmaker running for the Arizona House, acknowledges he helped some of the disputed candidates get on the ballot. He insists he's just trying to help them get their voices heard.

May, 38, lives and frequently hangs out near downtown Tempe's Mill Avenue — a commercial corridor near Arizona State University with an odd mix of chain restaurants, local bars and bohemian culture. His recruits are drifters who also like to hang out on Mill.

The shunned nominees don't like being labeled sham candidates. They insist they're real people with tangible concerns and a legitimate desire to help shape public policy.

"I don't care who I take votes from," said Anthony Goshorn, a 53-year-old state Senate candidate who pilots a pedicab and drives a taxi for a living. "I didn't do this to hurt a particular political party. I did this to help people."

Goshorn, a white-bearded veteran of Mill Avenue, is known as "Grandpa" to the younger drifters he mentors. He said he's frustrated that reporters always want to talk about the political party dispute or the fact that he's homeless.

He just wants to talk about the struggling economy and his desire for lower taxes.

State treasurer candidate Thomas Meadows, a 27-year-old who reads tarot cards on Mill Avenue and investigates sightings of ghosts and UFOs, said he isn't sure why his own party is so upset about his decision to run.

"I'm not sure why they're so deadset against me," he said. "Probably because they didn't think of it."

Admitting he has "a snowball's chance in Phoenix" of winning, Meadows said he hopes his candidacy inspires other political upstarts to run for office and helps the Greens become a stronger alternative to the Republicans and Democrats.