United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY GRANTING IN FORMA PAUPERIS STATUS, DISMISSING
ACTION, AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
In Forma Pauperis
plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis,
dkt. , is granted. Notwithstanding this
ruling, the plaintiff still owes the $350.00 filing fee.
“All [28 U.S.C.] § 1915 has ever done is excuse
pre-payment of the docket fees; a litigant remains
liable for them, and for other costs, although poverty may
make collection impossible.” Abdul-Wadood v.
Nathan, 91 F.3d 1023, 1025 (7th Cir. 1996).
Screening of Complaint
Ronald Satish Emrit brings this action against Connie Lawson,
the Secretary of State of Indiana, and the Democratic Party
of Indiana. He alleges that his constitutional rights were
denied when the defendants refused to place him on the ballot
for the primary and general presidential election in 2016. He
alleges that the claim is not moot because he has decided to
run again for President of the United States in 2020 as a
Democratic candidate. He brings an equal protection and
substantive due process claim under the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments, and alleges that the defendants violated the
Privileges and Immunities Clause inherent from Article IV,
Section 2, Clause I, of the United States Constitution
(Comity Clause). He also alleges state law claims of
negligence and breach of contract.
complaint is subject to the screening requirement of 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). This statute directs the Court
to dismiss a complaint or claim within a complaint if it is
frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or
seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from
Emrit alleges that he is an indigent, disabled, over 35 years
of age, African-American resident of Nevada (although his
current mailing address is in Florida). He brings this action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), and the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Dkt. 1, p. 15. He also
alleges diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Emrit alleges that he “was told by several secretaries
of state that in order to get placed on the ballot in the
primary or general election, he would have had to get a
minimum number of petitions signed from the constituents of
each jurisdiction in which he wanted to run for president in
the general election (as an independent candidate).”
Dkt. 1, p. 4, ¶ 18. He allegedly obtained a candidate ID
number and registered with the Federal Election Commission.
He was represented by a Political Acton Committee but not by
any “Super PAC.” He received no donations from
any person or entity. He seeks 45 million dollars in
compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief in
the form of ordering the defendants to place him on the
ballot for the primary and general election in Indiana in
claim for damages against Connie Lawson in her official
capacity as Secretary of State of Indiana is
dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted because official capacity
claims against state employees “are treated as suits
against the states themselves, ” Vinning-El v.
Evans, 657 F.3d 591, 592 (7th Cir. 2011), and such
claims for money damages are barred by the Eleventh
Amendment. See Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 716
(7th Cir. 2011).
law, Ind. Code § 3-8-3-1, requires a candidate of a
major political party for nomination for the office of
President of the United States to file a declaration of
candidacy with the election division or secretary of state,
along with a petition signed by at least 4, 500 voters of the
state, meeting certain specifications. Ind. Code §
3-8-3-2. Every state has these types of ballot access laws.
Emrit alleges that there is no compelling government
objective in requiring him to obtain a minimum number of
signatures to be placed on the ballot for this state and
that, therefore, his equal protection rights have been
violated by that requirement. Mr. Emrit's claim in this
regard fails. Mr. Emrit does not challenge the
number of petitions or any other specific requirement other
than he apparently disagrees with having to submit any
petitions because he believes there is no good reason for the
requirement. To the contrary, “the Constitution
… confers upon the states broad authority to regulate
the conduct of elections.” Tripp v. Scholz,
No. 16-3469, 2017 WL 4456913, *4 (7th Cir. Oct. 6, 2017)
(internal quotation omitted). “It is well-settled that
[t]he impact of candidate eligibility requirements on voters
implicates basic constitutional rights to associate
politically with like-minded voters and to cast a meaningful
vote.” Id. (internal quotation omitted).
“Such rights, however, are not absolute.”
Id. (internal quotation omitted). “The Supreme
Court has further opined that, in addition to constitutional
law, ‘[c]ommon sense…compels the conclusion that
government must play an active role in structuring
elections.'” Id. (quoting Burdick v.
Takushi, 504 U.S. 428, 433 (1992)). “‘[A]s a
practical matter, there must be a substantial regulation of
elections if they are to be fair and honest and if some sort
of order, rather than chaos, is to accompany the democratic
processes.”” Id. (quoting Storer v.
Brown, 415 U.S. 724, 730 (1974)).
all restrictions … on candidates' eligibility for
the ballot impose constitutionally-suspect burdens.”
Id. (quoting Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460
U.S. 780, 788 (1983)). “‘[T]he mere fact that a
State's system ‘creates barriers … tending
to limit the field of candidates from which voters might
choose…does not of itself compel close
scrutiny.'” Id. (quoting Burdick,
504 U.S. at 433). “There is no litmus test for
measuring the severity of a burden that a state law
imposes.” Id. (internal quotation omitted).
Any burden “must be justified by relevant and
legitimate state interests sufficiently weighty to justify
the limitation.” Id. (internal quotation
Emrit's allegation that there is no compelling
governmental justification for the requirement that
prospective candidates must file a certain number of
petitions signed by voters of the state along with a
declaration of candidacy is frivolous. As noted by the
Supreme Court, it is not only constitutional but it makes
common sense that the government must put in place a
structure for elections. The Supreme Court has upheld
challenges to signature requirements, even those equaling 5%
of the eligible voting base. See Am. Party of Tex. v.
White, 415 U.S. 767, 789 (1974) (“Demanding
signatures equal in number of 3% or 5% of the vote in the
last election is not invalid on its face…”);
Jennness v. Fortson, 403 U.S. 431, 438 (1971)
(“[W]e cannot say that Georgia's 5% petition
requirement violates the Constitution.”). Mr.
Emrit's constitutional claims are dismissed for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
Emrit's Title VII claim, as described on page 11 of his
complaint, invokes antidiscrimination provisions based on
employment. Mr. Emrit is not employed by anyone, much less by
the State ...