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Post-certification signature challenge

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A post-certification signature challenge is a signature challenge lawsuit filed by a private organization or advocacy group seeking to have a ballot initiative or a candidate removed from the ballot after the initiative or candidate has been certified for the ballot by election officials. Such lawsuits generally claim that the election authority in charge of checking the validity of the submitted signatures erred when they determined that sufficient valid signatures were submitted to qualify for ballot access.

The opposite of a post-certification signature challenge is a post-rejection signature recovery effort. This happens when an election official says that not enough signatures were collected to qualify a candidate or an initiative for the ballot because of various alleged irregularities or deficiencies in some of the signatures that were submitted. Although it is an expensive undertaking, when this happens, the candidate or the initiative's supporters can file a lawsuit contesting the failure to certify, attempting to "recover" enough of the invalidated signatures to meet the signature threshold, allowing initiative or candidate can appear on the ballot.

Post-certification signature challenges are analogous to the voter suppression tactic of caging that is used to develop lists of voters to challenge at the voting booth.

Post-certification challenges in 2008


  • Nevada Proposition 13. After certification, a post-certification lawsuit was filed by the state's AFL-CIO and on September 9, a judge ordered it removed from the ballot.[2][3]


2008 signature challenges

Signature checker and observers scrutinizing R-71 signatures. Photo credit: Washington Secretary of State's office

Initiatives, referenda and candidates where signature lawsuits were filed include:

  • Frazee-Vergas school levy referendum (2008).[5]
  • Allegheny County drink tax referendum (2008).[6]

Post-rejection signature recovery efforts

See also: Signature recovery lawsuits.


  • Andy Dillon recall (2008). This effort succeeded, with a federal judge ordering that the Michigan Secretary of State re-count signatures that had been rejected under a provision of Michigan's recall law that the judge found to be unconstitutional. After re-counting the signatures, it was determined that there were sufficient valid signatures for the recall question to be placed on the November 4, 2008 ballot.


Notable post-certification challenges

In 2004, a series of events led Ralph Nader to file Nader v. Democratic National Committee and Nader v. McAuliffe. In October 2007, teams of attorneys refiled post-certification signature challenges in at least eighteen states whose election officials had certified Nader for the ballot as a presidential candidate, successfully having Nader's name struck from those ballots.

Objections to post-certification challenges

In a comment published in the Yale Law Journal in June 2006, Robert Yablon wrote, "Systems that encourage private challenges to candidate filings are particularly problematic because they allow partisan actors to target disfavored adversaries without appreciably advancing the state's legitimate interest in regulating the electoral process."[7]:


Additional information about ballot litigation in 2008