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Judge to rule on Libertarian ballot case Tuesday

David Pitt

A district court judge says he plans to rule Tuesday whether to block Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's listing on the Iowa ballot in November.

Attorneys for two voters who challenged Johnson's listing on the ballot filed documents Thursday in Polk County District Court in Des Moines asking Judge Arthur Gamble to review the decision of a panel of three state officials that allowed Johnson on the ballot.

Libertarians say they held a caucus at the Iowa State Fair to get Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico, onto Iowa's ballot.

Johnson's candidacy was challenged last week by two Iowa voters, Gloria Mazza, of Clive, and Dean Montgomery, of Urbandale, who said Libertarians didn't hold a real convention. Instead, the challenge says Libertarians had volunteers persuade fairgoers to sign a document that said they were delegates for Johnson.

A panel of three state officials voted unanimously to allow Johnson on the ballot. Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Attorney General Tom Miller and Warren Jenkins, the chief deputy for Auditor David Vaudt concluded Iowa's law isn't clear in its definitions of a convention or caucus and that when in doubt open ballot access should prevail.

State law requires a panel consisting of the auditor, attorney general and secretary of state to hear challenges to ballot certification in Iowa.

The Republican Party and Mitt Romney's campaign have not commented on the challenge to acknowledge or deny involvement. They did not return calls Friday seeking comment.

Jay Kramer, the Election Day operations director in Iowa for Mitt Romney's campaign, signed the original challenge as a witness.

Joan Scotter, who said she is a nominee of the Iowa Republican Party for the electoral college, filed documents Thursday to intervene in the case on the side of the challengers.

She did not return a call Friday. Mazza and Montgomery also have not returned calls.

Johnson says he faces ballot challenges in several states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma, led by Romney campaign operatives.

In past elections third-party candidates have been viewed as spoilers, taking enough votes away from one major party candidate to hand victory to the other. Johnson, a former Republican, would be more likely to siphon votes from Romney than President Barack Obama.

In a tight election, even states like Iowa with just seven electoral votes, are viewed as important.

Washington attorney Michael Morley, who has represented Republican groups on election issues around the country, is representing Mazza and Montgomery. He argued at Friday's court hearing that the state panel erroneously interpreted state law. He said the group's decision is unsupported by the evidence and is unreasonable and arbitrary.

"There was no common gathering for no common purpose. This was a petition process," he said.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Thompson, representing the panel of state officials, said the challengers and Morley are asking the court to accept their characterization of what a caucus or convention means. He argued any clarification of the definition should be made by the Legislature.

Thompson said the case must be decided by next Thursday for Iowa ballots to be printed so they can be sent to overseas military members by the Sept. 22 deadline.

The Associated Press