'Pro-democracy' Arizona Democrats sue to block No Labels third-party from ballot

After campaigning on fighting for democracy, the Arizona Democratic Party is reportedly suing to stop a third-party organization from accessing the state's presidential ballot in the 2024 election

The lawsuit targets No Labels, a centrist group that aims to give voters a non-extreme presidential option next year and has secured ballot access in three states, including Arizona. Democratic officials will file a complaint Thursday in state court in Phoenix alleging that Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, a Democrat, erroneously accepted signature petitions from the group, The Washington Post reported.

The lawsuit claims that accompanying affidavits from proposed electors were signed before all the petitions were gathered, in violation of state statute. "As a result, the Arizona Democratic Party claims the affidavits purporting to verify the petitions should be considered false and the petitions invalid," the Post reported. 

Arizona Democrats also claim that No Labels, a registered 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that is not required to disclose its donors, has failed to comply with federal election laws governing political parties, including donation limits and donor disclosure.  

"No Labels is not following the rules for political party recognition, while attempting to be placed on the ballot alongside actual, functioning political parties who do," Arizona Democratic Party spokeswoman Morgan Dick told the Washington Post. "Arizonans deserve better and voters deserve to know who is behind this shadowy organization and what potentially nefarious agenda they are pushing."

Ryan Clancy, the chief strategist for No Labels, blasted the lawsuit and accused Arizona Democrats of acting hypocritically.

"This undemocratic and unscrupulous lawsuit is a disgrace," Clancy said in a statement. "Next time you hear this crowd talking about protecting democracy, remember what they are really doing is protecting their turf."

An attorney for No Labels in Phoenix expressed confidence to the Washington Post that the court will uphold the secretary of state's decision to certify the group's ballot filing. 

Democrats fear that No Labels' efforts to gain access to the ballot in Arizona and other states could spoil President Biden's expected campaign for re-election. 

But No Labels insists its "unity ticket" would draw support "equally" from Republican and Democrat-leaning voters. Formed in 2010 as a bipartisan group focused on solutions to the nation's problems, No Labels says a moderate candidate could win the White House by securing electoral votes from purple and swing states across the country. 

"At some point in the future, it could become clear that the public doesn't want an independent ticket or that there is no path for one to win. Or we could find that there are no candidates with broad appeal or the courage to take on this challenge. If that happens, No Labels will not offer our ballot line to any presidential candidate," the group said in a statement earlier this month. 

Various moderate or independent officials have been floated as potential candidates on a No Labels ticket. The group has courted centrist lawmakers in Washington, D.C., among them Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Manchin and moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine attended a February conference that No Labels hosted in Florida, where the pair praised centrism as a way to approach legislating in a divided government.

Larry Hogan, a former two-term Republican governor of deep-blue Maryland and honorary co-chairman of No Labels, has also been named in discussions about third-party candidates. Hogan has said he wouldn't rule out a third-party presidential bid if Biden and Donald Trump are the Democratic and Republican nominees in 2024. 

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