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Case Name Whitfield v. Thurston VR-AR-0194
Docket / Court 4:20-cv-00466 ( E.D. Ark. )
State/Territory Arkansas
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Healthy Elections COVID litigation tracker
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This case, initially being tracked by the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project, was filed by two independent candidates for public office, seeking various changes to Arkansas’ ballot access provisions in light ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This case, initially being tracked by the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project, was filed by two independent candidates for public office, seeking various changes to Arkansas’ ballot access provisions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 24, 2020, the district court denied the plaintiffs’ requested relief and entered a judgment in favor of the defendant, the Secretary of State of Arkansas. One plaintiff appealed the decision, but the Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal as moot on July 2, 2021.


This is a case about two independent candidates for public office in Arkansas seeking access to the Arkansas ballot in the 2020 general election. On April 29, 2020, the plaintiffs filed this lawsuit in the Eastern District of Arkansas. They sued the Secretary of State of Arkansas, alleging that Arkansas’ ballot access provisions were overly restrictive, particularly given the COVID-19 pandemic, and violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. These provisions set May 1, 2020 as the ballot petition deadline for Independent candidates seeking to run in the November general election and implemented a 90-day petition period. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief to prohibit Arkansas from prohibiting the enforcement of these provisions, both for the 2020 general election and for all subsequent general elections. The case was assigned to Judge Kristine Gerhard Baker.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on April 30, 2020 and the defendants filed an answer on May 14. On June 24, 2020, the court denied the plaintiffs’ motion and entered a judgment in favor of the defendant. The court found that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate a severe enough burden relative to the state’s regulatory interest in managing elections. This reasoning also disposed of the Equal Protection claim. 468 F. Supp. 3d 1064.

One of the plaintiffs appealed this district court's ruling to the Eighth Circuit on June 26, 2020 and the November 2020 election took place while the appeal was pending. Reasoning that the plaintiff's candidacy had ended and that the case was therefore no longer "live," the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal as moot on July 2, 2021. The plaintiff argued that the case fell within the capable-of-repetition-yet-evading-review exception to mootness, but the court disagreed, finding that the plaintiff had not demonstrated a reasonable expectation that he would be subjected to the challenged laws again. 3 F.4th 1045.

Sarah Bender - 03/26/2021
Rachel Harrington - 09/06/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
General
Voting
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Voting
Candidate qualifications
Election administration
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Secretary of State for the State of Arkansas
Plaintiff Description Independent candidates for public office
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 04/29/2020
Case Closing Year 2021
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Whitfield v. Thurston
Healthy Elections Project
Date: Sep. 7, 2020
By: Healthy Elections Project
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
E.D. Ark.
07/02/2020
4:20-cv-00466-KGB
VR-AR-0194-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Ark.
04/29/2020
Complaint [ECF# 1]
VR-AR-0194-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Ark.
06/24/2020
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law [ECF# 28] (468 F.Supp.3d 1064)
VR-AR-0194-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
07/02/2021
Opinion of the Court (3 F.4th 1045)
VR-AR-0194-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Baker, Kristine Gerhard (E.D. Ark.) show/hide docs
VR-AR-0194-0002 | VR-AR-0194-9000
Benton, William Duane (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-AR-0194-0003
Grasz, Leonard Steven (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-AR-0194-0003
Gruender, Raymond W. (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-AR-0194-0003
Plaintiff's Lawyers Hyman, William Whitfield (Arkansas) show/hide docs
VR-AR-0194-0001 | VR-AR-0194-9000
Linger, James C. (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
VR-AR-0194-0001 | VR-AR-0194-0002 | VR-AR-0194-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bronni, Nicholas Jacob (Arkansas) show/hide docs
VR-AR-0194-0002 | VR-AR-0194-9000
Jacobs, Dylan L (Arkansas) show/hide docs
VR-AR-0194-9000
Mosley, Michael Allen (Arkansas) show/hide docs
VR-AR-0194-9000
Wagner, Vincent Moore (Arkansas) show/hide docs
VR-AR-0194-9000

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