(CN) - California correctly excluded a 27-year-old activist from the 2012 presidential ballot because she was too young to serve, the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday.
"Like Stephen Colbert before her, Peta Lindsay didn't want to become president of the United States," the nine-page decision opens. "She just wanted to run."
Aside from being the 2012 choice for the Peace and Freedom Party, which describes itself as "California's Feminist Socialist Political Party," the anti-war activist Lindsay was also the nominee for the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
She and Peace and Freedom filed suit after California Secretary of State Debra Bowen found Lindsay ineligible for the state's primary ballot in the last presidential race.
U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell tossed the case in Sacramento, finding that Lindsay, at 27, would be constitutionally ineligible to take office if she were elected. The U.S. Constitution requires the president to be at least 35 years old.
On appeal in the 9th Circuit, Lindsay argued, among other things, that she was denied the right to "present and support an alternative to the two-party system."
Unanimously affirming dismissal on Tuesday, a three-judge appellate panel found that no such right exists, and that the state has a legitimate interest in protecting its elections from "frivolous" candidacies.
While Colbert was in his 40s and thus could have run if the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns via his Comedy Central show "The Colbert Report" launched him into office, it was undisputed that Lindsay "couldn't hold the office for which she was trying to run," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the panel.
"Holding that Secretary Bowen couldn't exclude Lindsay from the ballot, despite her admission that she was underage, would mean that anyone, regardless of age, citizenship or any other constitutional ineligibility would be entitled to clutter and confuse our electoral ballot," Kozinski wrote. "Nothing in the First Amendment compels such an absurd result."
The panel likewise rejected Lindsay's equal-protection claim, which raised the old issue of whether John McCain, who was born on a Navy base in the Panama Canal Zone, was truly eligible for the 2008 presidential race.
"But, at worst, McCain's eligibility was disputed," Kozinski wrote. "He never conceded that he was ineligible to serve, and it was generally assumed that he could."
Lindsay was represented by Robert Barnes of Malibu, Calif. Barnes did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.