Arkansas Libertarians File Lawsuit Against New Ballot Access Restriction, Receive Newspaper Coverage

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Once again, the Libertarian Party of Arkansas will have to collect petition signatures to become a “new” political party in 2020. The state’s election laws put obstacles in our way, but we are committed to growing the party’s influence as a clear voice of Liberty in Arkansas politics. And we can only do that if we’re able to put our candidates on the ballot.

We face a challenging task: We must gather valid signatures of 10,000 registered voters within a 90-day period during 2019. We’ll need volunteer support to collect signatures, but we’ll also need financing for expenses and to hire professional canvassers. Due to recent budget constraints, the national LP cannot promise us the financial support that we need to get it done — we have to do it ourselves.
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Ballot Access News:

On March 28, the Arkansas Libertarian Party filed a federal lawsuit against the new Arkansas ballot access for newly-qualifying parties. Libertarian Party of Arkansas v Thurston, 4:19cv-214. The case is assigned to Judge Kristine Baker, an Obama appointee.

Last month the state raised the number of signatures from 10,000 to 3% of the last gubernatorial vote, which for 2020 is 26,746 signatures.

Arkansas also required a petition of 3% of the last gubernatorial vote in 1996, when the Reform Party tried and failed to qualify. The Reform Party then sued and won its lawsuit. The 3% petition was declared unconstitutional, given the historical record that it had been in effect since 1977 and never been used successfully. The state appealed, but then dropped its appeal. However the legislature didn’t change the 3% requirement. It did move the deadline from January to May, and permitted five months to obtain the signatures, and said if the original petition was judged deficient, the party had two more weeks to get more signatures. Later the May deadline was moved earlier, and just this month the deadline was moved still earlier, to September of the year before the election.

The Green Party sued over the 3% in 2006, and it won its case also. In 2007 the legislature lowered the petition to 10,000, and action reversed by the legislature last month.

Ballot Access News:

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette has this news story about the ballot access lawsuit filed March 28 by the Arkansas Libertarian Party.

https://lpar.org/libertarians-sue-over-petition-law/

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release: 3-29-2019

The Libertarian Party of Arkansas filed a complaint in federal court yesterday seeking to overturn the provisions of a new law that makes it more difficult for third-parties to get on the ballot in Arkansas. Act 164, which was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by the governor last month, increased the number of petition signatures required for the formation of “New Political Parties” from 10,000 to 26,746 (3% of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election).

The Libertarians’ lawsuit calls the new requirement “an unconstitutional, unnecessary, and excessive petition signature requirement” that “serve[s] no compelling state interest.” It calls upon the court to declare the requirement as an unconstitutional infringement on the plaintiff’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights “to actively engage in the exercise of their free speech, right to political association, right to petition, right to form a political party, seek redress of grievances, cast an effective vote and equal protection and due process of the laws of the United States of America.”

The chair of the Libertarian Party, Michael Pakko, expressed confidence about the party’s prospects in court. “We told our legislators that they were re-establishing a standard that had been overturned in federal court back in 2006, but they passed it anyway. We have clear precedent on our side.” Pakko was referring to the case of Green Party of Arkansas v. Daniels, where the court overturned a 3% requirement that was subsequently replaced by the 10,000-signature standard.

When asked for comment, Richard Winger, a noted expert on ballot-access laws across the nation, pointed out that there have been not just one, but two cases where Arkansas’ petition requirements have been invalidated by federal courts. In 1996, Citizens to Establish a Reform Party In Arkansas v. Priest also struck down a requirement for signatures totalling 3% of the vote. “It is truly outrageous that TWICE a federal court has struck down the 3%, and yet the state has done it a third time. That makes this case unique in the whole country’s history of ballot access litigation.”

Libertarians are also challenging aspects of the more recently enacted law that shifts primary elections from May to March in presidential election years. In the process of moving primary election deadlines forward, Act 545, signed by the governor earlier this week, also affects third-parties and independent candidates. “As if to add insult to injury, they made it even more difficult by moving the deadlines,” said Pakko. “Prospective challengers to the established incumbents shouldn’t have to form parties and select candidates over a year before the general election.”

The complaint filed yesterday, Libertarian Party of Arkansas et al. v. Thurston, asks the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas to declare several provisions of recently-enacted laws as unconstitutional and to issue an injunction to permit the Libertarian Party of Arkansas to submit 10,000 valid signatures to demonstrate sufficient support for the formation of a new political party. The action would enjoin the Arkansas Secretary of State, John Thurston, from enforcing the contested provisions of the new laws.

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https://lpar.org/big-liberty-little-rock-2019/:

The annual convention of the Libertarian Party of Arkansas will take place on Saturday, April 13th, 2019 at the Comfort Inn & Suites Presidential in Little Rock.

The business meeting this year will include the election of officers and making plans for the 2020 elections. We face some new challenges and there are important strategic decisions to be made. Be a part of the future of the Libertarian Party of Arkansas – Be there!

The event will include our annual awards luncheon and a featured keynote speaker, Caryn Ann Harlos, Secretary of the Libertarian National Committee*.

2 thoughts on “Arkansas Libertarians File Lawsuit Against New Ballot Access Restriction, Receive Newspaper Coverage

  1. William T. Forrest

    Governor and state legislators should be sued under 42 US Code 1983 and 1985, then federally prosecuted under the RICO act.

  2. paulie Post author

    Governor and state legislators should be sued under 42 US Code 1983 and 1985, then federally prosecuted under the RICO act.

    Good idea. I’ve passed it along to the state party leadership.

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