Bolstered by a unique political environment, the national Libertarian Party believes it could get on the ballot in all 50 states for the first time in two decades. But New England’s onerous ballot access rules stand in the way. National polls show both the Democratic and Republican nominees to be unpopular among voters — a situation that some political experts say is an opening for the Libertarians. While it’s extremely unlikely the Libertarians could win the presidential race, they could influence the final results — and make an unprecedented mark on political history. Currently Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico, and his running mate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, also a Republican, are on the ballot in 33 states. Of the remaining states where they are trying to get on the ballot, five are in New England. The only state in the region where they have made the ballot is Vermont.
A federal appeals court is set to hear arguments in a lawsuit by the Libertarian Party seeking to strike down a New Hampshire law that it argues could prevent third-party candidates from getting on the ballot. The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire is challenging a 2014 law that requires a third party seeking to gain access to the ballot through verified signatures to collect those signatures during the same year as the election. Judge Paul Barbadoro upheld the law last year, finding that it creates reasonable restrictions that are justified by the state’s interest in requiring parties to demonstrate a sufficient level of support. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston is set to hear the Libertarian Party’s appeal Monday.
A federal judge has refused to block a 2015 Arizona law that its legislative proponents admit was designed to try to keep minor-party candidates off the ballot. U.S. District Judge David Campbell said Friday the Arizona Libertarian Party, in waiting until last month to challenge the statute, did not leave enough time for him to consider the merits of its claims or for Secretary of State Michele Reagan to defend the law. That’s because the deadline for candidates to file their nominating petitions is June 1. Campbell said there was no reason for challengers to wait as long as they did before asking him to void the law.
A federal judge delivered a legal victory Friday to Ohio’s elections chief and a voter sued by Libertarians for their roles in disqualifying the party’s gubernatorial candidate from 2014 fall ballots. A lawyer for the Libertarian Party of Ohio said the party plans to appeal. The party sued Secretary of State Jon Husted and voter Greg Felsoci, alleging they were part of a scheme to selectively enforce Ohio election law to help Republican Gov. John Kasich’s re-election bid. At the time, the third-party gubernatorial candidacy of Libertarian Charlie Earl was seen as potentially drawing votes from Kasich, who later easily won re-election. The lawsuit alleged that improperly singling out the party’s candidates violates the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause.
Republicans and Democrats are going to keep their preferred — and exclusive — spots on Arizona voter registration forms. Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to disturb lower court rulings which upheld a 2011 Arizona law that only the two parties with the highest number of adherents get to be listed on the forms. The justices rebuffed contentions of the Arizona Libertarian Party that the practice is both unfair and illegal. Monday’s ruling is a victory for Republicans who approved the law in what GOP lawmakers admitted was a bid to slow the tide of people not registering with their party. It also exhausts all avenues of appeal for the Libertarians. Until 2011, those registering to vote were given a blank line to insert their preferred party choice.
A group of Mainers attempting to establish an official Libertarian Party here has sued the secretary of state’s office, claiming that Maine’s rules for establishing a political party are unconstitutional and that there is not an adequate process for appealing decisions by the state. The suit centers on failed efforts last year by the Libertarian Party of Maine Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Brunswick, to become the fourth recognized political party in Maine. It alleges that Maine law violates First and 14th Amendment constitutional rights. Filed Jan. 4 in U.S. District Court by Portland-based attorney John Branson, the suit names as defendants Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn and Assistant Director of Elections Tracy Willett, all in their official capacities.
The Libertarian Party has filed a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut, challenging laws pertaining to gathering signatures on petitions to place candidates on election ballots. Specifically, the Libertarians object to a provision that requires Connecticut residents to gather the signatures. The lawsuit is part of a national effort by the Libertarians, the nation’s third largest political party, which has resulted in similar laws being overturned in 11 other states and the District of Columbia. The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut has joined Day Pitney in bringing the suit on behalf of the party. “For us, it’s a First Amendment issue,” said Dan Barrett, legal director for the ACLU of Connecticut. “Evert [federal appeals court] has concluded that restrictions like this are a major restriction to reach voters. This is democracy, [the issue is] letting the party get its message to the people and to get on the ballot.”
National: Libertarians, Greens ready lawsuit against Commission on Presidential Debates | The Washington Post
The Libertarian Party and Green Party and their 2012 candidates for president are readying a legal complaint against the Commission on Presidential Debates, hoping that a new legal argument — an anti-trust argument — will break the “duopoly” that’s dominated the stage. The legal complaint, which was sent early to The Washington Post, argues that a “cognizable political campaign market” is being corrupted by the commission’s rules. The commission, a private entity set up after the League of Women Voters’ 1992 debates allowed third party candidate Ross Perot to participate, has withstood yearly assaults from the likes of Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, and former Congressman Bob Barr. None of them have gotten past a 1999 commission rule: No candidate gets onstage unless he or she is polling at 15 percent or better.
Ohio Republicans spent more than half a million dollars on a successful bid to keep Libertarian Party gubernatorial* candidate Charlie Earl off the state ballot last year. The GOP initially balked at the accusation that they had engaged in any dirty dealings to thwart Earl’s candidacy. Then, in a federal lawsuit filed by the Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO), District Judge Michael H. Watson found that it was “obvious” that “operatives or supporters of the Ohio Republican Party” had indeed hired a “dupe” to bring about Earl’s electoral demise. Unfortunately, the dupe—Gregory Felsoci, an LPO member who filed a formal complaint with the secretary of state’s office challenging signatures the party collected—did have a point, the judge decided: Earl’s petition circulators had not disclosed that they were being paid by the LPO.
A recent court filing showed the Ohio Republican Party’s legal bills in the challenge to 2014 Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Charlie Earl are almost $600,000 — nearly double the amount previously disclosed. The additional spending was documented as part of the Libertarian party’s lawsuit against Secretary of State Jon Husted. It challenges Husted’s decision to disqualify Earl.
The state’s Elections Commission dismissed a complaint May 21 alleging that Republican Gov. John Kasich’s re-election campaign played a role in getting a Libertarian candidate bumped from last year’s gubernatorial ballot. Attorneys for Libertarian Charlie Earl argued that Kasich’s campaign and GOP consultant Terry Casey conspired in a successful protest that disqualified Earl from the 2014 governor’s race and that Casey’s resulting legal bills constitute an unreported in-kind contribution to the campaign. They sought a $720,000 fine against Kasich’s team. The elections panel ruled otherwise. Members voted 5-2 to dismiss the complaint, finding that Earl lacked the evidence to show a coordinated effort.
Republicans may try to block independents from participating in future party primaries after their turnout in last month’s election — close to one vote out of every seven — may have affected some races. A.J. LaFaro, chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Committee, said he wants the party’s lawyers to find ways around the 1998 voter-approved measure which allows independents to participate in choosing the nominees of any recognized party. He said independents who may not believe in the party’s “conservative values’ are affecting who ultimately runs under the GOP banner. Carolyn Cox, his Pima County counterpart, said she agrees that independents may be having an unwanted influence on GOP politics. “I just think it’s kind of unfortunate when people who are not in the party are selecting who the party is going to have as a candidate,’ she said. The state party isn’t quite ready to make the push toward closing the primary — yet.
Four years after the Libertarian Party of Tennessee filed its first lawsuit to get on the ballot, the group is still fighting for access in a state that has some of the most restrictive rules in the country for smaller political parties. Since 2010, the Libertarians, the Green Party of Tennessee and the Constitution Party of Tennessee have been in near-constant litigation with the state. They have won several victories, and the legislature has changed the law slightly. But the parties say the hurdles for them to get their names on the ballot are still unreasonably high. A 2010 federal court ruling in one of the cases stated that Tennessee was one of only two states where no third parties had qualified for the ballot over the previous decade. Individual candidates can appear on Tennessee’s ballot simply by submitting a petition with 25 signatures, but they will appear as independents unless their parties have qualified to appear on the ballot as well. For a party to appear on the ballot, it must collect more than 40,000 signatures. If the party wants to stay on the ballot, one of its candidates must garner more than 80,000 votes.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office is taking up a complaint filed by the Libertarian Party candidate that voter intimidation tactics were used by Republicans in an attempt to kick the party off the ballot. The allegation includes a gun-toting private investigator that paid house visits to verify petitions. The AG’s office confirmed a verbal complaint was made with the public integrity unit. The office is looking into the matter, a spokeswoman said. Early & Often columnist Dan Mihalopoulos was the first to report that private investigators were armed with guns while working for the Republican effort to remove the Libertarians from the November ballot.
We know, we know: Politics ain’t beanbag. But politics doesn’t have to be rotten and nefarious either. Yet oodles of people who run for office in this state will tell you of strong-arm tactics they endured, sometimes from their own party, to get their names on an Illinois ballot. It’s shameful. Sincere candidates who believe in public service spend months walking door-to-door collecting signatures — one of the purest elements of democratic elections — only to get kicked off the ballot through dishonest means. The latest allegation of skulduggery accuses Republican Party leaders of trying to remove Libertarian Party candidates from the Nov. 4 ballot, ostensibly to protect GOP candidate for governor Bruce Rauner. Rauner would compete more easily in a one-on-one race with Gov. Pat Quinn with no Libertarian candidate siphoning off votes. Rauner says he knew nothing of the alleged intimidation.
Kentucky: State Republicans question Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate’s ballot signatures | Lexington Herald-Leader
The Republican Party of Kentucky has asked the state’s county clerks to review and verify the signatures that Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate David Patterson filed to get on the ballot. State GOP chairman Steve Robertson told the Herald-Leader on Thursday that Republicans found “clearly fictitious and fabricated names,” citing an example of a signature belonging to a purported voter named “Ben Dover” who listed his address as an obscene phrase. In a letter to county clerks, Robertson asked the clerks to verify the names and addresses of people who signed a petition in favor of Patterson getting on the ballot with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell.
A federal judge ruled Thursday against the South Dakota Libertarian Party in an attempt to add its Public Utilities Commission candidate to the November general election ballot. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol heard arguments and concluded Secretary of State Jason Gant followed state law last week in declaring Ryan Gaddy, of Sioux Falls, ineligible to run for the office because he didn’t change his party affiliation from Republican in time to be nominated at the Libertarian convention. “It seems to the court Secretary Gant had no alternative other than to deny the application,” Piersol said. He also deemed constitutional a state law requiring candidates to be members of the party that nominates them.
South Dakota’s Libertarian Party asked a federal judge Wednesday to stop Secretary of State Jason Gant from printing November general election ballots without the name of its candidate for the state Public Utilities Commission. Gant last week ruled Ryan Gaddy ineligible to run for the office, saying Gaddy didn’t comply with a state law that requires candidates to be members of the party that nominates them. Gaddy changed his party affiliation from Republican at the Libertarian convention, but the official paperwork wasn’t filed until later. That meant Gaddy was still a Republican at the time of his Libertarian nomination, a violation of state law, according to Gant.
New Jersey: Third parties say Democrats and Republicans shouldn’t get top ballot spots this year | Star-Ledger
With all 21 county clerks about to draw candidate positions for the general election, some New Jersey third parties are preparing to take legal action to get their candidates equal billing with Democrats and Republicans in November. At issue is the state’s law that has allowed the Democratic and Republican Parties to get the two top slots on the ballot every November. If the two major parties get priority, officials in at least two political organizations — the Democratic-Repubilcans and the Libertarians — say they’ll sue. “Either the Libertarian Party and people of New Jersey will have won a history victory for ballot equality, or we’re going to have a historic battle on our hands,” said Patrick McKnight , chairman of the Libertarian Party. “I’m hoping for the former, but preparing for the latter.” Fred LaVergne, a “Democratic-Republican” candidate Congress in the 3rd District, said he plans a separate suit. County clerks hold drawings to determine where candidates go on the ballot after the Secretary of State certifies the primary election results. But under New Jersey law, political parties get a special “party column” if, in their primary elections, they received at least 10 percent of the total number of votes that were cast for Assembly candidates in the preceding general election. The party column means they’re at the top of the ballot.
The United States has a rich history of third parties. In 1856, Millard Fillmore made a strong run for president on the Whig-American ticket. Fifty-six years later, Theodore Roosevelt captured 27 percent of the popular vote as the Progressive Party’s candidate. Ross Perot made his mark in 1992 and again, although to a lesser extent, in 1996 with the Reform Party. But the number of votes won don’t tell the whole story. In local and national races, third-party candidates often contribute to an election by pushing the Republican and Democratic candidates on issues they might otherwise avoid. If they do it effectively, as Perot did in 1992, the system benefits. Last week, it became a little harder for third parties to play that role in New Hampshire. On Monday, the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire over a change to state law that makes it more difficult for third parties to collect the signatures needed for inclusion on election ballots.
The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union is suing the state over a new law that it says will stack the deck against third parties trying to gain ballot access. The lawsuit, filed July 22 on behalf of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, challenges a requirement that nomination papers for a political organization “be signed and dated in the year of the election.” It compresses the time frame to collect these signatures and poses a hindrance for the Libertarian Party to compete, according to Gilles Bissonnette, staff attorney for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. “This law strips away voter choice,” he said in an interview.
The Libertarian Party of Ohio immediately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday after a lower court denied its attempt to get a gubernatorial candidate on Tuesday’s primary ballot. Their candidate, Charlie Earl, was disqualified by Secretary of State Jon Husted after his nominating petitions were challenged. Husted agreed with a hearing officer who found two Earl petitioners failed to properly disclose their employers.
Democrats this week unveiled legislation that aims to correct some of the legal conflicts revealed last summer during recall elections of two Senate Democrats that nullified mail balloting and contributed to the Democrats’ loss. During an impromptu media availability hosted by Senate Democrats on Monday, lawmakers proposed a measure that would modify a provision in state statute that allows a person to petition onto a recall election ballot 15 days before the election date. The provision was highlighted during a Denver District Court case this summer challenging the recall elections of then-Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and then-Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo. Both lawmakers were subsequently ousted from office for their support of gun control after the court allowed the elections to continue. The Libertarian Party of Colorado filed the lawsuit, arguing that they had not missed a 10-day deadline to submit signatures in order to petition a successor candidate onto the ballot. The case pointed out that state law mandates that ballots be mailed no later than 18 days before the election. But the state constitution requires that successor candidates have up to 15 days before the election to submit signatures.
Libertarian candidates for Ohio governor and attorney general were rightly disqualified from the ballot, a federal judge said Wednesday, upholding a ruling this month by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Husted had removed gubernatorial candidate Charlie Earl and attorney general candidate Steven Linnabary from the ballot because people who gathered the 500 signatures they each needed to qualify did not identify their employers, as required by Ohio law. That law is constitutional, Judge Michael Watson said Wednesday. “The public interest is best served by allowing Ohio to acquire the identities of petition circulators and those who pay them in order to detect and deter fraud in the election process,” Watson said in his decision.
Charles Earl is trying to run for governor of Ohio. A native of Bowling Green, the one-time Republican state representative now represents the Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO). As the LPO’s gubernatorial candidate, Earl would challenge current Republican Gov. John Kasich and Democrat Ed Fitzgerald come November 2014, possibly siphoning off dissatisfied Ohio voters from Kasich. But Earl’s candidacy is currently in limbo. Last week, Earl received a letter from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted disqualifying him from the May primary ballot. Earl was disqualified on the grounds that those circulating petitions for his inclusion weren’t Libertarian Party members and/or failed to disclose themselves as paid LPO employees.
Ohio: Husted disqualifies 2 Libertarian candidates from May primary after protests | Associated Press
Two Libertarian candidates for statewide office were tossed from Ohio’s primary ballot on Friday in a state election chief’s ruling that sparked immediate plans for a legal challenge. Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a brief statement in disqualifying gubernatorial candidate Charlie Earl and attorney general candidate Steven Linnabary from the May 6 primary, saying he had adopted a hearing officer’s recommendations. The candidates’ nominating petitions were challenged on two grounds: that signature gatherers failed to comply with Ohio laws requiring them to be either Libertarian or political independent and another requiring them to disclose their employer. Mark Brown, an attorney for the Libertarian Party of Ohio, said the party will challenge the decision in federal court.
Maryland: Baltimore legislator wants to invite third parties to the political process | Baltimore City Paper
Baltimore City state Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-46th District) is worried about the state of democracy in Baltimore, across Maryland, and countrywide. “Voting is the fundamental building block of any democracy,” he says, “and the numbers of those voting is a smaller percentage than it should or could be, particularly if you look at age cohorts of young and middle-aged voters.” This creates a “looming” problem for democracy, he concludes, so lawmakers need to find “new ways to reach citizens no matter their political persuasion,” so that society has “an informed populace that engages in the process” of electing its leaders. The dismal state of voting affairs in Baltimore City were made manifest, to much public hand-wringing, in the 2011 mayoral election. In the Democratic primary—the tally that, by default, determines the winner in this nearly one-party burg—victor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake got 38,829 votes, 8 percent of Baltimore’s voting-age population. Less than 10 percent of some districts’ electorates backed the winners in the City Council races.
Ohio: Are Libertarians becoming a third key player in Ohio’s statewide elections? Party again filed a full slate of candidates | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Elections in Ohio are traditionally two-party affairs, with the alternative parties putting up candidates for a smattering of races. But has Ohio moved toward having three regular participants in its statewide contests? Two political scientists told Northeast Ohio Media Group this week that the the Libertarian Party of Ohio might become a credible third party because of divisions among Republicans. Libertarians this week filed a full slate of candidates for the partisan statewide contests that are up for election in November. Charlie Earl, a former Republican state representative, and Sherry Clark topped that ticket as candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. The party also put up candidates for auditor of state, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer.
Minor political parties fighting to get on the ballot in Tennessee were given a chance to air their views Monday, but they left the Capitol disappointed. In a meeting held on the eve of the start of the 2014 legislative session, representatives for the Libertarian, Constitution and Green parties presented plans that would have slashed the number of signatures needed for minor parties to be recognized by state election officials. But state lawmakers would agree only to a nonbinding recommendation to lower the requirement for local and statehouse races. The decision frustrated representatives for third parties, which have sued state officials over rules that they say have been designed to thwart them.
A federal judge on Tuesday blocked newly imposed Ohio limits to ballot access for minor parties, increasing the chances that Republican Gov. John Kasich will face a third-party challenger this fall. U.S. District Judge Michael Watson in Columbus issued his preliminary injunction in a constitutional challenge filed by the Libertarian Party of Ohio to a law that opponents call “The John Kasich Re-election Protection Act.” The legislation’s sponsor disputes the characterization. And Kasich has said he didn’t request the bill. The law, signed by the governor in November, established what qualifies as a political party and what percentage of the vote must be won to maintain that status. The previous qualifications were deemed unconstitutional in 2006, and third parties had been qualifying for the ballot at the secretary of state’s discretion.