CONCORD — The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union today praised the U.S. District Court’s refusal to dismiss a lawsuit by the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire challenging a new state law the party and NHCLU say restricts ballot access and “voter choice” in the state.
House Bill 1542 requires a third party seeking to gain access to the ballot by collecting certified signatures to obtain those signatures in the same year in which the election is being held.”
“This may sound benign,” the NHCLU said, “but it will make the task of obtaining ballot access far more difficult — if not impossible — for third parties.”
The Attorney General’s Office moved to dismiss the suit, but the motion was denied today by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro.
“This law limits voter choice and stacks the deck against candidates who — like roughly 40 percent of Granite Staters — don’t belong to a major party,” said Gilles Bissonnette, NHCLU staff attorney.
The judge ruled, “The Libertarian Party is entitled to proceed with its case under the fact-dependent framework that the Supreme Court has formulated for ballot access claims.”
The NHCLU said that under the new law, third parties “now have only seven months, —from Jan. 1 to early August — to collect the number of signatures necessary to get on the ballot. Given the harsh winter months, this new compressed time period is, in reality, much shorter. And the number of signatures that must be collected during this time frame is huge, 3 percent of the total votes cast during the prior election. For example, to get on the ballot for the 2014 election, 21,330 signatures were required.”
The NHCLU said that during the 2000 and 2012 election cycles, the Libertarian Party collected the nearly 10,000 and more than 13,600 certified signatures, respectively, necessary for the party to get on the ballot. “But to meet these high thresholds in what was already an arduous process, the party had to start collecting signatures before the year of the actual election — namely, in 1999 and 2011. However, under HB1542, the Libertarian Party is now prohibited from collecting signatures prior to the election year, thus hampering its ability to obtain ballot access in future elections.”