Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office announced on Dec. 9 that the Libertarian Party is not considered a qualified party for ballot access.
State law requires minor parties to prove that they have at least 5,000 members by Dec. 1 of the year prior to an election in order to obtain ballot access. The Libertarian Party of Maine submitted 6,400 party registration cards on Dec. 1 of 2015, but the request for ballot access was reportedly rejected when officials failed to process all of the submitted cards in advance of the deadline.
By the end of the day on Dec. 1, Maine officials had only processed 4,489 of the Libertarian Party’s registration cards, leaving the official count just shy of the required number, despite the fact that almost 2,000 more of the party’s registration cards had been submitted but not processed.
Ballot Access News’ Richard Winger, an expert on U.S. election law, suggested that the Libertarian Party might have grounds for a legal challenge against the ruling and wrote, “It is extremely likely that the December 1 deadline is unconstitutionally early. Courts have struck down early petition or registration deadlines for a group to qualify for party status in Alabama (April was too early), Arkansas (January was too early), California (January was too early), Idaho (May was too early), Nebraska (February was too early), Nevada (April was too early), New Mexico (April was too early), Ohio (November of the year before the election was too early), South Dakota (February was too early), and Tennessee (April was too early). All of those were procedures to qualify a party, not procedures for candidates.”
He added, “The earliest deadline for a new party to qualify that was upheld [in the courts] was the Alabama March deadline, but the reason it was upheld was that Alabama had its primary for all office in March. In the past, when Alabama had a June primary for all office, the April petition deadline was held unconstitutional. The Maine primary is June 14, 2016.”
Winger also noted that, in the case of general election ballot access qualifications for individual independent candidates, “A US District Court invalidated Maine’s non-presidential independent candidate petition deadline of April in Stoddard v Quinn, in 1984.”
For context, the Truth in Media Project released a Consider This video in July of 2015 highlighting the fact that independent voters now outnumber Republicans and Democrats. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.