The Libertarian Party can proceed with its challenge to a New Hampshire law that the group claims could prevent its candidates from getting on the ballot, a federal judge ruled.
To have its nominees on the New Hampshire general election ballot, a third party has to win at least 4 percent of the vote for either governor or U.S. senator in the most recent election, or by collecting signatures equal to 3 percent of the total votes cast during the previous election.
Because of a law that took effect in July, parties can’t gather those signatures until Jan. 1 of the election year.
New Hampshire contends that this is to ensure that the signatures on nomination papers are valid. The Libertarian Party sued, saying that it would make it difficult, if not downright impossible, for the Party to petition its way on the ballot.
The state asked the court to dismiss the suit, but U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro said no. In his ruling, he pointed out that the right to vote must be balanced against the state’s interest in conducting orderly elections.
“The state offers a number of arguments in favor of dismissal, but none are persuasive,” he wrote.
For the 2016 election, the Libertarian Party would need to collect 14,864 signatures, in a shorter time than previously.
“This signature-collection process is like a marathon that’s hard enough just to finish, and now the state is essentially demanding that the Libertarian Party run the marathon in less than two hours. This is unfair and unconstitutional,” said attorney William Christie, co-counsel on the case along with the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, to the Associated Press.
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