After a lawsuit with a tortuous history of setbacks and quasi-victories, the Maine Libertarian Party has just one more day to qualify for petition-less ballot access for the Gary Johnson/William Weld presidential ticket via proving they have 5,000 voters registered with the Party in the state by the end of tomorrow, July 12.
As explained by ballot access mastermind Richard Winger in his indispensable Ballot Access News, the Party's suit against the state's overly restrictive and demanding policies for such access had an unusual success—"the first ballot access win for minor parties or independent candidates in Maine since 1986."
The Party actually succeeded in getting U.S. District Court Judge John A. Woodcock to change his mind, having initially refused to enjoin Maine from enforcing its original deadline of last December 1 for the 5,000 registrants in April, then changing his mind in late May.
In the second order, Woodcock wrote that "Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on their claim that Maine's party-certification deadline of December 1 is unconstitutionally early."
The Party did submit 6,482 signatures by that old deadline, but had 1,969 of them rejected for problems such as illegible handwriting or blanks on the form. For normal candidates, an administrative procedure for trying to revalidate petitions exists, but the Maine L.P. had no other option but this lawsuit.
A weird wrinkle Winger notes:
When the Secretary of State had rejected the party's filing in December 2015, he had also had all the Libertarian registrants converted to independents, without even asking them first. The order does not require election officials to change these applicants back to Libertarians. It is not clear what will happen once the party does qualify. The party has already obtained more than 487 new Libertarian registrations, and those registration forms will be submitted soon.
Here are the instructions for Maine folk interested in doing so.
The Maine L.P.'s Facebook page as of three days ago said they needed only 99 more to qualify; this afternoon, the national Party's Ballot Access Committee Chair Ken Moellman was very confident, saying he knows at least 107 have been turned in since that announcement.
The registrations have to be turned in on the town level, making the whole process far more granular and difficult to manage. Moellman says he knows many town clerks were failing to properly note registered voters as Libertarian, since it had to be done by hand; there was no pre-printed line for it. The state's secretary of state has instructed town clerks to make sure everyone past and future who selected Libertarian is properly registered, Moellman says.
If the 5,000 registered voters by tomorrow method fails, then the Party still has the more expensive petition route to pursue: 4,000 signatures by the end of July.
Independent Voter Network with a good detailed story on the lawsuit's initial filing back in January.
In other, less great ballot access news, the Party, unless it wins an ongoing lawsuit, will not be able to get the Johnson/Weld ticket on the ballot in Ohio with the L.P. party identification, though they are still petitioning to get them on the ballot as independents, which has a later deadline of August 10 for 5,000 signatures collected. Elizabeth Nolan Brown reported for us earlier on the nasty political manueverings behind Ohio GOP attempts to keep Libertarian off the ballot in Ohio.