Free Speech

"U.S. District Court Puts Maine Libertarian Party on the Ballot for 2022"

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Richard Winger (Ballot Access News) reports on today's decision by Judge Lance E. Walker (D. Me.) in Baines v. Bellows:

The order puts the Libertarian Party on the ballot for the 2022 election. It allows Libertarians who want to get on the June Libertarian primary ballot to collect nomination signatures from independent voters as well as Libertarian registrants.

Primary petitions require 2,000 signatures for Governor, so it still won't be easy for Libertarians to get on the Libertarian primary ballot for Governor, because the only voters who can sign will be about one-third of the electorate. U.S. House candidates need 1,000 signatures. But it will be easy for Libertarians running for the legislature to get on the Libertarian primary ballot, because State Senate candidates need 100 signatures and State House candidates need 25.

Ballot access law is its own complicated corner of First Amendment law, and while I know some things about it, I can't claim to be a real expert; here is an excerpt, though, from the Nov. 11 summary judgment opinion (today's decision announces the remedy for the constitutional violation identified there):

This is a case about the legal-political infrastructure that an association of like-minded  citizens must navigate in Maine to qualify for ballot access as a minor political party and that party candidates must navigate to demonstrate local public support for their candidacies. At its root, the question to be answered is whether the legal edifice Maine has erected around ballot access for minor political parties is a reasonable safeguard or an impermissible rearguard depriving them of the freedom to associate for political ends and to equal protection under the law ….

And from today's decision:

In the [Summary Judgment] Order, I determined that the provision of Maine law forbidding candidates in ballot-qualified minor parties from demonstrating popular support based on nomination signatures collected from within-district, unenrolled voters deprives such candidates of their right of political association with like-minded voters who are not adherents of another party. I also determined that Defendant's "batch unenrollment" policy—under which the Secretary of State (the "Secretary") automatically unenrolls a party's members when the party loses ballot access for failure to enroll 10,000 voters—violated the associational rights of the Libertarian Party of Maine (the "Party") where it retained in excess of 5,000 voters at the time.