Third Parties Struggle to Gain Access to State Ballots

As IVN contributor AJ Signieri described in June, third parties in Illinois struggle to secure a place on the state’s general election ballots. If a party’s nominee for governor does not cross the 5 percent threshold, the party is considered a “new party” and must collect at least 25,000 signatures to appear on the next ballot. “Established parties” that cross this threshold — the Democratic and Republican parties — only need to collect 5,000 signatures.

This year, three minor parties collected the requisite number of signatures, including the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, and the Constitution Party.

However, the established parties in Illinois are challenging the validity of thousands of these signatures — enough to push each party below the 25,000 mark and keep them off November’s ballot.

For instance, John Fogarty, general counsel for the Illinois Republican Party, represented two objectors who are challenging 23,791 signatures in support of the Libertarian Party. The party collected roughly 43,000 signatures all together.

Objectors tied to the Democratic Party in Illinois are alsoquestioning approximately 12,000 of the Green Party’s 30,000 collected signatures, including the signature of Sheldon Schafer, the party’s candidate for secretary of state.

The Green Party has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s legal hurdles for minor parties. The lawsuit stresses the financial liabilities incurred by third parties, which must provide representatives to vouch for individual signatures during a process that can last an entire week.

The lawsuit also contests the mandate that minor parties run a full slate of candidates – a mandate that does not apply to the state’s established parties.

The Constitution Party, whose signatures the Republican Party has also challenged, has declared its intent to join the Green Party’s lawsuit in Summers v. Smart.

In Pennsylvania, the Libertarian and Green parties both failed to collect the requisite number of signatures — approximately 17,000 — to contest the gubernatorial race in November. In June 2014, both parties also filed a federal lawsuit challenging strict rules concerning the collection and notarization of signatures.

In July 2014, New Hampshire’s Libertarian Party challenged a new law that bars parties from petitioning for party status in odd years — a stipulation that poses a significant barrier to minor parties given the state’s high threshold for appearing on the ballot. A judge extended the deadline for the state to respond to the lawsuit, pushing it back to September 2014.

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