The Libertarian Party of Arkansas is claiming an “important victory” in its challenge of 2019 state laws aimed at making it harder for political parties to qualify for the ballot.
Federal Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday against the law that raised the petition requirement for a party to qualify for the ballot from 10,000 signatures to 3 percent of the votes cast in the last governor’s race (26,746).
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The Republican-dominated legislature passed several laws to make ballot access harder. The particular target was the Libertarian Party because it’s seen as a threat to lure Republican voters. The party also challenged a 90-day window for gathering signatures. The judge sounded sympathetic to that argument, too. She wrote:
“There is no record evidence before the Court that explains the State’s interest – let alone a compelling one – in requiring new political parties to meet the three percent requirement, file a petition more than a year in advance of the general election, and collect signatures in a 90-day window.”
She didn’t enjoin the new deadline or 90-day window, however, because of concerns about upsetting the overall election timetable already underway. But the Libertarian Party said it had already gathered more than 18,000 signatures and submitted them to the secretary of state for certification so as to meet those rules.
There will be a full trial of the case in May. Michael Pakko, chair of the Libertarians, predicted the decision Wednesday means the party will be on the ballot.
“This ruling vindicates our complaints all along. Act 164 was nothing more than an effort to restrict competition in the political process by making it more difficult, if not impossible, for the Libertarian Party to continue to challenge the status quo duopoly. The judge’s ruling gives us an opportunity to put Libertarian candidates before the voters in 2020, and I’m confident that a final ruling will help us level the playing field for all alternative political parties in the future.”
A side note: This development came during a week in which there was Twitter traffic inspired by Republican Sen. Bob Ballinger’s declarations about his party’s advocacy of less government and more freedom.
I get your frustration with my Party, but it is not refutable that one major party embraces more government in their platform & one advocates for less. Implementation of those ideas is far from perfect, but every effective advocate for ideas that advance liberty are in the #GOP.
— Bob Ballinger (@Bob_Ballinger) July 4, 2019
Liberty? I and other critics responded to Ballinger by noting Republican laws restricting women’s medical rights (also currently under challenge in federal court); making it harder to vote; depriving local governments of home rule; protecting discrimination against sexual minorities, and overriding colleges on gun regulation. I’m sorry I forgot to mention the effort to restrict ballot access. Ballinger loves government when it can punish his enemies.
What Bob really means, of course, is that his party stands for liberty for his (and his church’s) point of view, but not so much for others.