Ballot Access War Heats Up in New Hampshire

The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire has taken the state to court to challenge the signature threshold so they can become a recognized party. It looks like even the justices are having a hard time swallowing the state’s defense:

Justices asked Senior Assistant Attorney General Wynn Arnold a series of tough questions about how high the bar can be set before it infringes on voting rights.

“You think the average voter is going to be confused by three parties on the ballot?” asked Chief Justice John Broderick.

[…] Attorney Paul Twomey, who was representing Libertarians and other minority parties pro bono, cited everything from the 111-party Iraqi election to the McDonald’s drive-through window in arguing that voters can handle more than two parties on their ballots. The right to vote and the right to run for office are at stake, he argued.

“The majority party gets to drive the train, but it has to run on the tracks of the Constitution,”Twomey said.

[…] Justices focused a good deal of attention on why the bar was raised in the late 1990s.

“Voters in 1996 were not confused by three parties,” Broderick said. “Three years later, in 1999, we had to protect them from confusion? You think that’s rational?”

I’m willing to bet they strike down the law when the dust settles. I’m actually hoping someone has the balls to cite first amendment free speech rights as a reason to be on the ballot (or something to that effect). If we can get a case like this with ties to civil liberties violations. it would really give Libertarians and third parties in other states an extremely cite-able case for their own attempts at killing off draconian ballot access legislature, perhaps even making it possible for us to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for action on some of these unconstitutional ballot access laws.

Update: Richard Winger of Ballot Access News had a timely comment on the NC discussion that I really sums up the issue:

The First Amendment guarantees not only freedom of speech and religion, but freedom of association. Voters have a First Amendment right to sort themselves out into whichever parties they wish. Ballot access is protected by the U.S. Constitution, and laws which keep us off the ballot violate the U.S. Constitution.

Stephen VanDyke

I've published HoT along with about 300+ friends since 2002. We're all Americans who are snarky and love our country. I'm a libertarian that registered Republican because I like to win elections. That's pretty much it.

  1. Any ‘individual’ who seeks office seems subject to ANY party in general. This fact seems to escape all erstwile litigation. Thus while we seek are parties equal entry into the electoral fray, we forget that the founders attempted to engineer ‘factions’ out of the whole messy process altogether.

    Unfortunately the power of the ‘party’ in a winner take all system soon cropped up. Additionally, any lawyer knows their professional future is also determined by the side they pick after the bar deems them worthy. Thus a supposedly impartial judge is a product of party line dogma from inception.

    The argument that all manner of whacky parties that would pop up and overburden the system is spurious at best. The marketplace of candidates was absorbed and handled by California during the recall process. Intelligent Designer forbid the shiftless hacks at your BOE be challenged with the burden of a bigger ballot and more choices.

  2. SVD, in the case of NH, the issue is the NH Constitution Article 11 (in part):

    Every inhabitant of the state, having the proper qualifications, has equal right to be elected into office.

    This case has been pending for a year and half:
    Babiarz running as a Democrat was enough to finally get it a hearing date.

    BTW, there were 2 cases heard the same day: the other was this one:
    dealing with Ballot order – who gets to be listed first?
    There is a known statistical advantage to being listed first, which says more about human nature than we might like.

  3. While I’m at it, linking to the NH Constitution, don’t miss reading Article 10:

    [Art.] 10. [Right of Revolution.] Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

    written: June 2, 1784

  4. The thought revolution is on it’s way, michelle. I see it on the horizon, as do many of us on this site.

    We are entering an age when any person can put up a web page, and simply through the power of their message, can find an audience as great as any locally produced newspaper or television station in America today.

    We have “bloggers” who influence the opinions of tens of thousands with their little quips, and we move dialy closer to the age when any person with a mind to do so can produce their own television or radio station out of their home, via the internet, and reach a worldwide audience.

    As we move toward this more diverse atmosphere, people will demand more choice from all things, from television network programming to their choice of political candidate. In this atmosphere, we in the libertarian party, shoud we capitalize on this new environment, have the opportunity to become an “ingrained” party, much like the republicans and democrats.

  5. In the future, say fifty years, we will have a five or six party system, and if teh Libertarians capitalize on this new technology, by all of us starting up a blog/website, and as many of us a possible starting up internet radio and television stations, it will pay off in out lifetimes.

    That’s what I want to see the party looking toward, on a national level, we should be building communication networks, and setting up television and radio stations/campaigns via the internet, while on a local level, county organizers just need to be making sure that there is a libertarian in every single race, and doing everything possible to promote their candidates, try to get that bug vote out. This way, in twenty years, we will have many persons who are ingrained in the political system, as well as having the comunication networks to distribute the party message.

    I dunno. One mans opinion.

  6. Think bigger than that. We shouldn’t be arguing for a seat at the table — we should be offering EVERYONE their own table and chairs. Let everyone live under the government they vote for. Why can’t we have five or six national governments? We have multiple credit card companies, banks, insurance companies, etc.

  7. If the party doesn’t meet that threshold, it has to collect the signatures of 3 percent of the total number of voters in the previous election before it can put its slate on the ballot. These days, that’s more than 20,000 signatures, Twomey said.

    Hmmmm…might this be a problem for the Free State Project?

    The Free State Project is an effort to recruit 20,000 liberty-loving people to move to New Hampshire.

  8. In fact, the FSP would increase the ability to overcome that existing threshold. If the threshold goes away, all the better.

    Establishment politicians need to face stiff primary opposition and general opposition at every turn. The more often this happens, the better.

  9. Well, it would tend to leave the FSP folks with the choice of voting Democrat or Republican since they won’t have the “more than 20,000” signatures needed to put any third party on the ballot. Also, the fact that the FSP’s 20,000 won’t even represent 3% of the voters in the most recent election, how exactly is it that they are going to exert sufficient influence to do much of anything?

  10. Tom, it’s not having 3% (or 5% or 10% etc) of the total voters that matters, it’s having the most activists. See this post I made over a year ago on the FSP forum. One year later, it’s not only still true, but validated in many ways over the last year, through items like the RealID battle, the smoking ban defeat, and other ‘wins’. Give us 1K _activists_, never mind 20K.

    As for voting Democrat or Republican, there are over 2 dozen liberty loving folks running as Democrats or Republicans in the next election in the fall. That’s already been reporting here on HoT.

    Come visit NH, and like many others, you’ll be counting the days until you can move.

  11. This is very exciting stuff and I’ll be watching for the ruling with baited breath. I really love what is coming out of NH today.

    Seth’s point about activists is true. Look at Move On’s success in 2004, or the fact that Libertarians generally get more votes many times in excess of its membership or numbers of registered voters. You get a good core of activists representing Libertarian positions and candidates in the field and the vote totals will follow.