BOSTON, MA – On June 6, 2016 at 9:30 a.m., oral argument will take place before the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston in a case where the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire (LPNH) is challenging HB1542—a law that would needlessly impede third-party ballot access and voter choice in New Hampshire. This case was brought by the ACLU of New Hampshire (ACLU-NH) on behalf of LPNH. LPNH is represented by William Christie of the law firm Shaheen & Gordon, P.A. and Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU-NH.
HB1542 states that, when a third party seeks to gain access to the ballot before an election by collecting verified signatures, those signatures “shall be signed and dated in the year of the election.” In short, HB1542 prohibits third parties from collecting signatures before January 1 of the election year.
During the 2000 and 2012 election cycles, LPNH was able to collect the nearly 10,000 and over 13,600 verified signatures, respectively, necessary for the Party to get on the ballot. But to meet these high thresholds, the Party had to start collecting signatures before the year of the actual election—namely, in 1999 and 2011. To use a metaphor, this signature-collection process is like a marathon that is hard enough just to finish, and this law now demands that LPNH run the marathon in less than two hours.
On August 28, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire upheld HB1542. It is this decision that LPNH is appealing. Before the First Circuit, the Republican National Committee in Washington D.C. filed a “friend of the court” brief defending HB1542 in opposition to LPNH. The Center for Competitive Democracy, the Libertarian Association of Massachusetts, the Green-Rainbow Party of Massachusetts, the United Independent Party of Massachusetts, the Maine Green Independent Party, and the Moderate Party of Rhode Island filed “friend of the court” briefs in support of LPNH asking the First Circuit to declare HB1542 unconstitutional.
As a Rhode Island federal court concluded in striking down an identical law imposing a January 1 start date, “[s]ociety is best served when political parties outside the two existing major parties play an active, ‘robust’ role in the entire campaign process—not simply appear on the final election ballot.” HB1542 prevents third parties from playing such a “robust” role.