Jul 21 2011

New Hampshire Secretary of State Agrees that Party Petition May be Circulated in Odd Years

Source: Ballot Access News

On July 18, the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office informed the New Hampshire Libertarian Party that it is free to start circulating the party petition at any time. The party petition for 2012 requires 13,698 valid signatures by August 8, 2012. This is a difficult petition drive in a low-population state, and is made more difficult by the state’s policy of only allowing one signature per petition sheet. The procedure has existed since 1996 and has only been used once, by the Libertarian Party in 2000.

However, using the party petition procedure has great advantages. The state will give a party column to any group that completes the party petition. But if unqualified parties use the easier independent procedure, all their nominees are squeezed into the “Other Candidates” column, although they do get a party label in small print next to the name of each nominee. Another big advantage is that the new party that successfully completes the party petition is then free to nominate for as many partisan offices as it wishes, without separate candidate petitions. And, if the party petition is completed fairly early in the process, the group is free to participate in any special legislative elections that may occur, without a separate petition.

Until the July 18 ruling was issued, the Secretary of State had been mulling over the idea that the party petition may not be circulated until January 1 of the election year. A law passed in 2009 does not permit independent candidate petitions to be circulated until January 1 of an election year. The Secretary of State had thought perhaps the same principle should apply to the party petition, although there is no statutory language supporting that restrictive position. Also, in 2009, a U.S. District Court in Rhode Island had ruled that it is unconstitutional to forbid groups from circulating a party petition in odd years, and in 2001 a U.S. District Court in Arkansas had made a similar ruling. Thanks to Gary Sinawski for the news.

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