BANGOR, Maine — The Libertarian Party last week sued Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap in U.S. District Court in an effort to get the names of its candidates for president and vice president on the Nov. 4 ballot.
The lawsuit filed Thursday claims that because of an instruction from Dunlap’s office to municipal clerks, the party collected 5,700 signatures but was short the required 4,000 validated signatures needed to place Bob Barr and Wayne A. Root on the ballot.
The complaint alleges that Dunlap’s office improperly told municipal clerks not to certify signatures on petitions received after Aug. 8. That instruction, according to the lawsuit, kept the names of the party’s nominees off the ballot.
State law requires that petitions for candidates and citizen-initiated referenda be submitted to municipal clerks a week to 10 days before they must be submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office to give clerks time to validate signatures, Dunlap said Saturday. The deadline for petitions to be in the Secretary of State’s Office in order to get Barr’s and Root’s names on the ballot this year was Aug. 15.
“We don’t expect anything from the Libertarian Party that we don’t expect from the Democratic or Republican parties,” Dunlap said. “Ralph Nader’s name will be on the ballot as a[n independent] presidential candidate.”
Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, the Green Party’s candidates for president and vice president, also will be on the ballot in Maine after their supporters submitted the required number of signatures within the time required, he added.
Four years ago, Michael Badnarick, the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate, was on the ballot, according to Dunlap.
The lawsuit claims that before 2008, municipal clerks were able to accept and certify petitions after the submission deadline to their offices had passed but before the deadline for getting them to the Secretary of State’s Office was reached.
By not allowing clerks to certify signatures between Aug. 8 and 15, the secretary of state violated the Libertarian Party candidates’ First and 14th amendment rights, according to the complaint. The party is asking the court to declare the Aug. 8 deadline unconstitutional and to order Dunlap’s office to place Barr’s and Root’s names on the ballot.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled on a similar issue last month when it rejected an appeal by an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate who was denied a spot on the November ballot because she failed to submit enough signatures before the deadline.
The justices found no error in a lower court ruling that upheld the secretary of state’s refusal to grant Laurie Dobson an extension of the June 2 deadline.
Dunlap determined that Dobson fell 160 signatures short of the 4,000 signatures required by law.