January 25, 2020
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Libertarian lawsuit against state focuses on moving deadlines

PORTLAND, Maine — A last-ditch effort by Libertarian-minded Mainers to salvage an expensive, months-long attempt to form an official political party in Maine will continue into next week after four hours of court testimony on Thursday failed to reach conclusion.

At issue is the secretary of state’s office’s rejection in December 2015 of nearly 2,000 Libertarian Party registrations that a nonprofit organization called Libertarian Party of Maine Inc. had submitted as one of the requirements to form a party. The group submitted 6,482 voter registration cards from 356 Maine communities, but Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s staff ruled that only 4,489 of them could be verified as actual voters.

The organization appealed the decision in January, which is what led to Thursday’s hearing.

Jorge Maderal of Brunswick, chairman of the fledgling party, testified in U.S. District Court in Portland on Thursday that “80 or 90 percent” of the registrations were completed by Olympic Consulting of Lewiston, which is run by Stavros Mendros. That firm also is at the center of two failed citizen initiative drives — one to legalize recreational marijuana and the other to allow a casino in southern Maine — that Dunlap rejected earlier this year.

However, the line of questioning by attorney John Branson, who is representing the Libertarians, focused on what he contended were unreasonable deadlines in state law for submitting registrations and then having them verified. The deadline for the registrations is Dec. 1 in the year before an election year, and the secretary of state then has just five days to verify the registrations.

Branson and the Libertarians, among other things, want a court injunction that re-enrolls the Libertarians that have been rejected and extends the deadline to May 31. Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn, who is the state’s elections chief, argued that the deadlines are the way they are so her office can accommodate a complex timeline that involves factors ranging from people filing to run for office to the printing of ballots.

The exchange between Branson and Flynn was growing more heated Thursday afternoon when Judge John Woodcock ended the hearing about 5 p.m. It is scheduled to resume at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

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