March 26, 2019
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Judge rejects Libertarians’ appeal to become Maine political party

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Judge John Woodcock

AUGUSTA, Maine — A federal judge has ruled against a nonprofit organization trying to create a Libertarian Party in Maine in a case that centered on the party’s argument that the path to a new political party in Maine is unconstitutionally difficult.

An attorney for the Libertarians said the court misunderstood what the plaintiffs were asking for and that he will ask the court to reconsider its ruling.

U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock said in a decision released Monday that the injunctive relief sought by a nonprofit organization called the Libertarian Party of Maine Inc. — namely for an extension until the end of May to complete a party creation process that failed in 2015 — was implausible.

“As a practical matter the court finds that there is an unsurmountable barrier to the injunctive relief sought by the Libertarian Party plaintiffs in this case,” wrote Woodcock in the 27-page decision. “The plaintiffs believe this deadline, together with re-enrollment [of 4,500 people enrolled into the party in 2015], would allow the Libertarian Party to participate in the primary election on June 14, 2016. … Put simply, the May 31 date would not leave enough time for the state of Maine to run an orderly primary election.”

Attorney John Branson, who represents the Libertarians, said the Libertarians intend to nominate its state-level candidates at its state convention next month and not during the primary election. Presidential candidates don’t need to go through a nominating process to appear on ballots in Maine.

“There is not a single thing in our request for relief that had anything to do with this year’s primary election,” said Branson. “Because the ruling is based on a misunderstanding … we are filing a motion for reconsideration of the court.”

Last year, the Libertarians submitted some 6,500 new enrollments in a bid to create a new political party but the state invalidated nearly 2,000 of them. That dropped the party’s valid enrollment count below the 5,000-enrollee threshold.

The Libertarian Party of Maine Inc. promptly sued Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

Branson argued in court proceedings in Portland earlier this year that Dec. 1 in the year before an election year is unreasonably and unconstitutionally early and that an ensuing five-day deadline for the state to decide about the success of the effort is too short.

Watch for updates.

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