- Associated Press - Monday, June 6, 2016

BOSTON (AP) - The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire urged a federal appeals court Monday to strike down a state law it contends could prevent third-party candidates from getting on the general election ballot.

To get on the ballot, a third party must collect 3 percent of the total votes cast in the prior election.

Libertarians sued New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner after a 2014 law put new limits on how long third parties have to collect the necessary signatures to petition their way onto the ballot.

Instead of the traditional 21 months, third parties now only have seven months to collect signatures, and they cannot begin the process until Jan. 1 of the election year, William Christie, an attorney for the Libertarians, told the three-judge panel in Boston.

“This law is an unconstitutional infringement on the ability of a third party to obtain access to the general election ballot,” Christie said.

But the state argued the law provides ample time to collect signatures. Senior Assistant Attorney General Laura Lombardi said shorter time periods for collecting signatures have been upheld by other courts.

“Seven months is clearly a reasonable amount of time,” Lombardi told the court.

Lombardi cited a ruling in August by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro, who upheld the law, finding that it creates reasonable restrictions that are justified by the state’s interest in requiring parties to demonstrate a sufficient level of support.

Christie said the new limits place a burden on third parties to squeeze collecting signatures, fundraising and campaigning into a compressed timeframe, right in the middle of the general election season.

In 2012, the Libertarian Party ran candidates for president, vice president, congressional seats and several state-level seats after collecting the necessary signatures. The new law was not in effect yet, so the party was able to begin the collection process in 2011.

For the 2016 election, the Libertarians would need to collect approximately 14,800 signatures.

The appeals court did not immediately rule on the Libertarian Party’s challenge to the new law.


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