CCD Wins Emergency Relief Placing Libertarians on Maine Ballot in 2022
On December 31, 2021, United States District Court Judge Lance E. Walker entered an order placing the Libertarian Party of Maine ("LPME") on Maine's ballot for the 2022 election cycle. Judge Walker's order also directs Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows to contact the 6,000-plus Maine voters who were involuntarily unenrolled from LPME when the party was disqualified following the 2018 general election to notify them that their unenrollment was unconstitutional and invite them to re-enroll. In addition, Judge Walker's order permits candidates seeking access to Maine's primary election ballot to obtain petition signatures from any unenrolled voter -- not just LPME members.
"We're pleased that Judge Walker granted this emergency relief that restores LPME to the ballot-qualified status it earned but was effectively denied in 2016 and 2018 due to Maine's unconstitutional and unnecessarily restrictive requirements for citizens who seek to form new political parties," said CCD counsel Oliver Hall.
In a previous order entered in November, Judge Walker held Maine's ballot access laws unconstitutional as applied to LPME. He specifically held that Maine violated LPME's First Amendment rights by prohibiting LPME candidates from obtaining signatures from unenrolled voters to access the primary election ballot -- a prohibition that effectively excluded LPME's candidates from Maine's 2016 and 2018 elections, even though it was a ballot-qualified party. Judge Walker's November order also held it unconstitutional for Maine to unenroll a party's members when it loses its ballot-qualified status.
Because the November order did not provide a remedy for these constitutional violations, CCD requested an emergency order directing Secretary Bellows to take action to allow LPME to participate as a ballot-qualified party in the 2022 election cycle.
Judge Walker's December 31, 2021 order came just in time -- the petitioning period for candidates seeking LPME's nomination for the 2022 election cycle began on January 1, and candidates only have until March 15 to collect the signatures needed to qualify for the primary election ballot.
"Judge Walker's New Year's Eve order not only benefits LPME and its supporters, but also all Mainers who want a more competitive electoral process that allows voters to cast their votes effectively for candidates who represent their views," Hall said. "We believe Secretary Bellows can and should extend the same relief that Judge Walker granted to LPME to other political parties in Maine, including the Maine Green Independent Party."
LPME candidates are now petitioning to qualify for Maine's 2022 primary election ballot, and LPME intends to run candidates for office at all levels in Maine's 2022 general election.
CCD initiated this litigation, captioned Baines v. Bellows, No. 1:19-cv-00509 (D. Me.), in 2019. CCD is representing LPME and its co-plaintiffs pro bono. CCD Board of Advisors member William P. Tedards, Jr. served as Hall's co-counsel in the case.
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