Statue of Liberty, New York city, United States of America

The U.S. Supreme Court has quashed a last-ditch effort by the Arizona Libertarian Party to void a state statute which was designed to keep its candidates off the ballot.

Without comment the justices last week rejected a bid by attorney Oliver Hall from the Center for Competitive Democracy asking the court to look at the 2015 law which sharply increased – sometimes by a factor of 30 – the number of signatures needed for Libertarian candidates to qualify for the ballot. 

That decision leaves in place a 2019 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which acknowledged the hurdle but suggested it is one of the party’s own making.

At the heart of the fight is that 2015 law that changed the number of signatures required for candidates to qualify for the ballot.

Prior to that, candidates for all recognized parties could get on the ballot simply by submitting petitions with the signatures of one-half of one percent of those registered with the party. In 2018 for the Libertarians, a statewide candidate would have had to collect around 160 names.

That year Republicans lowered the requirement to one-quarter of one percent. But they engineered it so that the figure was based on all who could sign a candidate’s petition.

That added political independents to the base, who actually outnumber Democrats and run a close second to Republicans.

So, in 2018 the minimum signature requirement for a Libertarian running statewide was 3,153, about 10 percent of all those actually registered as Libertarians.

Meanwhile the numbers for Republican and Democrat nominations remained close to what it always had been: 6,223 for the GOP and 5,801 for Democrats, both a small fraction of each party’s voters. 

State Sen. J.D. Mesnard, then a GOP representative from Chandler, told colleagues that Republicans would have been elected to two congressional seats had it not been for what he said were Libertarian candidates in the same race siphoning off votes that he said otherwise would have gone to the GOP contenders.

Hall argued that the law had its desired effect: Only one Libertarian qualified for the ballot in 2016 – and none at all in 2018.

Hall, however, said forcing Libertarian contenders to rely on the support of independents is unconstitutional and amounts to “a form of compelled association.’’

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