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Editorial: Law adds to the burden on third parties

The United States has a rich history of third parties. In 1856, Millard Fillmore made a strong run for president on the Whig-American ticket. Fifty-six years later, Theodore Roosevelt captured 27 percent of the popular vote as the Progressive Party’s candidate. Ross Perot made his mark in 1992 and again, although to a lesser extent, in 1996 with the Reform Party.

But the number of votes won don’t tell the whole story. In local and national races, third-party candidates often contribute to an election by pushing the Republican and Democratic candidates on issues they might otherwise avoid. If they do it effectively, as Perot did in 1992, the system benefits.

Last week, it became a little harder for third parties to play that role in New Hampshire.

On Monday, the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire over a change to state law that makes it more difficult for third parties to collect the signatures needed for inclusion on election ballots.

House Bill 1542, which became law last week, added this sentence to RSA 655:40: “Nomination papers shall be signed and dated in the year of the election.” Lawmakers called it a little housekeeping, but the Libertarian Party and the NHCLU call it backbreaking.

Here’s why: In order to appear on the ballot, a third party must meet one of two requirements. If the party’s candidate for governor or president wins 4 percent of the vote, the party gains a spot on the next ballot. The other, more common course is to collect signatures equaling 3 percent of the total vote in the previous election. Libertarians have managed to do that in the past, including in 2012, when more than 13,600 signatures were collected. As a result, the party was able to run a full slate of candidates that year.

But to accomplish the feat, the party began collecting signatures in 2011. With the change to state law enacted last week, that long process can’t begin until Jan. 1 of an election year. Because the nomination papers must be submitted to the offices of New Hampshire’s towns and cities by early August, that leaves just seven months for the party to collect the thousands of signatures it needs.

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan told Monitor reporter Kathleen Ronayne that his office requested the change because if people sign their names too long before the election, there’s a bigger chance the person could die, move or forget they signed the petition at all.

But as the NHCLU argues convincingly in its lawsuit, the state’s regulatory interest in the added restriction is questionable.

“If anyone is to be harmed by use of ‘invalid’ nomination papers ‘due to death or relocation’ collected during the time frame before Jan. 1 of the election year, it is the third party seeking the nomination papers – not the state,” the lawsuit says.

The NHCLU goes on to make the point that the potential risks with “old” nomination papers means the third party needs to go beyond the 3 percent requirement to ensure that there will be enough valid signatures come early August.

While it’s doubtful that HB 1542 was intended to further marginalize third parties, the added language in effect does exactly that. The state must do what it can to limit the circus atmosphere of elections, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of reasonable inclusivity.

Legacy Comments7

It figures that GCarson - a hardcore liberal - would have no problem with this law. And it also figures that BPR would use this editorial as yet another opportunity to go off on some bat guano crazy off-topic right-wing rant. And these two examples are exactly why I agree wholeheartedly with this Monitor editorial. People like me - who've no longer much use for either of the two major, corrupt political parties understand that this law is yet another attempt by the two major parties to insure that they will forever be the only two parties that can get elected. Hey libs, what ever happened to "be respectful of diversity?" Don't you welcome a "diversity of ideas" in the political arena? Hey righties, what happened to "the marketplace of ideas?" Don't you think the other parties should be allowed to compete in that marketplace?

I really don't have a problem with the spoiler party. Ralph Nader did it to the Democrats and then Ron Paul to the GOP so it can be pretty balanced. Libertarians can cry foul all they want, that's just what happens to fringe parties. The only thing stopping them from getting on the ballot is the limited number of people that would actually vote for them.

Quote "The state must do what it can to limit the circus atmosphere of elections". Massive HYPROCRISY by the CM when we all know eliminating same day registration and requiring ID's is a proven way to provide the citizens with the cleanest elections. Why do democrats always fight clean elections?

Somebody never tires of repeating disproved fairy tales. All the Republican (Koch-underwritten) efforts claim to eliminate voter fraud. EXCEPT, of course, that the in-person voter fraud that they supposedly prevent doesn't exist. Hell, these people still can't get over JFK's election and chalk it up to a debunked legend of electoral foul play in Chicago.

Funny how YOUR narrative does not comport with the how real Americans think. In fact your gibberish is an insult to the intelligence of real Americans. Nothing new - when they cant debate the issue the just bash bash bash

My mistake: henceforth I defer to BestPres' ifallible wisdom as to "how real Americans think."

As opposed to deferring to gracchus' infallible wisdom redefining "how real Americans think".

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