Libertarian Party of Alabama sues state for discrimination against third parties

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The Libertarian Party of Alabama has sued the state, claiming they discriminate against third parties trying to get ballot access. According to the Alabama Political Reporter, the federal lawsuit was filed Thursday against Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.

For both the Republican and Democrat parties, obtaining a list of registered voters is free. For other parties, the cost is one cent per name which, Alabama Political Reporter calculates, comes out to about $34,000 plus an additional $850 fee if a credit card is used. The lawsuit reads, “Having a copy of Alabama’s statewide voter registration list provides a distinct advantage to any political party trying to obtain access to the ballot in Alabama and trying to transmit its political message to Alabama voters in order to obtain their support for ballot access, increase their ability to associate with others who share their political philosophy and goals and, ultimately to obtain additional votes.”

It continues, saying that Alabama law “unconstitutionally discriminates between major political parties and minor political parties, in an effort to, and with the direct effect of … creating obstacles which make it more difficult for a minor political party like the LPA to establish itself and grow, garner support, gain access to the ballot in Alabama, and obtain votes in order to grow and have its members and followers hold public elective office.”

In addition to needing more than 50,000 signatures to get on the ballot, the lawsuit says that this is “just one more obstacle Alabama places in the way of minor parties to try to prevent them from growing and to gaining access to the ballot.”

Ballot access barriers have been ruled unconstitutional in both Michigan and Georgia, according to Alabama Political Reporter, decisions which give Alabama libertarians hope for success in federal court.

Currently, Libertarian candidates have to run on write-in campaigns. Ron Bishop ran against Roy Moore and Doug Jones in 2017. “The two choices that we have now, they don’t conform to what I think America needs to be,” Bishop told AL.com, “I’m hoping we that we can give voters out there a third option.”

In Alabama, nearly two-thirds of voters cast straight party tickets. In the 2018 election, about 1.1 of the 1.7 million ballots cast were straight-ticket votes, in which voters checked one box to vote for every candidate one party ran. In some cases, a third-party candidate can split the vote from a major party’s base, clearing the way for their opponent to win.

The Libertarian Party is the third largest party in the United States according to the Libertarian Party of Alabama. They believe “the answer to America’s political problems is the same commitment to freedom that earned America its greatness: a free-market economy and the abundance and prosperity it brings; a dedication to civil liberties and personal freedom; and a foreign policy of non-intervention, peace, and free trade as prescribed by America’s founders. We are the only political organization which respects you as a unique and competent individual.”