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The Libertarian Party of Arkansas and four of its potential candidates for elective office in Arkansas' 2020 general election filed a constitutional challenge Thursday to five state laws that they say make it difficult for them to get on the ballot.

The laws "set an unconstitutional, unnecessary and excessive petition requirement which has been raised from 10,000 petition signatures under the recently amended old law to 3 percent of the total vote cast for Governor ... in the last general election," which requires 26,746 valid signatures for the current election cycle, according to the lawsuit.

It also challenges "an unconstitutional early, unnecessary and vague petition deadline for the formation of a new political party in Arkansas," as a result of state legislators moving the political practices pledge deadline from March of the general election year to Nov. 4-11 -- about a year before the 2020 general election.

It seeks a finding that the laws in question, as applied to the plaintiffs for the current election cycle and for all subsequent general election cycles, are unconstitutional. It also seeks a temporary injunction and a permanent injunction to prohibit Secretary of State John Thurston from enforcing the challenged provisions.

In July 2016, U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. declared that a 2015 state law requiring the party to hold its nominating convention in October, more than four months before the Democratic and Republican primaries on March 1, was unconstitutional. However, Moody's ruling was a hollow victory for the party because it pertained only to deadlines in 2015 and early 2016 that affected the 2016 November election.

The party said in the earlier lawsuit that the deadline put its candidates at a disadvantage by not allowing them as much time as candidates for the major parties to think about running for office and then become known to voters before the nominating convention or primary.

As a newly recognized third party in Arkansas, the Libertarian Party is required to nominate its candidates by convention instead of holding a primary.

The suit filed Thursday was assigned to U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker.

Metro on 03/29/2019

Print Headline: Lawsuit: Getting on ballot too hard

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