The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire is preparing to sue the state of New Hampshire for ballot access in the wake of COVID-19.
On April 1, 2020, the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire’s executive committee sent a letter to Secretary of State Bill Gardner requesting ballot access relief in the face of the global pandemic.
Current guidelines from medical experts state that individuals should remain six feet apart when in public and that large gatherings should not be held, both in order to slow the spread of the virus. Unrecognized parties like ours are required to get a total of 3,000 valid petition signatures in order to be placed on the general election ballot. Collecting these petitions, which Libertarians have consistently been able to accomplish, would create a risk to public safety.
Given that collecting petitions creates said unreasonable danger, and our request has effectively been ignored, we have no choice but to pursue litigation.
Luckily, the Libertarian Party has already achieved favorable rulings in federal court, particularly in Illinois where Libertarians were granted full petitioning relief.
The Party has been very patient for over a month, making every effort to resolve this out of court. Since sending in our request, Secretary Gardner’s office has passed us off to the Governor’s office. Governor Sununu’s office has paid lip service to ensuring a free and fair election without putting voters and volunteers at risk, but made no genuine effort to that end.
The party’s secretary, Jilletta Jarvis, reported back to me that she’s made many calls and left many voicemails since the Governor’s office made initial contact with her, but they’ve not made any effort to return them. My experience in my capacity as vice chair tends to confirm that. On May 7, I attended a remote meeting of the Secretary of State’s select committee on Emergency Election Support, along with our senatorial and gubernatorial candidates (Justin O’Donnell and Darryl Perry, respectively).
Among us, I estimate that we left a dozen or more comments urging the committee to at least acknowledge the risk collecting petitions places on voters, volunteers, and town clerks. They did not. Mr. O’Donnell and I both sent private messages to Deputy Secretary Dave Scanlan asking if it would be addressed, to no response.
We made all these attempts at contact in hopes that the sentiment Governor Sununu has expressed was true, and that he really did want to ensure our election was fair and safe. We hoped that this would be resolved without tying up state and party resources in court. Governor Sununu’s inaction has precluded that. But the rest of the executive committee is committed to stay out of court if the state offers us a concrete solution.
With a good-faith effort on our part to seek a resolution, and with court precedent on our side, we fully expect the judiciary to agree that a citizen’s constitutionally guaranteed right to be elected into office is not paused during a crisis and grant us relief from petitioning.