ST. PAUL — To get on Minnesota’s presidential ballot next year, a Libertarian Party candidate must secure a puzzling promise from 2,000 people.
Each must swear, during a two-week window in May, that they “do not intend to vote” in the presidential primary election that will have taken place in March.
Anyone who lies about what they intend to have already done could be prosecuted for felony perjury.
“It’s downright silly,” said Erick Kaardal, an attorney representing the Libertarian Party of Minnesota.
Party leaders on Wednesday, Aug. 21, filed the first in a series of lawsuits that seek to level the playing field for major and minor political parties in the state.
“The state should not be able to decide which voices should be heard simply because they do not align with the preexisting ideology,” said Chris Holbrook, a plaintiff in the case who took just under 1% of the votes for governor in 2014.
Parties that fail to get at least 5% of the vote in a statewide race must gather between 500 and 2,000 signatures, depending on the office, to get on the ballot the next time around.
They also don’t get the substantial public subsidies that major party candidates get.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court against three metro-county prosecutors, seeks to have the statutory oath on minor party nominating petitions declared unconstitutional in time for the May petition window.
On its face, the oath ensures that minor party supporters don’t get a say in which Democrat or Republican faces off against their preferred candidate.
But even when the oath makes chronological sense, the plaintiffs say, it infringes on their rights to speak and associate freely and petition the government, as well as their right to equal protection.
As a practical matter, they say, the oath makes it difficult to collect enough signatures to get minor party candidates on the ballot.
Under the threat of a five-year prison sentence, Kaardal said, “Who in their right mind would sign anything?”
Kaardal said ballot access lawsuits are difficult to win but he sees the “senseless” oath as the most vulnerable issue to go after.
Party leaders also want a lower bar for major party status, access to public campaign funds and a longer window for circulating nominating petitions. The Legislature hasn’t been interested in changing those laws, so Libertarians are turning to the courts.
Two political parties at the margins, the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and the Legal Marijuana Now Party, now are considered major parties in Minnesota, having taken 6% of the vote in the attorney general race and 5% for auditor, respectively, last November.