MN bills would help Libertarians achieve party recognition, ballot access

LP Minnesota's Ballot Access Inclusion Bill

Two ballot access bills have been introduced in the Minnesota legislature, one in each house, that would significantly lower the standards necessary to petition and to become a recognized party in the state. The bills are SF 752, submitted in the state Senate by Scott Jensen, and HF 708, submitted in the state House by Steve Elkins. These bills have been proposed for several years running by the Libertarian Party of Minnesota, which was able to find sponsors in this legislative session.

“Chris Holbrook and the Libertarian Party of Minnesota team have put together a coalition with members from all of Minnesota’s political parties to reduce the insurmountable barriers to forming a new major political party by petitioning and give all Minnesotans a real voice in the political process,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark. “This great work is one example of Libertarians taking the lead in fixing bad laws and working together with allies from all over the political map.”

There are currently several ways to achieve party status in Minnesota. The party petition method requires signatures from registered voters equal to 5 percent of the votes cast in the previous general election. For the current election cycle, that amounts to 130,500 signatures. This method has been around since 1913, and has never been used, according to Richard Winger, editor and publisher of Ballot Access News.

Parties can also become recognized if a statewide candidate receives at least 5 percent of the vote in the most recent general election, or by running candidates in at least half of the partisan offices for both state legislature and Congress, as well as all of the statewide offices. The LP Minnesota did have two statewide candidates on the latest ballot, who received more than 1 percent but less than the required 5 percent.

The proposed new bills would allow state recognition for parties with statewide candidates who receive at least 1 percent of the vote. They would also lower the party petition signature amount from 5 percent of the votes cast in the last general election to 20,000 total signatures.

State recognition of political parties is crucial for ballot access, because candidates of parties that are not recognized must each petition to get on the ballot. The proposed new bills would expand the current petitioning period for non-presidential candidates from only two weeks to 60 days and lower the number of signatures required for legislative offices.

A press conference on these ballot access bills took place on Feb. 7 at the Minnesota State Capitol. LNC Chair Sarwark attended the press conference.

“I am very thankful to Chris Holbrook and the Libertarian Party of Minnesota for inviting me to the Twin Cities to join them in their press conference announcing the Ballot Access Inclusion Bill that has been filed in the House and Senate,” Sarwark said. “The press room was packed, the bill has bipartisan support in the legislature, and there is great enthusiasm and momentum from all parts of the political map to fix some serious fairness problems with the existing Minnesota law. This is the kind of work that Libertarian Party activists are doing all around the country, to bring down barriers to political participation not just for our party, but for all parties.”

The full text of the ballot access bills is available at the LP Minnesota website.