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A federal judge's July 3 order preventing state officials from enforcing new requirements on "new political parties" should be stayed while the state appeals, the attorney general's office contends.

Documents notifying U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker of the state's intention to appeal her July 3 injunction to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis were filed Friday evening, along with a request that she place a "stay" on the order to preserve the status quo while the appeal is pending.

The preliminary injunction prohibits enforcement of Act 164 of 2019, which increases the number of signatures that new political parties must collect on petitions to place their candidate on statewide election ballots. For the past decade, third parties have needed to collect 10,000 valid signatures to obtain ballot access. Now, they must collect a number equal to 3% of the vote in the previous gubernatorial election -- or 26,746 signatures to get on the 2020 election ballot.

In a lawsuit filed March 28, the Libertarian Party of Arkansas calls the requirements -- which Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, signed into law in February -- unwarranted and unnecessary.

The Libertarians also complained about a new 90-day window required for collecting petition signatures, as well as the fact that the deadline for turning in petitions was moved forward.

"There is no record evidence before the Court that explains the state's interest -- let alone a compelling one -- in requiring new political parties to meet the 3 percent requirement, file a petition more than a year in advance of the general election, and collect signatures in a 90-day window," Baker said in her order.

In a written brief supporting the state's motion for a stay, the attorney general's office said Baker "erroneously concluded that the Libertarian Party's purported inability to comply with certain of Arkansas's ballot-access laws made the entire regime severely burdensome."

The brief also said the court "improperly discounted Arkansas's interests in the laws enacted in the 2019 General Assembly. These errors mean that [the state] is likely to succeed on appeal."

Likelihood of success is one factor judges are to consider when deciding whether to issue a stay while an appeal is looming.

The other factors -- balancing harms to the party and the state with or without a stay and considering the public interest -- also favor Secretary of State John Thurston, the named defendant in the lawsuit, the attorneys for the state argued.

Solicitor General Nicholas Bronni, Deputy Solicitor General Vincent Wagner and Assistant Solicitor General Dylan Jacobs argued that Arkansas has interests that justify the 3% requirement, including avoiding confusion, deception and frustration of the democratic process; the stability of its political system; and ensuring that only potentially viable candidates appear on the ballot.

They argued that the court has "completely ignored the Libertarian Party's electoral history in Arkansas," noting that it has repeatedly obtained political-party status through the former 10,000-signature requirement, "yet it has proved time and again that its candidates are not viable. Each election, the Libertarian Party has failed to maintain its political-party status by obtaining even a mere 3% of the vote for governor or president."

Metro on 07/16/2019

Print Headline: AG asks for stay on block of rules

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