The Libertarian Party of Arkansas' petition to be a new political party has been deemed sufficient by the secretary of state's office, Secretary of State John Thurston said Friday.
"After checking each submitted signature, 10,932 were determined to be valid," Thurston said in a letter to Libertarian Party of Arkansas Chair Mike Pakko.
On Oct. 11, the Libertarian Party of Arkansas said the party submitted more than 13,200 signatures in order to satisfy the requirement of 10,000 valid signatures from registered voters.
Under state law, a new political party is one that hasn't achieved party status. To achieve that status, a party's nominee must receive at least 3% of the vote on the gubernatorial or presidential ticket.
Thurston, a Republican, said Arkansas law requires the officers of any newly organized political party to submit under oath an affidavit that complies with Arkansas Code Annotated 7-3-108 (b).
Chris Powell, a spokesperson for the secretary of state's office, said Friday in a written statement that "before the Libertarians can be officially declared a new political party, they must send us affidavits in compliance with ACA § 7-3-108.
"Once we receive the affidavits, we will issue an official Declaration of New Political Party," he said.
Pakko said Friday night that "we are overjoyed" about the secretary of state declaring the party's petition to be sufficient.
He said it's been a long and costly haul to collect signatures of more than 10,000 registered voters.
Pakko said this election cycle is the seventh consecutive cycle in which the party has successfully sought new political party status.
The Libertarian Party of Arkansas said in an Oct. 11 news release that its efforts for ballot access this year have been eased by recent changes in the Arkansas election laws.
Act 462 of 2023, sponsored by Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, requires new political parties to collect 10,000 signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot.
During the regular session earlier this year, Hammer said the measure is a response to a federal judge's ruling that declared unconstitutional a 2019 state law that increased the signature requirement for new political parties to get on the ballot from 10,000 registered voters to 3% of the number of people who voted in the last election for governor.
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted a preliminary injunction in 2019. Based on the 2018 election, a new political party would have been required to turn in more than 26,000 signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot under the 2019 state law, according to the secretary of state's office.
In the fall of 2022, Baker declared as unconstitutional six sections of Arkansas election law pertaining to new political parties as she sided with the Libertarian Party of Arkansas in its lawsuit against Thurston.
Earlier this year, the Legislature adopted changes that reestablished the petition threshold at 10,000 valid signatures, eliminated the 90-day petitioning window, and postponed the deadlines for new political parties to submit petitions and declare candidates, the Libertarian Party of Arkansas said.
"As a result of the latter change, the LPAR will not be registering candidates until after its scheduled nominating convention in February 2024," the party said in its Oct. 11 news release. "Candidates for the major political parties will be registering for their respective primary elections in the first week of November 2023."
The filing period for candidates for federal and state offices in Arkansas will be at the state Capitol in Little Rock from noon Nov. 6 through noon Nov. 14. The primary election will be March 5, 2024, with the runoff election April 2, 2024, and the general election Nov. 5, 2024.