A state district judge has issued a temporary restraining order barring state and Harris Co. officials from imposing filing fees on minor party candidates. District Judge Kristen Hawkins found that plaintiffs “would not have an adequate remedy at law and would suffer imminent and irreparable harm” if the new law were enforced.

Prior to this year, only Democratic and Republican candidates paid the fees, or submitted petitions and signatures in lieu thereof, as a means of financing the party’s primary elections. The Libertarian and Green Parties nominate their general election candidates in conventions. House Bill 2504 by Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) imposed those filing fees on minor party candidates even though they are not nominated in primary elections.

Neil Dikeman, the lead plaintiff in the case and the Libertarian Party’s 2018 nominee for U.S. Senate, said the Legislature opted to “risk a constitutional challenge just to limit the competitiveness of races and keep Libertarians off the ballot.” Opponents of House Bill 2504 argued that the bill would likely reduce the number of minor party candidates, even as it lowered the threshold for a party to retain access to the ballot, because of the added costs to the candidates. Historically, most minor party candidates raise less than $5K during an election cycle.

“This temporary injunction was a crucial step to ensuring voters have choice at the ballot box,” said Kathie Glass, the Harris Co. Libertarian Party chair and a two-time Libertarian gubernatorial nominee. “Half of all Texas races in 2018 would have been unopposed without Libertarian Party nominees.” Libertarian nominees were on the general election ballot for 76 state and federal races that year.

A trial in the case has been set for February 18.

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