A group of voters, candidates and minor parties has filed a federal lawsuit against the state seeking to strike down several statutory provisions relating to ballot access on the basis that they violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Under current law, minor political parties other than the Green and Libertarian Parties must obtain 83,717 valid signatures in a 75-day period to qualify their candidates for the ballot. Independent statewide candidates need the same number of signatures but may have only 30 days to obtain them if there is a primary runoff for the office for either major party. The Libertarian Party has already qualified for the 2020 ballot because at least one of its statewide candidates received 5% or more of the vote in the 2018 general election. The Green Party will regain access after September 1 when a new law changing the threshold takes effect.

Because of historically high turnout in 2018, the signature threshold is significantly higher than the 47,183 signatures needed to reach the ballot in 2016 and 2018. Five minor parties filed to gain ballot access in 2018, but none succeeded. The America’s Party of Texas submitted fewer than 250 signatures, and the Green Party submitted one page with five signatures. The Christian Party of Texas, Independent Party of Texas and None of the Above did not submit petitions.

“Collecting signatures by hand is inherently time consuming, labor intensive and expensive,” said Mark Miller, the 2014 and 2016 Libertarian nominee for Railroad Commissioner, in a statement. “Collecting 80,000-plus valid signatures in the limited time allowed under Texas law is all but impossible without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire paid petition circulators.” Plaintiffs estimate the cost of obtaining sufficient signatures will exceed $600K.

The suit also challenges new provisions enacted in 2019 that impose filing fees on candidates who are nominated in conventions. These fees are the same as those paid by Democratic and Republican primary candidates, whose fees are intended to reduce taxpayer costs of administering the election.

Plaintiffs are being represented pro bono by the Center for Competitive Democracy and Shearman & Sterling, LLP. The lawsuit is captioned Miller v. Doe, a reference to the vacant Secretary of State position.

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