Lawsuit: Texas forces out third parties to benefit GOP and Democrats

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A coalition of smaller political parties filed suit against the Texas Secretary of State over a new election law they claim will keep them off the ballot next election.

The Libertarian Party of Texas, the Green Party of Texas, the Consitution Party of Texas, America’s Party of Texas, and several of their members and candidates filed the suit in the U.S. Court for the Western District of Texas against Deputy Secretary of State Jose Esparza and the Secretary of State, who is still to be named.

“If you’re not on the ballot, no one can vote for you. That’s a pretty easy way to control what the vote is. What the Republicans and Democrats have colluded to do for many many years,” said Randy Simbro, the communications director for the Libertarian Party of Texas.

The parties claim Texas law — put in place by members of the Republican and Democratic parties — gives them 75 days to collect 80,000 signatures to get on the ballot including paying for filing fees, an estimated cost of $600,000 per party. That burden, they claim, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of people who vote or want to vote for third parties and they want a court to throw out the ballot requirements.

Simbro says the fees go towards running the primary elections of the Democratic and Republican Parties, private organizations.

“It’s our supporters paying for their party primaries. We think that’s wrong,” said Simbro.

A third party can get on the statewide Texas ballot if a candidate receives 5% or more of the vote during the last statewide election or by collecting the signatures.

“Our parties would be more popular if our parties knew who we were. If the media gave us better coverage. If the media didn’t black out our candidates from debates at all levels as they frequently do at all levels. All across the country,” said Simbro.

The Green Party of Texas told KXAN July 15 it supports the democratic process and says that process becomes stronger with voices that aren’t just Democratic or Republican.

“So-called third parties have long been the first groups to propose policy reforms that we now take for granted, from the abolition of slavery to Social Security to expanding voting rights to all citizens at least 18 years of age (i.e., draft age),” the Green Party wrote. “A political system that suppresses these voices is not just undemocratic but anti-democratic.”

To get ballot access the signatures must come from registered voters who do not participate in the Republican or Democratic Primary or participate in another political convention.

The 2020 Libertarian Party National Convention is scheduled to be held in Austin. 1.6 million people cast their ballots for Mark Ash for a spot on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2018. That 25.3 percent will give the Libertarian Party ballot access in 2020 but will require them to the fees.

KXAN reached out for a comment to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, the Republican Party of Texas, and the Texas Democratic Party, and has not yet heard back.

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