LITTLE ROCK – Green Party candidates for statewide office must appear on Arkansas' Nov. 7 ballot, a federal judge ordered Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr. voided a state law requiring third parties to obtain signatures equal to 3 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the previous election for governor in order to obtain a place on the state's ballot. He said the law violated the constitutional rights of the Green Party and its nominee for governor, former state Rep. Jim Lendall of Mabelvale.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of the party and Lendall, arguing it was unfair for the state to require more than 24,000 signatures to place Green Party candidates on the statewide ballot while independent candidates need only 10,000 signatures.
State lawyers argued the higher threshold would prevent the state from having an overly crowded ballot.
This spring, the Green Party turned in signatures from approximately 18,000 voters seeking to put Lendall's name on the general election ballot.
"Arkansas' 3 percent requirement in its party-recognition scheme is not narrowly drawn to serve a compelling state interest," Howard said in his ruling. "The 10,000-signature threshold is a sufficient modicum of support to serve the state's interest in avoiding cluttered ballots.
"The 3 percent requirement is much higher than necessary, as it imposes a severe burden ... on the associational rights of the Green Party and (its) candidates ... because they cannot get on the ballot otherwise."
Howard's order enjoined Secretary of State Charlie Daniels from failing to recognize the Green Party of Arkansas.
"He is directed to allow plaintiffs ballot access for the general election this November 2006," the judgment said.