On June 7, the Maine Joint Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee passed LD 1571, after amending it so that it makes only modest improvements to the party qualification and retention process. The original version of the bill had made bigger improvements.
The bill makes it clear that the Libertarian Party is to be considered a qualified party for the 2018 election. But in 2018, both the Libertarian Party and the Green Party must have at least 10,000 registered members who actually go to the polls and vote, in order to remain on for 2020. This is the same requirement as in existing law, except that in the existing law a party must meet that requirement in its first year on the ballot, but the bill says in the case of a newly-qualifying party, that party need not meet that test until its second election year on the ballot.
The original version of the bill had said that any party can remain on the ballot if it has 5,000 registered members, without specifying that they must be individuals who actually cast a ballot. But that provision was deleted from the bill.
The amended bill makes a small improvement in the deadline for qualifying as a new party. Existing law says that deadline is December 1 of the year before the election. The bill changes that to January 2 of the election year.
This bill exists because in 2016, a U.S. District Court enjoined the December (of the odd year before the election) deadline for qualifying as a new party. The court said that deadline was probably unconstitutional, but did not actually make a decision about declaratory relief. Assuming the bill passes, the new deadline, January of the election year, will still probably be held unconstitutional if a new lawsuit is ever filed, but because the Libertarian Party is now on the ballot, of course the Libertarian Party no longer has any complaint. The original version of the bill moved the deadline to June and said newly-qualifying parties could nominate by convention, but that part has been deleted from the bill.