Texas Republican attacks Libertarian voting rights

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Republican state representative Drew Springer of Muenster, Texas has filed HB 464, a bill to require minor party nominees to pay filing fees.

Libertarian National Committee executive director Wes Benedict commented, “Republican Drew Springer’s bill is a poll tax on minor parties, including the Libertarian Party. It’s an injustice, and it’s unconstitutional.”

The bill would require all minor party nominees to pay fees to be allowed to appear on the November election ballot. The fees range as high as $5,000, depending on the office.

Kurt Hildebrand, chair of the Libertarian Party of Texas, said, “This law would effectively shut down third parties in Texas, and I believe that is the intent behind it.”

According to ballot access expert Richard Winger, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled twice that this sort of filing fee is unconstitutional.

On April 6, the Texas House Elections Committee voted 5-1 in favor of the bill. (Five Republicans voted yes, one Democrat voted no.)

Similar bills have been filed by Texas Republicans in past legislative sessions.

Benedict explained, “Republicans have claimed in the past that their bills make things ‘fair’ because Republicans and Democrats have to pay filing fees for their primaries. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“Republicans and Democrats have to pay primary fees because their primary elections are financed by taxpayers. Political parties are private organizations, even though they are regulated by the state. Nevertheless, taxpayers are forced to hand over a lot of money to help the Republicans and Democrats pick their nominees. The filing fees pay for a tiny fraction of these costs.

“Libertarians and Greens, on the other hand, don’t use primaries. We don’t force the taxpayers to pay for our nomination process. So there’s no reason our candidates should be forced to pay any fees.

“If Republicans and Democrats are upset about their primary filing fees, they should just get rid of them. They control 100% of the seats in the legislature, so it should be pretty easy for them.

“The purpose of Drew Springer’s bill is simple: it has nothing to do with fairness, it’s just an attempt to shut all minor parties out of the election process. If this bill gets passed, there will be many more unopposed Republicans and unopposed Democrats in the 2016 elections.

“Representative Drew Springer has also filed a bill to prohibit school districts from offering same-sex couples the same benefits as opposite-sex couples. That gives us an idea of what ‘fair’ means to him.

“I urge legislators who support democracy to oppose this poll tax, which is designed to silence minority opinions.

“This is America. The people should decide who gets to run for office, not the incumbents. Libertarians stand for freedom on every issue, and we oppose bullies who would try to stop us from participating in the election process.”

Benedict added, “Texas isn’t the only place that Republicans are trying to step on voting rights. In New Hampshire, the Republican National Committee is trying to get involved in a lawsuit over the state’s petitioning law. The law was changed in 2013 to make it harder for small parties to get petition signatures to appear on the ballot. The Libertarian Party filed a lawsuit against the change, but the Republican National Committee is trying to intervene in support of the change.”

Wes Benedict is the executive director of the Libertarian National Committee, and he served as executive director of the Libertarian Party of Texas from 2004 to 2008.

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