A federal judge on Monday denied a request by the Oklahoma Libertarian Party for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented state election board officials from enforcing new election laws.
The Libertarians wanted the judge to give them more time to gather signatures — or to reduce the number of signatures they're required to collect — to put their presidential candidate on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
A new election law approved by the Legislature moved up the filing period and primary election dates, cutting short by two months the amount of time political parties have to gather signatures to put their candidates on the ballot. The law was changed to comply with federal election law and to give military and overseas voters more time to vote and have their ballots counted.
"We think the new law was unconstitutional," said James Linger, an attorney for the Oklahoma Libertarian Party.
Linger said the group submitted about 57,000 signatures to the Oklahoma State Election Board, which will validate the signatures and determine if they meet the threshold of 51,739 to place their candidate on the November ballot. Linger said he will wait to see the outcome of that validation process before deciding how the lawsuit will proceed.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Timothy DeGiusti wrote that while there is a public interest in securing ballot access for minor political parties, it does not justify the granting of a preliminary injunction.
"The Court finds that there is public interest in ensuring the rights of military personnel and other overseas voters in participating in Oklahoma's elections, and the alteration of the election schedule likely to result from the Libertarian Party's requested relief could adversely impact that interest," DeGiusti wrote.
The Libertarian Party of Oklahoma, the Green Party of Oklahoma and seven individuals sued the Oklahoma Election Board in January, alleging the new election law is unconstitutional because it reduces the amount of time for the formation of a new political party in the state.