Members of the community listen as 2016 Libertarian vice presidential candidate Bill Weld answers questions during a town hall meeting in Bangor in this file photo. Credit: Ashley L. Conti | BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — Libertarian presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen sued Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap in federal court on Friday in a bid to halve the amount of signatures required to make the November ballot, citing difficulty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

It is the second recent lawsuit over access to the 2020 ballot in Maine after one filed in June by lawyer Tiffany Bond, who ran for the 2nd Congressional District two years ago as an independent and is trying to get on the ballot in Maine’s nationally targeted U.S. Senate race.

Libertarians, who promote civil liberties and small government, are the biggest U.S. third party. They have traditionally been less organized in Maine than the Greens, the state’s only formal third party, but their presidential candidates have been on ballots here going back to 2012.

The party was recognized in Maine between June 2016 and December 2018, but they failed to reach a voter threshold needed to continue as a party. That’s why Jorgensen now has to collect 4,000 signatures to get a spot on the presidential ballot reserved for non-party candidates.

The deadline to submit those signatures to the state is Monday, but Jorgensen’s lawsuit asks the court to force Dunlap to reduce that threshold by half, saying the pandemic “made the already arduous path to ballot access … now impossible.”

In the lawsuit, Jorgensen’s lawyers cited the cancellation of summer events, reluctance of people to gather and provide signatures, a lower share of voters at polling places where signatures are often gathered and reduced municipal office hours as main obstacles.

Supporters of Jorgensen have collected 4,400 unverified signatures, according to the lawsuit, which her campaign believes will not be enough to get her on the ballot in the end. It alleges that the signature requirements violate free speech and due process rights.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...