Republican effort to remove Libertarians from November ballot rejected by Texas Supreme Court

A voter casts their ballot at a polling station at the El Paso Fire Department Fire Station No. 3 on Nov. 3, 2020. (Joel Angel Juarez For The Texas Tribune, Joel Angel Juarez For The Texas Tribune)

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The Texas Supreme Court on Friday rejected a Republican effort to remove a host of Libertarian candidates from the November ballot, saying the GOP did not bring their challenge soon enough.

In a unanimous opinion, the all-GOP court did not weigh in on the merits of the challenge but said the challenge came too late in the election cycle. The Libertarian Party nominated the candidates in April, the court said, and the GOP waited until earlier this month to challenge their candidacies.

On Aug. 8, a group of Republican candidates asked the Supreme Court to remove 23 Libertarians from the ballot, saying they did not meet eligibility requirements. The Republicans included Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and others in congressional and state legislative races.

State law requires Libertarian candidates to pay filing fees or gather petition signatures, the amount of each depending on the office sought. The Libertarian Party has been challenging that law in federal court, arguing it is unfair because the fees do not go toward their nomination process like they do for Democrats and Republicans.

Republicans also tried and failed to kick a group of Libertarian candidates off the ballot in 2020. In that case, the state Supreme Court said the GOP waited until after the deadline to challenge candidate eligibility. This time, the Republicans filed their challenge before that deadline but apparently still did not satisfy the court’s preference to deal with election challenges as soon as the alleged issues arise.

In its opinion Friday, the court suggested the “emergency timeframe” argued by the GOP “is entirely the product of avoidable delay in bringing the matter to the courts.”

"The Libertarian Party of Texas is thrilled with this outcome," Whitney Bilyeu, who chairs the Texas Libertarian Party, said in a statement. "As we did last time, we resisted this haphazard attempt by Republicans to limit voter choice and obstruct free and fair elections."

Republicans have long sought to marginalize Libertarians under the thinking that they siphon votes from the GOP. Democrats, meanwhile, see the Green Party as a threat.

Among the 23 races in which the GOP challenged Libertarian candidates this time, few are expected to be close. The most clear exception, though, is the 15th Congressional District, the most competitive congressional race in the state and a top target of Republicans nationwide. Libertarian Ross Lynn Leone will remain on the ballot there against Republican Monica De La Cruz and Democrat Michelle Vallejo.

Patrick’s race could also be competitive. He won reelection by 5 percentage points in 2018, while the Libertarian candidate then took 2% of the vote.


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