The Libertarian Party is suing Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap in federal court in Bangor over his decision last December to revoke the party’s official status after its member enrollment dipped below the threshold required under state law.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo

The lawsuit maintains that the state effectively discarded more than 6,000 voter registrations by unenrolling Libertarians from the party without their permission. With those Libertarians unenrolled, there are now only 105 registered Libertarian voters in Maine, according to the state’s most recently available voter registration data from May of this year.

“You can’t simply throw out one’s choice to belong to a political party,” Libertarian Party of Maine Chairman Jim Baines of Hampden, one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, said in a written statement. “Republicans and Democrats wrote unconstitutional laws that suppress competition, and prevent thousands of independent thinkers in Maine from considering a viable political option, which many didn’t know existed. I didn’t realize I was a Libertarian until seven years ago.”

The Libertarian Party qualified for party status in July 2016, after enrolling more than 5,000 members. But state law requires that at least 10,000 party members have to vote in the election after their party’s establishment, which did not occur.

In December 2018, Dunlap determined that the party did not have enough voters participate in the election that November and had only 6,168 registered voters so it could not have reached the 10,000-voter threshold for participation.

Those previously enrolled as Libertarians became unenrolled voters and as of May 2019 only 105 voters had registered as Libertarians, according to the most recently available state data on voter registration.

Dunlap has previously said the Libertarian Party could be re-established if 5,000 voters register as Libertarians in 2020. However, they still would also need to turn out at least 10,000 voters in the November 2020 election to maintain their party status.

Maine currently has three official parties, including Democrats with 347,281 enrolled members, Green-Independents with 43,507 and Republicans with 287,045. The state’s largest bloc of voters is the 372,255 who have not enrolled in any party.

Recent efforts to reduce the required number of voters for party status in Maine have failed to pass the Legislature, where Democrats and Republicans hold the vast majority of the seats, with only a smattering of unenrolled lawmakers.

Dunlap’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday, saying he wouldn’t speak on pending litigation.

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