Earlier this year, the New Hampshire legislature passed HB 1542, which makes it illegal for a group to circulate the petition for party status during an odd year. On July 22, the Libertarian Party filed a federal lawsuit against the new restriction. Libertarian Party of N.H. v Gardner, 1:14cv-322. UPDATE: the case was assigned to Magistrate Judge Andrea K. Johnstone, a brand-new Obama appointee.
The petition for party status was created in 1996. It is so difficult, it has only been used twice, both times by the Libertarian Party, for 2000 and 2012. Both times the Libertarian Party did this petition, it started the drive in the odd year before the election year. The first attempt started in April 1999; the second attempt started in August 2011. Both times, the party took a full year to finish the job. It requires 3% of the last gubernatorial vote. No state except Oklahoma has a more difficult requirement for a group to place all its nominees on the November ballot. Oklahoma, however, permits a full year for a group to work on the petition.
New Hampshire, over the last 35 years, has made ballot access more and more difficult. In 1981 it increased the independent petition from 1,000 signatures to 3,000 signatures, and added a distribution requirement of 1,500 in each U.S. House district. In 1985 it required independent candidates (and the nominees of unqualified parties) to submit a declaration of candidacy in June, even though the petition is not due until August. In 1997 it increased the vote test for party status from 3% to 4%.
New Hampshire and Washington are the only states in the last twenty-five years that have increased the vote test for party status. Twenty-five states have eased the test during the last thirty years: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. There is a persistent strain of intolerance in the New Hampshire legislature toward minor parties. Such intolerance does not extend to major party candidates; they need not petition, and New Hampshire allows anyone to get on a presidential primary ballot merely by paying a fee of $1,000.