Judge to hear political party suit
PROVIDENCE - A federal judge has scheduled a bench trial in the case of a new Rhode Island political party seeking to get on the ballot.
The Moderate Party of Rhode Island sued state election officials earlier this year, saying the state's ballot access laws are overly restrictive and handicap new political parties that want to nominate candidates for statewide office.
The state says the laws are fair and give the party plenty of time to collect the signatures needed to get on the ballot. It argued that the party should have to prove the depth of its membership and support before pursuing the lawsuit.
US District Judge William Smith is expected to hear arguments during a bench trial Thursday in federal court in Providence. It's not clear when he'll rule.
New parties seeking to qualify for the ballot in Rhode Island must gather signatures equal to at least 5 percent of the total state voter turnout in the preceding gubernatorial or presidential election.
They cannot start collecting signatures until the year of an election, a requirement the Moderate Party says puts it at a disadvantage in competing against Democratic and Republican candidates.