Libertarian Dikeman wins injunction in court challenge to constitutionality of Texas ballot fees

Published 12:34 pm Saturday, December 7, 2019

Houston, Texas — On Monday, December 2, 2019, Judge Kristen Hawkins, Judge in Harris County’s 11th Judicial District, signed a temporary injunction order barring the Secretary of State and Harris County officials from enforcing a law that imposed new filing fees on third party nominees in order to be placed on the general election ballot.

The court case challenges the constitutionality of sections of HB 2504 passed by the Texas legislature in 2019.  These sections required only third party nominees to pay a filing fee to the state or county treasuries in order to be placed on the general election ballot, the first time Texas has ever charged any party’s nominees to be on the general election ballot.  

 “It is a testament to Texas’ shift to a battleground state that the Republican-controlled legislature would risk a constitutional challenge just to limit the competitiveness of races and keep Libertarians nominees off the ballot,” Neal Dikeman said.  

A number of Harris County citizens seeking to be nominated by the Libertarian Party filed the lawsuit, styled Dikeman v. Hughs, against Ruth Hughs as the Texas Secretary of State, Lina Hidalgo as the Harris County Judge, and Diane Trautman as Harris County Clerk. The first named plaintiff in the lawsuit is Neal Dikeman, who represented the Libertarian Party of Texas as its nominee for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

In the order just released, the Court enjoined the Secretary of State and other defendants from “refusing to certify third-party nominees for the general-election election ballot on the ground that the nominee did not pay a filing fee or submit a petition in lieu thereof at the time of filing or any other time,” and from “refusing to accept or rejecting applications for nomination from third-party candidates on the grounds that the applicant did not pay a filing fee or submit a petition in lieu thereof at the time of filing or at any other time.”

The Court issued findings, including: 

The candidate-eligibility requirements imposed by the new Texas Election Code 141.041 “implicate Plaintiffs’ basic constitutional rights guaranteed by both the Texas and U.S. Constitutions, including their right to freedom of association.”

“Plaintiffs have presented evidence that the [Secretary of State’s] Advisory violates the Texas Election Code…”

“This temporary injunction was a crucial step to ensuring voters have a choice at the ballot box, as half of all Texas races in 2018 would have been unopposed without Libertarian Party nominees,” said Harris County Libertarian Party Chair Kathie Glass, who represented the plaintiffs.

The order noted that that Court reviewed an order entered last week in a separate federal case in which the Libertarian Party of Texas is a plaintiff, denying an injunction, and found, “That order is not binding on this Court. Additionally, it is a distinguishable and not persuasive authority regarding the issue presented to this Court.”