OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Libertarian Party has filed a lawsuit to block Mitt Romney from the November ballot in Washington state, arguing that the GOP no longer qualifies as a major political party, officials said Thursday.
The filing in Thurston County contends that Republicans do not get an automatic slot on the ballot because state law defines major parties as those that receive 5 percent of the vote in a statewide race during a November general election in even years. Republican Dino Rossi did get 48 percent of the vote in the U.S. Senate race two years ago but wasn't officially nominated by the party at its convention, and Washington's top-two primary system is not considered a nominating process.
State election officials, led by Republican Sam Reed, said that law was essentially repealed by a voter-approved initiative in 2004 that scrapped the party primaries in favor of the top-two system. Since then, the state has adopted an administrative code allowing parties to qualify as major political parties if their presidential tickets get more than 5 percent of the vote in the last White House vote.
Looking at the results of the last presidential election in 2008, the state believes both Republicans and Democrats automatically qualify to have their candidates on the November ballot.
John Mills, an attorney handling the case for the Libertarian Party, said the statutes cannot be repealed or changed by an agency — only the Legislature.
"As a legal matter, that's kind of a frivolous argument," Mills said. The Legislature hasn't repealed the old laws, and an effort to make those changes a few years ago failed.
State GOP chairman Kirby Wilbur called the lawsuit a "silly matter."
"Dino Rossi was nominated by this party in August 2010," he said, noting that at a state board meeting after the 2010 state Republican convention and primary, Rossi was officially endorsed by the party.
"We have legal documents that show that" and Republicans will seek to have the case dismissed, Wilbur said. Mills said he doesn't think that a party board meeting complies with Republican party rules for nominating candidates.
Minor parties, such as the Libertarians, can get on Washington's ballot by holding a nominating convention within the state and collecting at least 1,000 qualifying signatures, but that deadline has passed.
The lawsuit asserts that the GOP ticket can now only run a write-in campaign in Washington.
Associated Press writer Rachel La Corte contributed to this report. Mike Baker can be reached on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/HiPpEV .