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Minnesota's Libertarian Party wants to make it easier for third-party candidates to get on state general election ballots, launching the first in an expected series of lawsuits taking aim at laws restricting minor-party ballot access.

The Libertarian Party, one of three recognized minor parties in the state, is first setting its sights on statutes that govern how minor-party candidates petition to get on the ballot.

Under state law, minor-party candidates must collect 500 signatures for state legislative races and 2,000 signatures for statewide offices. Signatures must be collected during a 14-day period in late May. Those who sign the petitions for Libertarian general election candidates must swear not to vote in the primaries for those offices. Violators can be prosecuted for perjury, something Libertarian Party leaders allege has created confusion and chilled support from would-be signatories in the past.

"Primary voters should not be excluded from the primary election process just because they saw fit to provide all voters a greater choice of candidates than the major parties provide," wrote Erick Kaardal, a former Minnesota GOP official representing the Libertarian Party in the litigation. The first suit, filed last month, names the county attorneys in Anoka, Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

Spokespersons for the Hennepin and Ramsey County attorneys' offices said that they could not comment on the suit, which takes aim at the primary voting restriction. The officials have yet to file formal responses in court.

A separate lawsuit is expected to challenge the state's 14-day window for collecting signatures.

Bipartisan legislation introduced last session in the Minnesota House and Senate sought to change the thresholds for major-party designation and make changes to the minor-party petitioning requirements. Those provisions did not receive a hearing.

Chris Holbrook, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Minnesota, said the party is instead going to court to change the laws.

"We believe it is unconstitutional because it limits your First Amendment right to free speech," he said.

Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755 Twitter: @smontemayor