Topeka, Kansas -- The Natural Law Party is suing the secretary of state, claiming a century-old Kansas law keeps its candidates off election ballots by limiting party names to two words, one of which must be "Party."
With three words to its name, the Natural Law Party can't gain state recognition, which is necessary to get its nominees directly on the general election ballot.
Instead, the party has to undergo a laborious process of collecting voter signatures to get its candidates on the ballot as independents.
"This is the only law of its kind in the country," Dick Kurtenbach, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri, said Friday. "I hope reason prevails here and this thing doesn't have to go the distance."
Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh acknowledged the law is "archaic" but said he had not yet studied the lawsuit, filed Thursday by the ACLU on the party's behalf.
The Natural Law Party, founded in 1992, grew out of the teachings of Transcendental Meditation leader Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It promotes preventive health care, increased use of renewable energy sources and peaceful remedies for international conflicts.
Kansas has four recognized parties: Democratic, Libertarian, Reform and Republican. A fifth, Constitution, lost recognition this year when it failed to file any candidates.
To get on the ballot, a party must submit petitions signed by enough registered voters to equal 2 percent of the total votes cast in the last general election for governor. This year, that would be about 15,000 signatures. To keep recognition, it must have at least one candidate for statewide office who gets at least 1 percent of the vote in each general election.
The ACLU believes Republicans passed the law after a 1900 election, when their candidates were challenged by Democrats and Populists who ran under a single Peoples-Democratic Party.
Kurtenbach said he hopes legislators haven't intentionally decided against repealing the law.
"Hopefully," he said, "it's just an oversight and they just need to pointed in the right direction."