LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Third-party political candidates could have an easier time getting on the Nebraska ballot under a bill that sailed through a first-round vote in the Legislature.

Lawmakers voted 40-0 on Wednesday to advance a measure that would create a new way for parties to maintain ballot access, allowing them to divert more resources into local races and fundraising.

The bill would allow parties to automatically appear on the ballot if they have at least 10,000 registered members. The Libertarian Party of Nebraska cleared the threshold late last year.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, a former Republican who registered as a Libertarian last year. Ebke has said she believes the bill will promote competition and force parties to hone their messages.