Out of all the winners of the 2016 elections, the biggest might have been the Libertarian Party (LP). While Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson did not reach the coveted 5% in national polls to boost his party in future presidential elections, he did help his party extend its ballot access to 39 states for the 2018 elections.
For a third party, that is a big deal. It means they do not have to spend money and resources on gathering signatures that may end up getting challenged in court by the Republican or Democratic Party… or both. The threat of legal action is enough to keep many third parties from challenging elections at all levels of government.
Along with ballot access, the LP gained party status in a number of states as well. In Washington state, for instance, Johnson’s presidential ticket received enough votes (over 5%) to elevate the Libertarian Party of Washington to major party status. However, unprecedented tactics are being used to keep the LP from obtaining this status.
On December 8, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Governor Jay Inslee certified the 2016 election results. Out of the 3,209,214 certified votes cast in the presidential election, the Johnson/Weld ticket took 160,879 — approximately 5.01% of the vote, or enough to make the LP a major party.
However, going against 24 years of state precedent, Wyman denied the LP major party status because when “write-in” ballots are included in the vote total, the Libertarian vote is diluted to 4.85% of the vote.
What’s more, the state is not going to evaluate these ballots for their validity — meaning every vote for Mickey Mouse or Harambe count toward the total number of “valid” votes.
“This is either a major failure on the part of the Secretary of State to recognize the ramifications of a procedural change, or direct subversive action to undermine the Libertarian Party of Washington’s standing in Washington State politics,” The Libertarian Party of Washington stated in a press release. “This is an action that marginalizes and disenfranchises the efforts of more than 160,000 voters in Washington State, and an action that shall be heavily scrutinized.”
The Libertarian Party of Washington is currently exploring its options, including a possible legal challenge.
Washington state is not alone though. The Libertarian Party of Ohio is suing Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted for refusing to acknowledge the LP as a recognized political party. Gary Johnson received over 3 percent of the vote in the state, enough to gain party status. However, because the LP had previously been stripped of its party status, Johnson had to appear on the ballot as an independent.
Husted is using the technicality to deny the LP qualified party status. This is not the first time Husted and other Republicans have used state authority or the legal system against the LP. It was reported in 2015 that the Republican Party spent nearly $600,000 to keep Libertarian Party candidate Charlie Earl off the 2014 gubernatorial ballot.
The Libertarian Party of Ohio previously sued Husted to regain its party status, but the lawsuit failed. It is unclear at the moment whether or not the Ohio Supreme Court will take up the latest lawsuit.