The 2016 election was the gift that keeps on giving for the Libertarian Party. The Libertarian Party of Iowa (LPIA) will soon officially be given major party status, allowing libertarians to be on the ballot in future state elections, and greater exposure for its candidates.
"We plan to have a record number of candidates in 2018," said LPIA Chair Keith Laube in an interview for IVN. "There were a record 25 Libertarian candidates on the ballot in Iowa in 2016. We have been building a base of Libertarian registered voters in Iowa since 2008, the first year Iowa voters could register as a Libertarian. Our plan is to reach out to voters to continue increasing the number of registered Libertarians in Iowa."
Iowa state law allows political parties to gain status when 2 percent of the vote is earned by the party’s presidential candidate. Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential candidate in 2016, received a little over 3 percent in the state -- about the same percentage he got at the national level.
American elections have always been dominated by the two-party system at every institutional level of elections and the political landscape. The plight of third parties to get on the ballot has been a long struggle. Ballot access is easy for Democrats and Republicans, but that isn't the case for Libertarians or other third party candidates.
And while the Libertarian Party has garnered ballot access and party status in several states after 2016, Laube says obstacles remain to keeping the LP's party status.
"Per Iowa code, to maintain party status in Iowa a party must receive at least 2% of the vote for the top of the ticket. So in 2018, our governor candidate must receive at least 2% of the vote," he explained. "We met with state officials and have been conversing back and forth with them as we go through the transition in party status. The state officials have been very professional and good to work with."
"We need to continue to educate voters that Libertarian candidates are very capable of serving at the State and Federal level. Libertarian views attract qualified candidates who run for office because they want positive change to occur in Iowa. Libertarian candidates are often independent thinkers who do not want to be dragged along with the partisan political baggage that comes with the two older parties."
And there may be no greater time to be a libertarian. The Libertarian Party has gained popularity amongst voters as more people break off from the Democratic and Republican parties in dissatisfaction. Supporters of the Libertarian party share a common belief that the government should be less involved in people’s lives, in the household and with their wallets.
As such, libertarians tend to be viewed as fiscally conservative and socially open or liberal or tolerant. Such a stance on government and domestic and foreign policy is making the party more attractive to many voters because such an approach looks outside the current political establishment for solutions.
"I believe Libertarian candidates in 2018 will rely on the majority of the population who want to have their individual liberties restored and who desire a more accountable," Laube said. "As a major party, 2018 will be the first year our candidates will be able to participate in the Primary Election. Candidates will know they are on the ballot in early June rather than late August. This will create stronger campaigns and allow voters to learn about our candidates and issues earlier in the election cycle. Having more candidates talk about issues earlier in the election cycle is a positive for Iowans."
Iowa's secretary of state will make LPIA's party status official on March 1.