The Libertarian Party continues to bask in a historic election year, gaining party status and ballot access in more states in 2016. The general platform of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism/tolerance/openness is striking a cord with many voters looking for alternatives outside the two-party political structure.
In some states, like Iowa, the local Libertarian Party is celebrating major party status. However, other Libertarian Parties must fight Republican and Democratic forces to gain the party status or ballot access they believe they rightfully earned after the 2016 elections.
In Tennessee, the state Libertarian Party asked the secretary of state to declare it a qualified political party, according to Ballot Access News. Current law requires minor parties to get at least 5 percent of the vote in the previous gubernatorial election.
The last gubernatorial election was in 2014, when 5% of the vote was 67,687. The party’s case for qualified party status is that Gary Johnson received 70,397 votes. I reached out to the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Tennessee for comment, and will update the article with the chairman’s comments.
The Libertarian Parties in Ohio and Washington state are also fighting state officials on being denied major party status, despite Johnson’s success in 2016. In Washington, the secretary of state added the total number of write-in votes to the total presidential count to drop the Libertarian Party below the required number (5% of the vote total) to obtain major party status.
The Ohio Libertarian Party has long been locked in conflict and litigation with the state’s Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, over candidates being denied access to the ballot and denying the party recognized status. Multiple lawsuits have been filed by the Libertarian Party against Husted, which have had no success before the Supreme Court.
Husted denied the Libertarian Party of Ohio recognized party status because Gary Johnson had to run in the state as an independent, even though he was the Libertarian’s presidential nominee. The party had been previously stripped of its party status and the state would not let Johnson run under the Libertarian label.
These are just a few examples of the struggles the Libertarian Party and other minor parties experience just to get on the ballot. In many states, the petition requirements to appear on the general election ballot are a deterrent. And even if a minor party believes it can get the signatures necessary, many fear legal challenges from the major parties that could potentially cripple their party financially.
The Libertarian Party of Illinois challenged a law before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that makes it harder for third parties to gain ballot access. An update from the Courthouse News Service indicates that the court may be poised to rule in the Libertarian Party’s favor. It would be a big win for Libertarians not only in Illinois, but across the country.