Delaware: Validating Libertarian Ballot Access A “Waste of Precious State Resources”

The state elections commission in Delaware claims it just doesn’t have the manpower to resolve a dispute after a tiny splinter group recently broke off from the Libertarian Party of Delaware, and confusingly named itself the Libertarian Party of Delaware Inc.

Back in February Delaware’s election commissioner Elaine Manlove told Delaware State News she didn’t know which party should get the ballot access belonging to Delaware’s more than 1,600 registered Libertarians: “I don’t know who gets to claim them at this point. I am awaiting a response from my Deputy Attorney General.”

The Libertarian Party of Delaware, however, was founded in 1971 along the national Libertarian Party, and has been putting state candidates on ballots for a long time now, and regularly sending delegates to the LP’s national conventions.

The state LP’s Secretary, Will McVay, alleges Ms. Manlove told the party leadership at a Feb. 12 Board of Elections meeting that their party would be the one with ballot access in 2018, but as of early May has still failed to certify that in writing to resolve the dispute and allow the party to move forward with its political campaigns as the election season approaches:

“She knows who we are — everyone with the commissioner’s office knows who we are. They’re well aware of who the real Libertarian party is. Why they’re not willing to make a ruling on it in writing in a timely fashion is, honestly, beyond me.”

What makes the state’s unwillingness to so much as send an email recognizing the real Libertarian Party all the more puzzling, is the national LP has even sent a letter to the commissioner to urge a quick resolution and to recognize the legitimacy of the Libertarian Party of Delaware, the one that’s been the Libertarian Party of Delaware since 1971:

“The Libertarian Party cannot have more than one statewide affiliate in any state, nor can it have more than one county-level affiliate in any county. The LNC has therefore requested that the Commissioner of Elections take prompt action to resolve this matter in accordance with Delaware law.”

McVay says a problem like this would never happen to the state Republican and Democratic Parties because they have special protections under state law against anyone else using their name, protections that are not afforded to third parties in Delaware:

“In Delaware code title 15, section 3302 (a), it specifically says that if you’re a Democrat or Republican, they’ll protect your name, but if you’re anyone else, you’re not mentioned. So, we’re beginning to wonder if that’s an equal protections issue under the 14th Amendment as well.”

He is correct:

“The certificates of nomination shall designate a title for the party which the convention or committee represents, together with any simple figure or device by which its lists of candidates may be designated on the ballot. The figure or title or device selected and designated by the state conventions or committee of any party shall be used by that party throughout this State. Only 1 figure or device shall be used by a party at any election. The same title, figure or device shall not be used by more than 1 party, and the party first certifying a name, title, figure or device to the Department shall have prior right to use the same, and provided further that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party shall have exclusive use of such title and no other party shall use the word “Democratic” or “Republican” or any variation thereof in its title. Such figure or device may be the figure of a star, an eagle, a plow, or some such appropriate symbol, but the coat of arms or seal of this State or of the United States or the flag of the United States or of this State shall not be used as such figure or device.”

After requesting a written confirmation from the state that his party would be granted ballot access under its own name in the Fall, McVay received a forceful response from Deputy Attorney General Robert Willard that threatened to seek “relief” from the state LP if it doesn’t dismiss its claim:

“Your refusal to dismiss your complaint is not appropriate under any conceivable legal standard and will result in the needless waste of precious state resources. We again request that your complaint be dismissed without further delay.

To the extent the state is required to respond to your complaint, we reserve the right to seek counsel fees and any other appropriate relief.”

The question is: which LP will they seek the relief from?