Is the Arizona GOP at War with the Libertarian Party?

Created: 29 June, 2018
Updated: 17 October, 2022
3 min read

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Kevin McCormick is officially off his party's primary ballot. He was the only libertarian candidate still in the race, until Arizona GOP Chair Jonathan Lines challenged the legitimacy of over 90 percent of his ballot signatures.

In a phone conversation with McCormick, he said he found out 15 minutes before his hearing that he would be kicked off the ballot. The one hold up was Maricopa County. He said that because the county recorder's office went beyond what was legally required, the recorder's report had him 942 signatures short of what he needed.

Update: Kevin McCormick says his campaign has identified over 500 valid signatures as of Friday morning that were tossed by Maricopa County.

When a candidate's signature petitions are challenged, the burden of proof is on the challenger. They have to state the page and line number the signature is on, as well as the basis for the challenge.

Jonathan Lines challenged the registration status of many of the voters, as well as the lack of city/town information on addresses. The most detrimental challenge to McCormick, though, targeted the party affiliation of many of the signers.

Many of his signatures were invalidated because the voter was not registered with the Libertarian Party or were registered independents. State law prohibits qualified party candidates from obtaining signatures from voters registered with another party.

McCormick was not only able to obtain signatures from a significant number of libertarians and independents, he was also able to get signatures from hundreds of Republicans and Democrats. Because of this, though, the Arizona GOP was able to successfully kick him out of the gubernatorial race.

"This is just another step in the long-term strategy to limit choice at the ballot box," McCormick remarked.

Gaining ballot access is not easy for independent and third party candidates in Arizona. Independent and unqualified political party candidates running as independent must get 36,697 signatures to qualify for the November ballot in statewide races.

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The Republican-controlled state legislature also made things more difficult for Libertarian candidates in 2015 when they passed a ballot access law that raised the signature requirement to qualify for the Libertarian primary ballot.

Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News and nationally-recognized expert on the subject, explained to me that the 2015 law based the party's new signature requirement on total registered voters in the state, rather than the total number of registered libertarians. Winger noted that the law only hurt Libertarians.

The Libertarian Party filed a lawsuit challenging the law. It failed in district court. However, the party is now asking the Ninth Circuit to overturn the law.

In 2018, McCormick had to get 3,152 signatures versus the 133 required before the 2015 law. To put that in perspective, the new signature requirement is a little over 10 percent of the total number of registered libertarians in Arizona.

But state lawmakers said everything was ok because they were letting libertarians collect signatures from registered independents.

Kevin McCormick collected the second-highest amount of online signatures out of any candidate running. Yet because the Arizona GOP did not want him on the November ballot, his campaign is over.

With McCormick out, there will only be two names on the general election ballot for governor. It is the first gubernatorial election in several elections to not have more than two candidates on the ballot.

McCormick is one of 30 candidate petition challenges listed on the secretary of state's website in 2018. This is an astonishingly high number for an election year. There were only 12 candidate challenges in 2016. There were 20 in 2014, and 16 in 2010.

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In 18 of these cases, including McCormick's, the candidate being challenged either withdrew or was removed from the ballot. Appeals were filed in 4 of these cases.

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