Johnson Surpasses Important Hurdle
Earlier today, the Libertarian ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld achieved ballot access in Rhode Island. The feat is important in that it marks the first time since 1996 that any third-party ticket will appear on all 50 state ballots (plus the District of Columbia).
Twenty years ago, both the Reform Party ticket of Ross Perot and Pat Choate, as well as the Libertarian ticket of Harry Browne and Jo Jorgensen, appeared in all 50 states. Though the Libertarians accomplished universal ballot access with Browne as the nominee again in 2000, L. Neil Smith instead appeared as the party’s presidential candidate in Arizona.
Since the turn of the century, ballot access has become increasingly difficult for third-party candidates. For this reason, this year’s accomplishment by the Libertarians is fairly important. By being in position as a serious third-party ticket, Johnson and Weld are able to receive as many votes as possible.
Further, they increase their odds of reaching the ever-important 5% of the popular vote, which would ensure matching federal funds in future elections. Nader in 1996 was the last candidate to reach this mark, resulting in the Reform Party’s 2000 nominee Pat Buchanan receiving $12.5 million in federal funds.
However, a dispute between Buchanan and John Hagelin over who was the “real” nominee led to the implosion of the party. Eventually, party founder Perot endorsed George W. Bush, only further destroying the Reform Party. Despite appearing on 49 state ballots, Buchanan won only 0.43% of the vote. In 2004, the party simply endorsed Independent Ralph Nader rather than running its own candidate.
In 2008, the party nominated Ted Weill, who appeared on the ballot only in Mississippi, earning 470 popular votes. Andre Barnett then won the nomination in 2012, appearing only on the Florida ballot. With the help of write-in status in a few states, he won 962 votes nationally. For 2016, the party nominated Rocky de la Fuente, who will appear on at least 16 state ballots.
As evidenced above, that 5% goal is simply the next step toward long-term victories for the Libertarian Party, after this success of universal ballot access. Despite the excitement which may lay ahead, the party must remain disciplined and not squander the opportunities granted to it.
In the meantime, Johnson and Weld must campaign in the now. Particularly given the unpopularity of both Clinton and Trump, they have an opportunity which may never occur again. They must therefore seize this moment to educate Americans about the virtues of economic freedom and personal liberty.