Washington State is the textbook case for the uphill battle third-party candidates face in gaining ballot access.
In 2010, Warren Redlich was the Libertarian Party Candidate for Governor of New York. Mr. Redlich received more votes for Governor than any Libertarian Candidate before or since that election. This was, however, bittersweet because he fell just below the 50,000 vote threshold required to earn ballot access in the State of New York. For 2018, all eyes are on the runner-up in the 2016 Vice Presidential nomination, Larry Sharpe, to cross the elusive 50,000 vote threshold for Governor.
Ballot access is a major issue for third parties. Without it, acquiring the number of required signatures tends to be infeasible and prohibitively expensive. For example, in 2016 when I ran for U.S. Senate in New York the Democratic, Republican, and Green party candidates did not need any signatures to be on the ballot. As the Libertarian candidate, I needed 15,000.
In 2016, because of Gary Johnson’s place at the top of the ticket, down-ballot Libertarian candidates set vote records all around the country and overcame ballot access difficulties in many states. However, one state served as a glaring exception.
In Washington State, to earn ballot access a party must earn 5% of the vote in a presidential election. Traditionally in Washington write-in votes were never counted as part of vote totals. In 2016 the Libertarian Party had seemed to cross the 5% threshold in Washington State and thus earn ballot access for the next 4 years. The Secretary of State, who in prior elections chose not to count in write-in votes, finally added the write-in votes. But this still left the Libertarian vote total slightly below 5%. The Libertarian Party of Washington must now wait until 2020 to once again have an opportunity to earn ballot access.
People criticize third parties for having trouble winning elections, but the major parties have worked so hard to create structural barriers for those who want to move the discussion away from the current two-party duopoly. Who can blame third parties for their difficulties? Electoral reform on the state-by-state level is an issue that all third party supporters should work on together. Doing so is not only in the best interest of the electoral chances of third parties; additionally, it will ensure that the Republican and Democratic parties focus more on issues rather than only needing to be slight better than the other.
Alex Merced was the Libertarian Nominee for New York State’s 2016 U.S. Senate Race. He is currently running for NYC Comptroller in 2017 and is the host of “The AlexMercedCast” podcast and other media at AlexMerced.com.