Arkansas Libertarians Hope Presidential Pick Will Lift Party In Unconventional Year

May 30, 2016

Libertarian Party of Arkansas Chair Michael Pakko with over 15,000 signatures to be submitted to the Secretary of State's office for ballot access. May 2016.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The Libertarian Party of Arkansas is hoping to ride high hopes for its presidential ticket to automatic placement on the state’s ballot in future elections. On Sunday Libertarians nominated two former Republican governors, Gary Johnson of New Mexico and Bill Weld of Massachusetts, as presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Arkansas party chair Michael Pakko attended the national convention in Orlando and says the volatility of this election cycle gave those there a sense of an opening for the party.

“This year seems to offer an excellent opportunity with the candidates for the two major parties having such high negative ratings,” says Pakko. “Having some credible well known candidates is going to help us, especially given the candidates in the other parties, but I think we are on the rise. While we may not win the presidency this year I think we will build momentum.”

A more pressing goal for Arkansas’s Libertarians is retaining ballot access. Each of the past three election cycles the party has had to gather 10,000 signatures to be certified as a new political party.

“The most important number we’re looking at in Arkansas is we’d like to see our candidate get three percent of the vote. The way election laws are set up in Arkansas, the only way the Libertarian Party will retain ballot access without having to start the petition process all over again next time is if our presidential candidate gets three percent of the vote,” says Pakko.

The Libertarian Party of Arkansas has a candidate running in every congressional office (Democrats are challenging just two seats) along with a handful of state legislature and justice of the peace races.

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson also ran for the party in 2012. He brought in less than 1 percent of the vote nationally. He performed slightly better in Arkansas with 1.52 percent support.