The Libertarian Party of Arkansas stopped by the state Capitol Tuesday to deliver 15,000-plus signatures to be recognized an official party, allowing its candidates to be placed on the 2016 ballot. State party chairman Michael Pakko said this year Libertarians began the petition process early to mitigate what third-party supporters often characterize as an unfair initial requirement for recognition.
“These are petitions requesting that we become a new political party in Arkansas, once again, for the third time,” said Pakko.
The $34,000 petition effort finished two weeks in advance of a 90 day deadline, with 5,000 signatures above the required 10,000, to help ensure a sufficient number will be verified as valid.
“It’s a huge chunk of our effort. We’re already behind the game by the time we get on the ballot. Of course it requires fundraising and volunteer hours to accomplish this task and that really does take a lot of the resources that could otherwise go toward candidates and campaigns,” said Pakko.
That’s an effort the state’s other minor party, the Green Party, won’t be able to match this year. The Green Party of Arkansas has succeeded in ballot recognition drives for 10 years but state coordinator Mark Jenkins said in 2016 it won’t be able to field any state-level candidates.
“There’s a lot of internal burnout. We’re conserving our money and our other resources to try again in two years,” said Jenkins.
However, Jenkins notes that Greens will begin a drive this Saturday to place the national party’s presidential candidate on the ballot. The signature threshold for that office is in one-tenth the 10,000 required for state party recognition.
In the previous election cycle Greens and Libertarians shared some of the signature gathering burden. The Libertarian chair said the Greens were aware of its early petition effort but opted not to participate.
“It happened to be the case a couple of years ago that we were petitioning at the same time and we shared some of the same paid petitioners,” said Pakko. “One of the main things we have in common is our desire to see ballot access in Arkansas become easier for a third party.”
The Greens’ Jenkins said the party didn’t join the Libertarians petition effort, which previously split a degree of the cost, due to low funding levels and ideological differences with Libertarians.
If either a gubernatorial or presidential candidate musters three percent of the vote the party represented automatically gains ballot access in the next election.