For the fourth consecutive election cycle, the Libertarian Party of Arkansas plans to deliver petitions to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office on Monday to become a “new political party” for the 2018 election.
Because the party failed to win 3% of the electoral vote in the 2016 presidential race that swept Republican nominee Donald Trump into the White House, Arkansas law requires a new political party to collect 10,000 valid voter signatures during a 90-day period.
Party chairman Michael Pakko, an economist at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Institute for Economic Advancement, said the party finds itself in the position again of having to register as a new party when it has participated in the last four presidential elections. Pakko said the performance of the candidate at the top of the ticket should not be the only measuring stick for ballot access. Despite being considered a “new” party under the law, Libertarians fielded a candidate in all four congressional races, while the Democrats only contested the 2nd District. The party was also the only competition in eight of the 34 contested state House races.
“Our performance was definitely improved,” Pakko said. “We are giving voters a choice and voters are making that choice and voting Libertarian.”
According to Pakko, party officials collected more than 15,000 signatures for the 2018 ballot after former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson fell short in the 2016 presidential race with only with 2.63% of the Arkansas vote. That’s an improvement from 2012, when Johnson won 1.52% of the vote. His vote total rose from 16,276 that year to 29,611 this year. If the party’s gubernatorial candidate wins 3% in 2018, it won’t have to collect signatures in 2020.
By not winning 3% of the vote, the party will again have to qualify for the ballot in 2018, a process Pakko has said required six months of work as well as about $33,000 in costs in the 2016 cycle. Because the primary was moved up to March 1, a state law required the party to select its candidates at the end of 2015. Pakko said the party will try to change the state’s law defining a political party in the 2017 legislative session while working toward the 2018 election.
During the recent legislative session, the party did not get enough support to change the state’s law defining a political party ahead of the 2018 election.
And as the nation is riveted with former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before Congress and an obstruction of justice investigation of President Donald Trump by independent counsel Robert Mueller, Pakko said there is a high level of mistrust between American voters and Republican and Democratic parties.
“There remains a low-level of trust in government and the two-party system,” Pakko said. “We see the constant bickering between the two major parties and I think one thing that Libertarians would like voters to know is there is another choice and another option out there.”
Pakko said Arkansas voters should take a closer look at the Libertarian Party in 2018 at all levels.
“We have a specific set of principles that we believe and we put emphasis on the rights of individuals, and that individuals should be free to live their lives as they see fit without as little interference from the government as possible,” said the Libertarian leader and economic forecaster. “Keep the government out of people’s lives and out of their pocketbooks.”
After party leaders deliver petitions to the Secretary of State’s office next week and the signatures are validated within 30 days, Pakko said the party will immediately begin to recruit new candidates for the next major election that is now less than two years away.