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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Presidential Nomination Process

The Libertarian Party is one of only four parties nationally with consistent ballot access in enough states to possibly win 270 electoral votes and choose a president, along with the Green Party and the two major parties. Like the Democrats and Republicans, we nominate our candidates at national conventions every four years, but the process at those conventions is very different from the stage managed performance from those parties.

Primaries & Caucuses

The primary (pun intended) difference is that the Libertarian Party does not bind its delegates to the national convention based on the result of a state primary or caucus. In many states, including Delaware, the local Libertarian Party does not even have a primary or caucus in the sense that you may be accustomed to from watching news coverage of the Democratic and Republican selection processes. Many local affiliates choose to hold straw polls and other informal processes for inferring the preferences of local Libertarians, but these are in no way indicative of how the delegates who ultimately represent the state at the national convention must vote on the first or any subsequent ballots to nominate a presidential candidate.

Delegates

Each state is apportioned a slate of delegates to represent them at the national convention. The size of the delegation is determined by the national party bylaws and is based on the number of national party members residing in the state as well as the number of votes in the last presidential election for the Libertarian candidate (LP Bylaws: Article 10.3). In 2020, Delaware has been allocated four delegate slots, as well as four alternates, to have voting privileges and represent the state in Austin, TX during the convention in May. Methods for selecting delegates vary by state, but ours are chosen at the state convention immediately prior to the national convention by each attendee at the state convention choosing a slate of delegates, and the candidates with the most votes are selected (LPD AoA: Article VIII).

Nomination Process

(LP Convention Special Rules of Order: Rule 7)

At a national convention during a presidential election year, time is set aside on the agenda for the nomination of the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate. Potential candidates for the nomination may not be nominated for consideration officially unless they receive 30 "signature tokens" issued by the convention's Credentials Committee. No candidates may be selected without receiving a majority of the votes cast. If no candidate secures a majority on the first or any subsequent ballot, the candidate with the fewest votes and any candidates receiving less than 5% of the votes will be dropped from the ballot and the process repeated until a candidate wins a majority. The same process is repeated for VP, and it has often been the case that the varied interests within the national party have been balanced by the presidential candidate not being permitted to choose their own vice presidential candidate.

"None of the Above"

The exception to the rules about signature tokens and removing choices gaining insufficient votes on prior ballots is "None of the Above". None of the Above, or NOTA, is offered in all Libertarian Party elections including the elections for nominating the president and vice president. While the option is always available on every ballot, NOTA is not eligible to give a nominating speech as the other candidates are, except that any delegate may speak for up to five minutes on behalf of NOTA if they collect enough signature tokens to nominate a candidate for that specific purpose.

Chaos!

By the time the national conventions for the two old parties begin, who will become the nominees for president and vice president are usually a foregone conclusion. There is no suspense and no surprises and television coverage becomes a prolonged infomercial for the pre-selected nominee and the tightly controlled, top-down governance of the two parties.

Libertarian nominating conventions are...different.

While state conventions, polls, and unofficial primaries may give a strong indication of the frontrunners, nothing is certain until the assembled national delegates have had their say. With the relatively low ballot access threshold of 30 signature tokens representing the support of 30 delegates out of nearly 1,000, plenty of lesser known candidates hoping to convince the delegates with a strong nominating speech, candidates hoping to outlast better known candidates who cannot secure a majority on the first ballot, and candidates just looking to gain notoriety by having some fun with the process keep the proceedings interesting. Google "James Weeks Libertarian" if you're feeling adventurous.

Candidates

With all of that being said, it is impossible to know who the nominee will be until the votes have been counted and a majority has been reached. It is not even possible to know who all the candidates might be until the voting begins on the first ballot. There are very few if any metrics that can truly be relied on to determine who is a "serious" candidate and who thinks being notorious within the party would be good for a laugh and a story.

The Libertarian Party of Delaware has nevertheless undertaken a special effort this year to solicit any and all known possible candidates to invite them to the State Convention on March 14th or to send a surrogate or video along with campaign swag to make an impression on potential delegates to Austin. These efforts have been primarily driven by the tireless diligence of our State Secretary, Dayl Thomas.

This list includes all of the candidates who have been contacted by Dayl and details of any responses he has received:

  • John Monds - Awaiting confirmation of a personal appearance.
  • Dan Behrman - Expecting a video, swag, and "other cool stuff".
  • Arvin Vohra - Video and swag, both of which have been received.
  • Jedi Hill - Video, possible a Zoom conference. Has sent a photo and bio, working out technical details of Zoom conference.
  • Mark Whitney - Video, possibly someone in person. Awaiting delivery/confirmation respectively.
  • Max Abramson - Video. Received links to YouTube channel.
  • Sam Robb - Video expected. Bio and photo received.
  • Sorinne Ardeleanu - Video expected.
  • Vermin Supreme - Awaiting video.
  • Adam Kokesh - Awaiting video.
  • Ken Armstrong - Awaiting video.
  • Jo Jorgensen - No response.
  • Lincoln Chafee - No response.
  • Jacob Hornberger - Awaiting response.
  • James Ogle - Awaiting response.
  • Brian Ellison - Awaiting response.

The Libertarian Party of Delaware has not endorsed any of these candidates and has not intentionally snubbed any we may have missed. If you are a candidate who has not been listed above or who is listed but would like to update your response status, please comment on this post, reach out to our Facebook Page, or email Dayl.

State Convention

Delaware is a small state with a small slate of delegates, but if you would like to become a delegate to the national convention in Austin, the only way to do it is to attend the State Convention on March 14th and be among the top four candidates receiving votes for that purpose. Even if you cannot be a delegate or just don't want to, attending the convention should be a great way to get to know many of the candidates seeking the nomination for president and to share your thoughts with the delegates who are chosen.

LPPA Debate

In addition to the LPD's State Convention, the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania is holding their state convention the week prior to ours. Among the events is a presidential debate and Q&A forum co-hosted by the LPD. This will take place at the Renaissance Philadelphia Airport Hotel. Both the forum and the debate will take place on March 7th, with the forum scheduled from 3:00p - 5:30p and the debate for 8:00p - 10:00p. Tickets for both events are available through the LPPA website for $10 and $20 respectively.

Why Vote LP?

The Libertarian Party is the third largest and fastest growing political party in the US. That sounds pretty good on its face, except we are a distant third to the two major parties and when you're already small, it doesn't take a huge increase in membership to credibly claim to be the fastest growing. We consistently retain ballot access in all 50 states and have the theoretical capability of winning enough electors to reach the 270 needed to choose a president, but the reality is that winning a presidential election in the current political climate is unlikely. That does NOT mean that voting for a Libertarian candidate, even at the presidential level, is a "wasted vote".

The most tangible goal that could be achieved by voting for a Libertarian presidential candidate is to help us make a case for gaining access to presidential debates. A great deal could change very quickly if a refreshing Libertarian presidential candidate clarified just how stale and out of touch the major party candidates are in a nationally televised debate. At 5% of votes cast, a Libertarian presidential candidate would also qualify for public campaign funding. There is extensive debate within the party as to whether or not a principled Libertarian candidate would even accept such funding, but having that choice would be a strong indicator of growing support for the Libertarian Party at the national level.

A common excuse for not choosing the Libertarian candidate in any election is that a vote for a Libertarian deprives one or the other major party candidates of that vote. Since you only get one vote, at some basic level this might be true if you would otherwise hold your nose and vote for the "lesser evil", but at a deeper level the Democratic and Republican parties do not own your vote and they are not entitled to it. If they have not earned it then giving it to them anyway doesn't teach them anything and will do nothing to improve the state of politics in the US. If you're worried about your vote for a Libertarian presidential candidate or the presidential candidate for any third party costing some other candidate the election, you can rest easy if you live in Delaware. Delaware is a solidly blue state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of over 3:2. Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in Delaware by over 50,000 votes. To quote Tommy Carcetti from HBO's The Wire, "Let the truth set you free...nothing matters at all!" You can vote for a Libertarian presidential candidate in Delaware, secure in the knowledge that you are highly unlikely to change the ultimate outcome of the electoral college vote. You just might get the LPD an extra delegate to the 2022 and 2024 national conventions though!

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