As Expected, Libertarian Party Denied ‘Major Party’ Status in Washington

Party name-checks Harambe in lament over Secretary of State’s decision.

As expected, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman on Wednesday denied the Libertarian Party “major party” status for the 2020 election, saying that Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson failed to meet the threshold for the designation.

By state law, a party’s presidential candidate must receive at least 5 percent of the vote to be designated a major party, which affords it special state privileges including precinct captains and primary elections. When only weighed against other candidates on the ballot, Johnson got just over the 5 percent mark. However, when write-in votes are counted, he clocked in at 4.85 percent.

Since last week the Libertarian Party has been arguing that write-in votes for people (or things) who did not register as official write-in candidates should not be included in the tally, but rather considered invalid votes. The Secretary of State’s office disagrees. It does not tabulate individual write-in returns—for people who registered as write-ins or not—unless there’s reason to believe that a particular write-in candidate got more votes than anyone else on the ballot. The logic here is that it would take an enormous amount of time to count all the write-in ballots, so should only be done if the results could sway an election. Therefore, the state does not know how many write-ins were cast for registered candidates (which the Libertarian Party allows are legitimate) and which write-ins were cast for non-registered candidates.

But even if the write-ins were tallied, SOS spokesman Dave Ammons told us last week, state law really doesn’t make a big distinction between a “registered” write-in candidate and otherwise. While registered write-in candidates have the ability to, for example, have multiple spellings of their names count for them, they are otherwise treated the same as non-registered write-in candidates by state law, Ammons argues. “State law is clear on this,” Ammons said.

In a statement Wednesday, the Libertarian Party said this is a flawed system.

“Despite previously set precedent, and a nearly 100 page document detailing what constitutes a vote in Washington State, the state will not evaluate write-in ballots for their validity. This means that every vote for Harambe and Mickey Mouse will count against the Libertarian Party of Washington equivalent to a vote for a registered write-in campaign, of which there were 55 this year,” the party says.

“This is an action that marginalizes and disenfranchises the efforts of more than 160,000 voters in Washington State, and an action that shall be heavily scrutinized,” it continued.

The Party said it was working with national staff to determine whether to sue.

“The perception of impropriety on the part of Kim Wyman and the Secretary of State Elections office certainly necessitates further action…It is incumbent upon the Washington Secretary of State to honor our inclusion as a major party, or discontinue the benefits extended to the Democrat and Republican parties.”

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