LITTLE ROCK, Ark.
(Heartland Newsfeed) — In a certified letter from Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office Monday, the Libertarian Party has attained new party status for the fourth election cycle in a row, following the collection of enough signatures for qualify for statewide ballot access.
The Libertarian Party of Arkansas (LPAR) has never met the threshold set by Arkansas state law regarding automatically retaining ballot access to avoid a petitioning process, although the state party’s chair, Michael Pakko, would like to see that process change.
“As far as ballot access goes, we really haven’t made much progress there,” he said. “I think the weakest part of the whole system of ballot access is it’s limited to one single office. If you don’t get 3 percent of the vote at the top of the ticket, then you’re not a political party.”
According to the election law, a political party needs to obtain at least 3% of the total votes cast for the office of governor or nominees for presidential electors at the first general election following certification for ballot access retention.
The party’s presidential nominee, entrepreneur and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson received 2.6% of the statewide vote last fall, following a 1.5% statewide vote in 2012.
Last month, LPAR submitted more than 15,000 signatures to Martin’s office to become what is considered a “new political party,” in which the Secretary of State’s office confirmed at least 10,000 were valid, meeting the requirement for the establishment of any new political party. Pakko estimates the cost of paid canvassers to collect the signatures was roughly $30,000.
At the national level, the Libertarian Party now has ballot access in 39 states and the District of Columbia, which includes all bordering states with the exception of Tennessee. 36 of those state immediately earned ballot access following the 2016 presidential election, but failed to meet various requirements in 15 other states.
LPAR first won recognition as an official political party in 2011 after collecting more than 16,000 signatures. With this certification, Pakko said their will now focus their attention on candidate recruitment, with their nominating convention being held next February.
“We are a party that believes in limited government, that individuals should have the right to live their lives the way they see fit without interference of government — so long as you’re not imposing on someone else,” Pakko said. “It’s a very live-and-let-live approach to government. If people believe in that kind of outlook, well, we welcome them to join the Libertarian party.”
Mark West, a pastor in Batesville, announced last month that he is running for governor as a Libertarian next year.