Under the official 2016 election canvass results released Monday by the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office, the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson/Bill Weld ticket surpassed two percent of statewide votes. This means that the Libertarian Party of Iowa officially became eligible for full political party status in the state, and Iowans might notice that change in the run-up to the 2018 elections, when Libertarian candidates will be able to participate in the primary season for the first time.
“It’s an exciting time,” party Chair Keith Laube said.
He said the organization is currently going through the process of applying with the Secretary of State’s Office and ramping up its party building efforts ahead of local elections in 2017 and the 2018 elections, where the party must again earn at least two percent of the vote in the gubernatorial race in order to maintain its political party status.
“In many past elections for the State House and Senate races, people have run unopposed, so having another political party to challenge those people could help get more conversations going and more political activism at all levels, and that will be good for all Iowans,” Laube said.
Laube said Iowa voters will notice a difference in the 2018 primaries, since Libertarian candidates will be able to file their candidacy during the primary season and get out and campaign during a time when voters haven’t yet made up their minds. Under Iowa law, candidates with non-party political organizations, which are not official political parties, can file nomination papers to have their name placed on the General Election ballot, but cannot officially run during the primary season.
“We’ve always struggled in the past in getting candidates’ names out there because they couldn’t file [with the Secretary of State’s Office] until August,” he said. “A lot of polls and media outlets look at the Secretary of State’s website and we’re not on there until the end of August and then there’s just a short window before the election.”
The last time an organization successfully gained official party status in Iowa was in 2000 when Ralph Nader ran for president under the Green Party, earning 2.2 percent of the total votes in Iowa. The Iowa Green Party was then able to apply for political party status. But in 2002, the party’s candidate did not receive two percent of the votes in the gubernatorial race and its official status ended.
Libertarian Party officials report the number of registered Libertarians in Iowa is a few hundred voters short of 10,000 — a number Laube said has doubled every two years since 2008, when Iowa voters were first able to register as Libertarian. The party has put out a call for donations to help with operational and party-building expenses and for campaign outreach.
Laube noted that there has already been interest from individuals hoping to run for office on the Libertarian ticket.
“I think 2018 should be a really interesting year for the Libertarian party,” he said. “Primaries are a good time to spread the word and go out and talk to people and explain the Libertarian philosophy, which I think really resonates with a lot of people.”
Although the party will need to again reach at least two percent of votes in the 2018 gubernatorial race, Laube said he’s not overly worried about it.
“That’s why we’re doing a lot of ground game,” he said. “But our registration numbers keep increasing and we’ve been steadily growing in vote totals at the top of the ballot, so I don’t foresee any issue.”
Iowa had the fifth highest turnout rate in the United States, with over 72 percent of registered voters, 1,581,371 people, placing ballots.