Civil Discourse Now

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Libertarian Party: to optimise legitimacy and attract voters, part 1.

   The Libertarian Party has seemed to be an also-ran in elections in Indiana, and other States. This year the Libertarians ran Rupert Boneham for Governor and Brad Klopfenstein for Lieutenant Governor. Rupert impressed me as intelligent, thoughtful, and caring. He is not fine-polished as a public speaker, but makes up for that in sincerity and smarts. (Brad’s smart, too, but the focus was on the lead on the ticket.) Still, Rupert garnered only some four percent (4%) of the vote.

   This the first part of a series of blogs about how the Libertarian Party can become more relevant.

   The distinction between of a "major" political party in Indiana has to do, in large part, with the votes cast for the office of Secretary of State in the election for that office.

   With one possible exception in my life—Evan Bayh in 1986—the race for Secretary of State is one in which people, generally, vote along party lines. There is little discretion—ability to make policy decisions, in this context—in the job of Secretary of State. That office technically oversees directs elections in the State. Election decisions go to the State Election Board and the various county boards. The Secretary of State oversees professional licensing—but any discretionary acts fall to various boards and entities specific to a license. Secretary of State oversees incorporation of business entities. There is little discretion in that area. The Secretary of State also can investigate businesses, as occurred in the past few years in a couple of instances in which Ponzi schemes were alleged to have risen. That ability is limited, however, and probably more properly handed to a prosecutor. Finally, the Secretary of State—as Larry Conrad told me when I was a high school senior—is responsible for the Seal of the State of Indiana. That is not a marine mammal but a mechanical thing by which the seal may be affixed to documents, etc.

   The real value to the Office of Secretary of State lies in its use as a bellwether for determination of the status of a political party. If the candidate for Secretary of State of a party receives two percent (2%) of the vote in a given year, that party has access to the ballot without the need of filing petitions to be listed. Obviously that is important. The party has an automatic spot on the ballots.

   There is a bigger number at which a party can shoot, however. If a party receives ten percent (10%) of the vote for Secretary of State, its status changes. One thing it can—but is not required—to do is be included in the spring primary elections. Members of the Libertarian Party oppose primaries as activities more properly paid for by an individual party. A party is not required to participate in the primary, however.

   Another benefit of that ten percent (10%) is that a party is entitled to have members work the polls at the general election in an official capacity.

   First suggestion: run a qualified candidate for Secretary of State solely on the platform of getting ten percent (10%) of the vote.

   Too many times people say: "I’d vote for the Libertarian, but I don’t want to waste my vote." Other arguments aside, in the race for Secretary of State, the argument can turn FOR the Libertarians. If the choice is between party regulars who only want another office to notch up for "R" or "D," the Libertarian candidate can argue a vote for "L" really makes a difference. Vote for the Libertarian and members of another party will have access to the polls. The Ls would have official poll workers able to watch over the voter lists. Also, the party would have an official presence at each polling site. That lends legitimacy to the party. On election day, the two major parties usually scramble for poll workers. This would provide another source of workers.

   Tomorrow: further suggestions.    

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