Michigan’s third parties did relatively well on Election Day 2016. The Green and Libertarian Parties elected six candidates to local office. The Libertarian and Working Class Parties achieved so called major party ballot status for the first time and the Libertarian Party saw some of its strongest election results in party history. Now that the official election results have been certified I can compare them to previous years.
Third party candidates for President did well relative to other years in 2016. This is the first year since 1980 that four different candidates earned more than 1% of the vote and the first time since 1996 that more than 5% of the voters cast their vote for someone besides the Democrat or Republican.
Table 1) 2016 Presidential Election Results for Michigan
|Republican||Donald J. Trump||2,279,543||47.50|
|US Taxpayers||Darrell L. Castle||16,139||0.34|
|Natural Law||Emidio Mimi Soltysik||2,209||0.05|
|write-in||Michael A. Maturen||517||0.01|
Gary Johnson earned 172,136 votes (3.59%) setting a Libertarian Party record in the process and resulting in the LPM achieving major party ballot status for the first time. Johnson surpassed Ed Clark’s 1980 result of 41,597 votes (1.06%) by more than three times and earned more votes than any third party candidate since Ross Perot in 1996.
Independent candidate Evan McMullin received 8,177 votes (0.17%) as a write-in breaking the record previously held by Gary Johnson in 2012 with 7,774 write-in votes (0.16%).
Jill Stein had the 2nd best Green Party showing behind Ralph Nadar’s 1.99% in 2000. Stein also became the second woman, along with Hillary Clinton, to earn more than 1%. Stein had previously set the record for most votes for a woman candidate for President in 2012. Now she holds the 2nd and 3rd such records.
US Taxpayers Party candidate Darrel Castle effectively tied their party record with 16,139 votes (0.334%) compared to Virgil Goode Jr. in 2012 with 16,119 votes (0.341%). Castle earned 20 more votes, but 0.007% less of the total vote than 2012 due to lower turnout this year.
Figure 1) Libertarian Party Presidential Results in Michigan and Nationally
Elected Candidates from Third Parties
While no third party candidates were elected to any federal or state office in Michigan this year, six candidates were elected to partisan public office at the county and local level; five Greens and one Libertarian.
In Grand Traverse County, Green Party candidate Tom Mair beat his Republican opponent 53-46% to be elected to County Commission District 2. This is the first time in Michigan that the Green Party has beaten a major party candidate, the first time since 1988 that any third party candidate has earned more votes than a major party candidate, and highest office a third party has been elected to in Michigan since at least the early 1970s.
In Ypsilanti Township, two Greens, Shuana McNally and Stuart Collis, and one Libertarian, Elizabeth Corder, along with four Democrats, were elected to the Ypsilanti Township Parks Commission. The makeup of the board is now 4 Democrats, 2 Green, and 1 Libertarian. Two other Libertarians including former board member Lawrence Johnson, came in 8th and 9th. While there have been elected boards in US history that contained members of three different parties, the fact that only one major party is represented among the three on this board may be unprecedented. Another Green Party candidate, Jesse Torres was elected to an open seat on the Holly Township Parks Commission. None of these seats were contested by major party opponents.
In Newberg Township, Green Party candidate Korine Blyveis was re-elected to her fourth term as Township Clerk. She was unopposed every time.
The five Greens being elected breaks a modern Michigan record for most partisan elected officials by a third party, previously held by the Human Rights Party who had three partisan elected officials from 1974-1976; two on the Ypsilanti City Council and one on the Ann Arbor City Council.
Libertarian Congressional candidates had the strongest showing in party history and 2nd strongest third party showing since at least 1972.
The thirteen Libertarians running for Congress earned an average of 3.04% of the vote. This is only the second time a third party has averaged 3% of the vote; the other time also occurring this year. The new Working Class Party ran only two candidates but averaged 3.11% between them. The three UST candidates averaged 1.89% (a record for them), the nine Green candidates averaged 1.47% (2nd best record behind 1.72% in 2008), and the two NLP candidates averaged 0.6%.
Figure 2) Average Vote % for Congress, Libertarian Party of Michigan
In District 6, Libertarian Lorence Wenke earned 4.93% (16,248 votes) breaking the record for highest % for a Libertarian Congressional candidate in a race that includes both major party opponents. In District 7, Kenneth Proctor earned 16,476 votes (4.92%) breaking the record for most votes for a Libertarian Congressional candidate in a race that includes both major party opponents. Ken fell short of his 1992 record of 18,751 votes (12.27%), in a race with only one major party opponent. Libertarians beat their other minor party candidates in all but two races, being out voted in district 12 by a candidate from the WCP and in district 11 by former member of Congress Kerry Bentivolio, running as an Independent. Kerry earned 4.38% of the vote. In fact, these are three of the four best showings for Congress by anybody apart from a Democrat or Republican in modern Michigan history. The strongest showing was 10.15% in a 1993 special election by independent Dawn Ida Krupp who had been active in the Perot campaign.
The 25 Libertarian candidates for Michigan State House earned an average of 4.63%. This is the 2nd highest average for the LP behind their 2014 record average of 4.96%, a year only five candidates ran. No other third party has averaged over 4% for State House since 1972. The nine Greens came close, averaging 3.71% and the seven UST candidates averaged 3.36%, both setting their own party records. Libertarians beat the other third parties in all three races that featured more than three candidates.
Figure 3) Average Vote % for State House, Libertarian Party of Michigan
The best Libertarian showing for State House was Max Rieske who received 6.98% (2,965 votes) in district 91 followed by Ryan Winfield at 5.93% (3,018 votes). No individual Libertarian records for State House were broken but the LP had 8 candidates earn more than 5% of the vote. Prior to this year, the LP only had 8 candidates earn than 5% of the vote in the previous 40 years and four of these were two way races. Three other minor party and independent candidates earned >5% including Green Party candidate John LaPietra in district 63 (5.71%) who became the first Green to reach 5% for State House. The best showing for any non-major party candidate was independent Beth McGrath who received 7.34% (3,643 votes) in district 39.
Public Education Boards
The four education boards (State Board of Ed and the three universities) are the only state or federal offices that voters cast votes for two candidates, allowing voters to cast a ballot for candidates from more than one party. Libertarians contested all eight positions with an average of 1.65% of all votes cast. This may seem lower than the other races, but only because twice as many votes are cast in these races. For example, there were 8.4 million votes cast for State Board of Education but only 4.8 million voters casting ballots. The 1.65% figure is the best the Libertarians have done since a record 1.85% in 1998. However in 1998 all other third parties combined ran just 7 candidates for these boards whereas in 2016, there were 16 others. The six Greens and seven UST candidates each averaged 1.23% and the two NLP candidates averaged 0.60%.
Mary Anne Hering of the Working Class Party, their only statewide candidate, earned 224,392 votes (2.66%) for State Board of Education, earning the WCP major party status. This is a new record high vote total for any non-presidential third party candidate in Michigan history. Her 2.66% is fourth highest % for all education board candidates since at least 1972.
Scotty Boman earned 198,349 votes (2.35%) for State Board of Education, the most votes ever for a Libertarian candidate in Michigan and Justin Burns received 174,430 votes (2.15%) for MSU Trustee, the most votes ever for a third party University board candidate and second highest Libertarian total. Both candidates, along with Gary Johnson, broke the 20 year LP record of 150,869 votes held by Diane Barnes when she ran for State Board of Education in 1996.
Justice of the Supreme Court
While this office is nonpartisan on the ballot, candidates for Justice of the Supreme Court are nominated by political parties. Libertarian nominee Kerry Morgan earned 442,781 votes (13.15%) breaking the party record for Supreme Court Justices set 8 years earlier by Robert Roddis. Doug Dern, the only other candidate nominated by a third party, the Natural Law Party, earned 336,160 votes (9.76%) breaking their party record.
County and Local
The most votes for a Libertarian running for a countywide position was David Afton who received 105,732 votes (15.78%) running for Wayne County Prosecutor in a race with no Republican. This is a new record for most countywide votes for a Libertarian. In a three way race for Oakland County Prosecutor, Steve Afton received 27,149 votes (4.35%). This is a new record for most countywide votes for a Libertarian in a race with both major party candidates. (No, that is not a typo. Both candidate’s last names are Afton.) Jamie Lewis received 5.53% (16,015 votes) for Kent County Clerk in a three way race, breaking his own record for highest % for a Libertarian in a countywide race with both major party candidates and becoming the first Libertarian to break 5% in such a race. Edit: The highest % of the vote for any countywide race was Mike Steffes who earned 22.85% (2,2224 votes) for
No Libertarian records for County Commissioner were broken this year. The best showing percentagewise by a Libertarian running for County Commissioner was Zach Boyle who received 28.49% (298 votes) for Alpena County Commissioner in a race with no Republican. In a three way race, Dustin Reamer earned 5.91% (1,000 votes) for Genesee County Commissioner. The most votes for a Libertarian County Commissioner was Mike Steffes in Kalamazoo County with 2,224 votes (22.85%) in a race with no Democrat. [Edit: This was originally listed as Jim Schell in Livingston County with 1,844 votes but when the official Kalamzoo results were released, Steffes’ total was higher. GS 12/8/16]. In a three way race, that honor goes to Jim Fulner in Oakland County with 1,740 votes (5.49%).
Notable Libertarian local election results include the election of Elizabeth Corder to the Ypsilanti Township Parks Commission with 5.11% (4,719 votes) and Joseph LeBlanc who earned 8.62% (3,625 votes) in an unsuccessful campaign for Plymouth Township Trustee.
The only other third party to run county and local candidates was the Green Party who elected 5 candidates.
Political Party Ballot Status in 2018
All of Michigan’s seven recognized political parties maintained their ballot status for the 2018 election season and two so called third parties earned enough votes to achieve the same ballot status as the major party Democrats and Republicans.
In order to maintain ballot status in Michigan, a party needs one candidate to earn more than 1% of all votes cast for the winning Secretary of State candidate in the most recent election (MCL 168.685). In 2014 that was Republican Ruth Johnson with 1,649,047 votes, thus political parties need a candidate to get 16,490 votes.
Table 2) Candidate Receiving the Greatest Number of Votes for Each Political Party
|Republican||Donald J. Trump||2,279,543||President|
|Working Class||Mary Anne Hering||224,392||State Board of Education|
|Libertarian||Scotty Boman||198,349||State Board of Education|
|US Taxpayers||Angela Grandy||143,343||MSU Board of Trustee|
|Green||Will Tyler White||126,125||MSU Board of Trustee|
|Natural Law||Bridgette Abraham-Guzman||84,194||U of M Board of Regents|
|threshold to maintain ballot status||16,490|
In order to achieve so called major party status and participate in the primary election, a party needs to have their “top of the ticket” candidate, the candidate which appears first on ballot, to earn more than 5% of all votes cast for all candidates for Secretary of State in the most recent election (MCL 168.532). In 2014 there were 3,080,795 votes cast for Secretary of State, thus political parties need their top of ticket candidate to get 154,040 votes.
For the first time, the Libertarian Party has achieved this feat as did the brand new Working Class Party. The WCP did not run a candidate for President, so their first candidate on the ballot was State Board of Education.
Table 3) Candidate at the Top of the Ticket for Each Political Party
|Republican||Donald J. Trump||2,279,543||President|
|Working Class||Mary Anne Hering||224,392||State Board of Education|
|threshold for major party ballot status||154,040|
|US Taxpayers||Darrell L. Castle||16,139||President|
|Natural Law||Emidio Mimi Soltysik||2,209||President|
Political Party Ballot Status, Historical Perspective
Only seven times has a third party achieved major party ballot status in Michigan since the current election laws were written in 1956. Four of these instances were due to strong Presidential showings and the three other times were due to State Board of Education candidates from parties that did not run a President or Governor in those years. This year is the first time more than one third party has achieved this feat making 2018 the first year that four parties will participate in the Michigan primary.
Table 4) Third Parties Achieving Major Party Ballot Status in Michigan
|Party||Year||Candidate||Office||Votes||Total Votes Cast for SOS||5% of all votes||Candidate %|
|Working Class||2016||Mary Anne Hering||State Board of Ed.||224,392||3,080,795||154,040||7.28|
|Tisch Ind. Citizen||1990||Robert Tisch||State Board of Ed.||178,342||2,492,277||124,614||7.16|
|Tisch Ind. Citizen||1986||Robert Tisch||State Board of Ed.||136,891||2,324,064||116,203||5.89|
|Anderson Coalition||1980||John Anderson||President||275,223||2,796,628||139,831||9.84|
|American Independence||1968||George Wallace||President||331,968||2,374,416||118,721||13.98|
Below is a list of how the Libertarian Party “Top of Ticket” candidates have performed over the years. The closest the LPM has come to major party ballot status prior to 2016 was in 1994 when Jon Coon earned 4.21% of the required 5%. Note that this 5% threshold has varied from as low as 116,203 to as high as 186,096 votes over the course of the LPM’s history and Coon’s vote total would have earned the LPM major party ballot status had he run 2-8 years earlier.
Table 5) Libertarian Party of Michigan Top of the Ticket Candidate Results
|Year||Candidate||Office||Votes||Total Votes Cast for SOS||5% of all votes||Candidate %|
|2012||Scotty Boman||US Senate||84,480||3,173,248||158,662||2.66|
|2002||Scotty Boman||State Board of Ed.||88,000||3,099,208||154,960||2.84|
|1998||Diane Barnes||State Board of Ed.||100,638||3,033,052||151,653||3.32|
|1990||Mary Ruwart||State Board of Ed.||79,083||2,492,277||124,614||3.17|
|1986||did not have ballot status||–||2,324,064||116,203||–|
|1978||did not have ballot status||–||2,796,628||139,831||–|
Many people will point out that third parties did historically well only because the Democrats and Republicans nominated the two least popular candidates in modern history. This is true to a point but the 2016 results have continued an upward trend for Libertarians and other third parties that has persisted since 2010. In fact, 2012 and 2014 were among the best years for the LPM. There is no reason to assume that trend would not have continued through 2016 had the presidential race offered different candidates.
The relative success in 2016 is a combination of these two factors. I believe that the LP and other third parties will continue to be more successful compared to the late 20th century if for no other reason than the internet has significantly leveled the playing field in terms of dissemination of information. The 2018 election will truly show how much momentum third parties have gained this year.
by Greg Stempfle – last place candidate for MSU Board of Trustees
Official Michigan Election Results: http://miboecfr.nictusa.com/election/results/2016GEN_CENR.html