Running as a Libertarian in 2018 – Where and How to Sign Up

Libertarian_Party_of_Michigan_Logo.jpgDear Libertarian Candidates and Activists,

The 2018 election season is underway and the Libertarian Party of Michigan is ready to take advantage of our major party status and run a slate of candidates in next year’s primary election.

As political director for he LPM, I have been tasked with recruiting and training Libertarian candidates for public office. In October, I sent a letter to past and prospective candidates for public office explaining how to qualify for the August primary election and about the LPM’s plans to support it’s candidates during the upcoming election cycle.  Thank you to everyone who responded to the candidate survey at the end of the letter.  If you did not receive my letter, you may download it here.

To help prepare our candidates for the next campaign season, over the winter months I will be visiting each LPM affiliate to talk about running for office as a Libertarian in 2018.  Some of the topics I will go over include; how to file for office, campaign finance rules, region specific information about which offices are on the ballot in your area, and plans at the state party level for candidate training and support. Your feedback and thoughts will be essential to helping us recruit and train prospective candidates.  I will bring paperwork to each meeting so candidates can file and as a notary, I can sign your affidavit of identity.  These talks will culminate in a larger candidate training workshop set to coincide with our Spring State Convention sometime in March.

These are the upcoming affiliate meetings I plan to attend.  I anticipate announcing a couple more dates in other parts of the state later this winter including the Thumb and Tri-Cities areas.

November 26, 2017

Libertarian Party of Genesee County – Swartz Creek

Jan’s Bar and Grill, 7499 Miller Rd, 6:30

 

December 5, 2017           

Libertarian Party of Southwest Michigan – Portage

Brewster’s, 5135 Portage Rd, 7:00

 

December 13, 2017        

Libertarian Party of West Michigan – Rockford

Krause Memorial Library, 140 E Bridge St NE, 6:00

 

December 20, 2017        

Jackson-Hillsdale Libertarian Party – Jackson

Steve’s Ranch Restaurant, 311 W Louis Glick Hwy, 6:00

 

January 4, 2018

Libertarian Party of Livingston County – Howell

Cleary’s Pub, 117 E Grand River, 7:00

 

January 11, 2018              

Capital Area Libertarians – Lansing

AW Body Shop, 3303 N East St, 7:30

 

February 1, 2018              

Libertarian Party of Wayne County – Detroit

Tijuana Mexican Kitchen, 18950 Ford Rd, 7:30

 

February 7, 2018              

Libertarian Party of Washtenaw County (Huron-Raisin group) – Ann Arbor

Classic Cup Café, 4389 Jackson Rd, 7:00

 

February 14, 2018           

Libertarians of Macomb County – Sterling Heights

Ike’s Restaurant, 38550 Van Dyke, 7:00

 

February 20, 2018           

Northwest Michigan Libertarian Party – Traverse City

Schelde’s Grille and Spirits, 714 Munson Ave, 6:30

 

February 21, 2018           

Libertarian Party of Oakland County – Troy

Shield’s Pizza, 1476 W Maple Rd, 7:30

 

March 2018                        
LPM Spring State Convention – Lansing area, TBD
Candidate Training Workshop
National Convention Delegate Selection
LibertyFest Banquet
Please note all of these dates and locations are subject to change.  Some affiliates plan to move their meeting locations next year and the winter weather in Michigan may interfere with traveling.  I encourage everyone to double check, either on Facebook, the LPM calendar of events on our website, or directly with me or an affiliate officer.

 

Videoconferencing

The LPM has purchased a full year subscription to the videoconferencing program Zoom.  We have used the service for some of our LEC meetings with great success.  It has proven to be easy to use and reliable during large meetings.  I plan to use Zoom for additional candidate training seminars for those who cannot make it to one of these meetings.

 

Filing for office

While I will bring candidate paperwork to each meeting, you may file at any time.  The deadline to appear on the August primary will be April 24, 2018.

All candidates for office from Federal down to Village are required to file an Affidavit of Identity, which must be notarized.

Affidavit of Identity

All candidates for State, County and Local offices must fill out a Statement of Organization.

Statement of Organization (State, file online with state)

Statement of Organization (County and Local, file physical copy with county clerk)

Candidates for Federal office are not required to file a Statement or Organization but are encouraged to register with the FEC.

House and Senate candidate registration.

Additionally, if you plan to open a separate campaign bank account, you will be asked to provide a Federal Employer Identification Number.

Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) Online

Lastly, as a result of being qualified for the primary, our candidate must file either a certain number of signatures or pay a $100 refundable filing fee.

Governor and US Senator – 15,000-30,000 signatures, 100 from at least half of all congressional districts

US Congress – 1,000 – 2,000 signatures

State Senate – 500 – 1,000 signatures or a $100 refundable fee

State House – 200 – 400 signatures or a $100 refundable fee

County offices – signatures or a $100 refundable fee,

Township, and Village offices – signatures only

(signature number is based on population, check with your county or local clerk)

The Michigan Secretary of State has more thorough information about the requirements for filing for office on their website which I encourage everyone to become familiar with.

I look forward to meeting everyone and working together to spread the message of limited government and individual rights to Michigan voters.

 

Peace and Liberty,

Greg Stempfle

Political Director – Libertarian Party of Michigan

Why I’m Running for 2nd Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of Michigan

Dear Delegates to the Libertarian Party of Michigan State Convention,

I am running for 2nd Vice Chair (Political Director) of the Libertarian Party of Michigan and ask for your support.

My background.

Many of you have known me for years so I’ll introduce myself to newer members.  I’ve been active in the LP since I met Harry Browne at MSU in 1995 and have been a candidate in every election since 1998.  I have been a campaign manager and/or treasurer for several libertarian candidates, ranging from from city council to US Senate.  While I am not an expert on all election matters, I am familiar with most candidate filing and campaign finance requirements for both the Michigan Bureau of Elections and the Federal Election Commission.

I also served as editor of the Michigan Libertarian Newsletter from 2002-2003 and 2007-2009 and several terms on the LEC during this time.  I was active in Wayne County through 2009 when I moved to Oakland County and took some time off from party activism until last year.  I am currently chair of the LP of Oakland County.  I live in Ferndale with my wife Shelly and our nine turtles.  I am currently working as a Medical Technologist at Henry Ford West Bloomfield and have degrees in Clinical Laboratory Sciences (BS) and Molecular Biology (MS) from Wayne State.

Why I’m Running.

My motivation for running for Political Director was our change in ballot status resulting from our historically successful presidential campaign. After the election, I was given the honor of chairing the special bylaws committee tasked with getting our party bylaws and candidates ready for this significant change. With the knowledge I’ve gained, I want to help the party and our candidates navigate the quagmire of Michigan election laws we will face in 2018.

We must take advantage of our new ballot status and the momentum from Gary Johnson’s record breaking presidential campaign. More voters than ever were willing to cast a vote for a libertarian in 2016 than before and are looking to our party’s next election.

Under our new bylaws, the 2nd Vice Chair/political director’s responsibilities include; 1) “recruiting candidates for public office and helping them organize their campaigns”, and 2) “organizing seminars to make certain that candidates have the information necessary to qualify and run effectively for public office.”  Below are my goals for this position and how I plan to achieve them.

Contest a majority of seats in the state legislature.

Unfortunately, due to signature requirements, it will be difficult for us to run a candidate for Governor or US Senate.  I ultimately hope we end up with a full slate of candidates but if we don’t (and even if we do) my main goal will be to recruit enough Libertarian candidates to contest a majority of seats in the state legislature.  We would then be in a position to theoretically take over the State House and State Senate and begin writing and repealing legislation.  No third party has been able to do this in modern Michigan history.  It would be a significant achievement and send a clear signal to voters and the media that the party is growing, becoming stronger, and should be taken more seriously.

A majority of the State House is 56 seats (of 110) and a majority of the State Senate is 20 (of 38) for a total of 76 Libertarian candidates.  The LPM has run 76 or more candidates seven times in the past; 2010 (82), 2008 (85), 2002 (78), 2000 (111), 1998 (94), 1996 (76), and 1982 (99).  In 1982, the LPM ran 22 candidates for State Senate, a majority of that chamber, but only 26 for State House.  The most candidates the LPM has run for State House was 36 in 1998 and 2000.  Since 2012, 105 different people have run for office as a Libertarian.  The LPM has the numbers, we just need to coordinate candidate recruitment across the state and being qualified for the primary actually makes this easier by giving us a longer timeframe for our candidates to file for office.  Remember though, the filing deadline for the August primary is April 24, 2018.

Campaign as a party on three core issues, each targeting a specific voting block.

As part of the campaign to take over the state legislature, the party should focus on a few key issues for candidates to run on as part of a statewide campaign/branding strategy for 2018.  The vision I see for this campaign would be sort of a “Contract with Michigan Voters” or “This is what we will do if we take over the legislature…”  These will be libertarian issues that are ignored by the major parties but have the support of most voters (decriminalization of marijuana for example).  We should select three issues, each targeting a specific voter block; a libertarian issue where we agree with 1) liberals 2) conservatives and 3) independents and non-voters (the largest block of registered voters).  I want the candidates themselves to largely decide on these issues and will work with everyone to narrow it down to a manageable number.  At the national delegate selection convention in the spring/summer 2018, candidates will vote on which issues to get behind and promote.

Candidates would be free to run on their own platform of course and I am more than happy to recruit and work with candidates across the libertarian spectrum; from anarchists to constitutional conservatives.  I am more concerned about how individual candidates present themselves to the public than the nuances of their ideology.  Our objective as Libertarian candidates is not necessarily to convert the public to libertarianism but to earn their vote.  The best way I’ve found to do that is to find a common issue or two on which you agree instead of focusing on issues of disagreement.  Once people agree with a few libertarian positions, they will be more open to libertarian views later on and support our candidates and party in the future.

Candidate training seminars.

Running for office can seem daunting to new members.  To help recruit new candidates and make their run easier, I will continue the practice of holding several candidate training seminars across the state to educate our candidates about running for office.  I also plan to keep candidates updated about filing deadlines, media deadlines, etc. via multiple platforms including snail mail, e-mail, Facebook, and twitter.

During these seminars I will stress turning at least one of these campaigns into an active and winnable city level campaign in 2019.  Running candidates for nonpartisan office is something the party has had success with in the past and we should return to that as being a focus during odd numbered years.

I plan to run for Secretary of State.

In full disclosure, I also plan to seek the LPM nomination for Secretary of State and have already filed my Statement of Organization with the Bureau of Elections.

Learning Michigan election law gave me a better understanding of how the major parties have manipulated state election law to ensure their continued two-party dominance.  I want to use this platform to push for election and voting reforms.  I think for the long term success of our party, we should stress these reforms as much as we stress our libertarianism.

Improve internal party communication.

Apart from my platform specific to political director, my biggest goal that I want to work towards is to improve internal party communications.  I want the party to return to a weekly online email newsletter so that members know about meetings, news, and candidates on a regular and predictable basis.  I also think the party should still send a few limited snail mailings including an annual report/fundraising letter and should send a postcard to members for issuing calls to convention.

In Liberty,

Greg Stempfle

Candidate for Libertarian Party of Michigan 2nd Vice Chair.

 

Tl;dr

  • Contest a majority of seats in the state legislature
  • Campaign as a party on three core issues, each targeting a specific voting block
  • Improve internal party communication

 

Greg Creswell and the adventures of third party primaries

cropped-gregorys-picture
Greg Creswell, Libertarian [3]
Congratulations to Greg Creswell for becoming the first Libertarian to appear in a primary election! His candidate paperwork was accepted by the Michigan Secretary of State to be placed on the August 8, 2017 special primary election for Michigan State House District 1 [1]. This special election was called to replace Democratic State Representative Brian Banks who resigned after pleading “guilty to a misdemeanor charge of filing false financial statements.”[2]

Greg Creswell is a current member of the Libertarian Party of Michigan’s state executive committee and has run for public office as a candidate for the party seven previous times including for Governor in 2006. Creswell will be the first member of a third party to appear in a primary election since 1998 and will be the first member of a third party ever to appear in a special primary election since Michigan election law was written in 1954.

2017 candidate listingThe Libertarian and Working Class Parties, along with the Republicans and Democratics, qualified to nominate candidates in the 2018 Michigan primary election due to their “top of ticket” candidate, the one appearing first on the ballot, earning enough votes in the 2016 general election to reach a specific threshold. Under Michigan election law, MCL 168.532, this threshold is set at 5% or more of all votes cast for Secretary of State in the previous election [4] and is colloquially known as “major party status” (Table 1). Otherwise, third parties nominate their candidates at a caucus or convention, so called “minor party status”.

Creswell’s listing in the primary election answers a lingering question many of us Libertarians had as to when our so called “major party status” actually begins. At the LPM special state convention on February 4th, I stated my belief that if any partisan elections are held before the August 2018 primary, such as a special election or a partisan city election, that the Libertarian and Working Class Parties would still nominate their candidate at a convention or caucus and not by a primary election. This was based on my own interpretation of Michigan election Law and on 40 years of precedent which had consistently ruled that the ballot status of a political party does not change until the following even-year election cycle (more on this later).

I’m glad that my prediction was incorrect. While it doesn’t really matter from a practical standpoint if we nominate candidates in the special election by primary or caucus, it does give the party good press. Appearing in primary elections in 2017 allows the LPM to claim that we are now a so called major party and our appearance in the special election primary gives the party and Creswell (or other candidates) media coverage twice this year instead of just once for the general election. Nearly all the other provisions in state election law regarding parties “qualified to nominate candidates by primary method” deal with aspects of internal party structure and convention timing. None of these provisions can kick in until the election of precinct delegates at the August 2018 primary and have no direct bearing on our 2017 activities.

Table 1) Top of ticket candidates from third parties who achieved “major party status”

Year Party Candidate Office Votes Needed* Votes Received Primary Qualified
2016 Working Class Mary Anne Hering State Board of Ed. 154,040 224,392 2018
2016 Libertarian Gary Johnson President 154,040 172,136 2018
1996 Reform Ross Perot President 152,588 336,670 1998
1990 Tisch Ind. Citizens Robert Tisch State Board of Ed. 124,614 178,342 1992
1986 Tisch Ind. Citizens Robert Tisch State Board of Ed. 116,203 136,891 1988
1980 Anderson Coalition John Anderson President 139,831 275,223 1982
1968 American Ind. George Wallace President 118,721 331,968 1970
*5% of all votes cast for Secretary of State in the previous election MCL 168.532

To give some insight into how the Libertarian and Working Class Parties might fare with running candidates in a primary election, I investigated how other third parties have done in Michigan when they qualified to nominate candidates by primary. This has happened five other times before this past election (Table 1). Three times, a third party qualified by running a strong presidential candidate which is how the Libertarian Party qualified in 2016. Two other times, a third party qualified by running a strong candidate for State Board of Education and did not run a candidate for any higher office which is how the Working Class Party qualified.

I tracked down the results of these five primary elections (Table 2) to answer a couple of questions.

1) How did running candidates in a primary effect the third party vote totals in the general election?

2) How did running candidates in a primary effect the number of candidates nominated by the party?

The short answer is…it doesn’t.  Compared to other years that they had ballot status, the third parties who qualified to nominate candidates by primary instead of by caucus or convention did not see any difference in their vote totals or number of candidates nominated.

Here is the long answer…

Reform Party, 1998

The Reform Party had ballot status in Michigan from 1996 through 2002. Due to the strong showing by Presidential candidate Ross Perot in 1996, they qualified for the 1998 August primary.  Only 3 Reform Party candidates appeared in that primary; 1 for Congress and 2 for State House.  Four additional statewide candidates were nominated at their 1998 convention. Compared to the 2000 and 2002 elections, in which they nominated candidates by caucus or convention, their 1998 congressional candidate fared better and their State House candidates fared slightly worse. The party also nominated more candidates in 2000 and 2002 than in 1998 (Figure 1).

Figure 1) Reform Party Results 1996-2002

Reform

Tisch Independent Citizen Party, 1988 and 1992

The Tisch Party had ballot status in Michigan from 1982 through 1992 when it was absorbed into the US Taxpayers Party.  Due to the strong showing by Robert Tisch who ran for State Board of Education in 1986 and 1990, they qualified for the 1988 and 1992 August primary ballot. Whether or not they nominated candidates by primary or caucus/convention did not reflect in their results or number of candidates nominated.  Their congressional candidates nominated at the 1992 primary fared worse than those nominated the previous year, 1990, at convention but better than those nominated at their 1984 convention. Their State House candidates nominated by primary in 1988 and 1992 did worse than those nominated by convention in 1982, 1986, and 1990 and similar or less than in 1984 (Figure 2).

Figure 2) Tisch Independent Citizen Party Results 1982-1992

Tisch

The only contested primary for any third party was in 1992 when two candidates competed for the Tisch Party nomination for US Congress Distruct 16 to run against John Dingell. Max Siegle won the nomination with 266 votes (55.3%) over Robert Bush Jr. with 215 votes (44.7%).

Anderson Coalition, 1982

The Anderson Coalition had ballot status in Michigan in 1980 and 1982. Michigan did not have a mechanism for independent candidates to appear on the ballot until 1987 so in order for John Anderson to run for President in Michigan in 1980, he had to form a political party.  Due to his strong showing, they qualified for the 1982 August primary.  Apart from Anderson, the only other candidate to run under the party label was a single candidate for State Senate in 1982.

American Independent Party, 1970

The American Independent Party had ballot status in Michigan from 1968 through 1982.  Due to the strong showing by George Wallace in 1968, they qualified for the 1970 August primary. Again, whether or not they nominated candidates by primary or by caucus/convention did not reflect in their vote return or number of candidates nominated. Their congressional candidates nominated by primary in 1970 did better than those nominated at convention in three of the next six elections and worse in the other three.  The same pattern is found for their candidates for State House and with the number of candidates nominated. The AIP ran a single candidate for State House in 1968, their only other candidate besides Wallace and his Vice Presidential candidate, who received 8% of the vote (Figure 3).

Figure 3) American Independent Party Results 1968-1982

AIP

The AIP ran a candidate for Governor in 1970, the only time a third party candidate competed in a statewide primary. James McCormick received 100 votes (82.6%) against 21 write-in votes (17.4%).

No other third party candidate has qualified for a statewide primary race. In the 1982 Anderson Coalition primary, 29 write-in votes were cast for Governor and 16 write-in votes for US Senate and in the 1988 Tisch primary, 16 write-in votes were cast for US Senate.

Table 2) Third party primary election results and corresponding general election results.

Primary General
Office Dist. Candidate Votes %   Votes %  
1970 American Independent
Governor James  McCormick 100 82.6   18,006 0.68  
Governor scattering 21 17.4    
Congress 7 Eugene Mattison 107   2,194 1.56  
Congress 9 Patrick Dillinger 80   811 0.56  
Congress 12 Milton Deschaine 135   1,562 0.92  
Congress 19 Hector McGregor 56   990 0.64  
State Senate 12 Peter Bill 35   680 0.90  
State Senate 22 Shelton Carr 53   469 0.78  
State Senate 24 Leo Miller 37   599 0.81  
State Senate 29 Dan Griffin 56   2,044 3.73  
State Senate 32 Harold Tilma 30   541 0.88  
State House 45 Paul Tubbs 41   436 2.90 no Dem.
State House 48 Clair Bishop 32   221 1.12  
State House 57 Max Calder 14   144 0.67  
State House 73 Carolyn Skelton 33   151 0.71  
State House 75 Billy Roland 17   156 0.69  
State House 87 Dale Calder 9   300 1.11  
State House 95 James  Bruins 18   232 0.74  
State House 97 Myron O’Brien 32   201 0.79  
total 906    
     
1982 Anderson Coalition    
State Senate 3 Gerry Brooks 13   1,376 2.02 no Rep.
Governor scattering 29    
US Senate scattering 16    
all others legislative seats scattering 19    
total 77    
     
1988 Tisch Ind. Citizens    
State House 70 Greg Everett 8   144 0.46  
State House 74 David Ledwon 5   417 1.21  
State House 88 Donald Miller 12   200 0.58  
US Senate Write-in 16    
all other legislative seats Write-in 6    
total 47    
     
1992 Tisch Ind. Citizens    
Congress 4 Joan Dennison 170   3,344 1.32  
Congress 13 Paul Jensen 173   3,314 1.35  
Congress 16 Max Siegle 266 55.3   4,048 1.68  
Congress 16 Robert Bush Jr. 215 44.7    
all other Congress Write-in 38    
State House 2 Robert Gale 20   374 1.72  
State House 41 Matthew Uhelski 28   937 2.33  
State House 53 Pat Burkard 12   412 1.13  
State House 69 Raymond Myers 15   615 1.93  
all other State House Write-in 30    
County Com., Washtenaw 4 Raymond Pierce 71   121 1.31  
County Com., Washtenaw 11 Leif Larsen 2   163 3.46 no Rep.
total 1040    
     
1998 Reform    
Congress 8 John Mangopoulos 52   4,654 2.13  
State House 30 Robert Murphy 4   391 1.41  
State House 53 Paul Jensen 8   494 1.93  
total 64    

So why did I earlier suspect there would be no Libertarian primary for special elections in 2017?  Of the five years / election cycles in which a minor party was in between so called major and minor party status, there were special elections held in three of these years (Table 3). No election results from these years list any write-in votes for the third party, even when write-in votes for the Republican and Democratic Party are listed (Figure 4). The lack of any reported write-in votes, led me to the conclusion that these third parties did not compete in these special elections and that nominating candidates by direct primary does not take effect until the following election season. The Bureau of Elections interpretation of Michigan Election law this year is not consistent with past rulings.  Again though, from a practical standpoint, it doesn’t really matter.

Table 3) Special Elections held in years in which a minor party was transitioning to a major party.

1969-1970, American Independent, no special elections

1981-1982, Anderson Coalition, seven special elections

Congress 4 (primary 3/24/81, write-in vote reported for Dem and Rep, AC not listed)

State House 42 (primary 6/30/81, no write-in vote reported)

State Senate 16 (primary 3/2/82, write-in vote reported for Rep but not for Dem, AC not listed)

State House 21 (primary 3/2/82, no write-in vote reported)

State House 29 (primary 3/23/82, no write-in vote reported)

State House 3 (primary 5/18/82, no write-in vote reported)

State House 69 (primary 5/18/82, no write-in vote reported)

1987-1988, Tisch, one special election

State Senate 2 (primary 2/23/88, no write-in vote reported)

1991-1992, Tisch, no special elections

1997-1998, Reform, three special elections

State House 22 (primary 5/20/97, write-in reported for Dem and Rep, Reform not listed)

State Senate 12 (primary 11/4/97, write-in reported for Dem and Rep, Reform not listed)

 State House 32 (primary 2/3/98, write-in reported for Dem and Rep, Reform not listed)

2017-2018, Libertarian, Working Class

State House 1 (primary 8/8/17, Libertarian candidate listed)

Figure 4) Results of 1981 special primary election for US Congress do not list the Anderson Coalition

1981 special election

References:

[1] http://miboecfr.nictusa.com/election/candlist/2017SP1_CANDLIST.html

[2] http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/wayne/2017/02/06/state-rep-brian-banks-resigns/97559676/

[3] https://gregcreswell.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/cropped-gregorys-picture.jpg

[4] https://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(wfmuxlhcm4iwt3btowk2l5o3))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-168-532

All election results are taken from the Michigan Manual, Official Canvass of Votes

LPM Special Bylaws Committee Report

Below is an excerpt from the Report of the Special Bylaws Committee of the Libertarian Party of Michigan.  Members of the party will be voting on these recommended bylaws changes at a Special Convention on February 4th in Lansing.

The full report can be found here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6tKSZismDd7ZnJ6OXhRaVpiZHM

and the supplemental report here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6tKSZismDd7VjV3MUhvUXV1SEE

A) Conclusions

The Special Bylaws Committee recommends 17 changes to the bylaws of the Libertarian Party of Michigan.  These changes are a result of our new so called “major party status” due to Gary Johnson’s vote total as prescribed under MCL 168.532.  The recommended changes are limited only to those related to our change in ballot status and affect 5 of the 14 sections of the current bylaws. The following topics are addressed; local party organization, conventions; officers; national convention delegates, and legal authority.

B) Background

At the June 12, 2016 meeting of the Libertarian Executive Committee, Chairman Bill Gelineau appointed me to chair a “special bylaws committee” to investigate and recommend changes to our bylaws in the event Gary Johnson earned enough votes to achieve “major party status” as called for in the bylaws of the Libertarian Party of Michigan.

CONVENTIONS VI.3.  All members of the Party who attend and register at a convention shall be delegates, unless the Party shall receive major party status. In the latter event, new bylaws shall be enacted by a special convention to convene within 90 days of such time as an LPM statewide candidate receives sufficient votes to gain major party status.

This bylaw was approved at the 1994 LPM State Convention due to the strength of the Jon Coon for Senate campaign.  This marked the first time that the LPM had to take the possibility of becoming a “major party” seriously.  At the time this bylaw was adopted, the state had no formal definition of “major” or “minor” party.  Parties either nominated candidates by convention or caucus (so called minor parties) or parties nominated most candidates by primary (so called major parties).  The law that divided parties into these categories is MCL 16.532, informally referred to as the “top of the ticket” rule.

168.532 Nomination by caucus or convention where principal candidate receives less than 5% of vote cast for candidates for secretary of state.

Sec. 532. A political party whose principal candidate received less than 5% of the total vote cast for all candidates for the office of secretary of state in the last preceding state election, either in the state or in any political subdivision affected, shall not make its nominations by the direct primary method. The nomination of all candidates of such parties shall be made by means of caucuses or conventions which shall be held and the names of the party’s nominations filed at the time and manner provided in section 686a of this act. The term “principal candidate” of any party shall be construed to mean the candidate whose name shall appear nearest the top of the party column.

Under this law, the 172,136 votes Gary Johnson received is greater than 5% of all votes cast for Secretary of State in 2014 (154,040 votes) thus triggering the change in ballot status for the LPM.

Note that in 1995, the year Ross Perot created the Reform Party, the Michigan Legislature defined “major political party” as “each of the 2 political parties whose candidate for the office of secretary of state received the highest and second highest number of votes at the immediately preceding general election in which a secretary of state was elected.” (MCL 168.16)   This definition has nothing to do with party ballot status or candidate nominations.  It is only relevant to election administration and describes parties having members on the state and county board of canvassers and as election inspectors.  The LPM bylaws were never updated to reflect this semantic change and there is currently no term to properly define our ballot status under state law apart from the descriptor “a party qualified to nominate candidates by direct primary method.”  Despite the semantic issue, the LPM is still required to hold a special within 90 days of the election as this was the “original intent” of the bylaw and the simple fact that MCL 168.532 is the law that the Secretary of State uses to determine political party ballot status, not MCL 168.16.

Our change in ballot status is not just limited to how our candidates are nominated.  The following changes are required under Michigan Election Law as a result of MCL 168.532.

  • There will be a Libertarian primary in August 2018. All candidates besides several statewide candidates (Secretary of State, Attorney General, the four public education boards, Justice of the Supreme Court and Lieutenant Governor if necessary) are to be nominated at the August Primary (534).  The filing deadline to appear on the primary for the following offices will be April 24, 2018. Governor and US Senator (15,000 signatures, 100 from at least half of all CDs), US Congress (1,000 signatures), State Senate (500 signatures or $100 filing fee), State House (200 signatures or $100 filing fee), and County and Township (signatures or fee).
  • Libertarian precinct delegates will be elected at the August 2018 primary and are to serve as delegates to the various county conventions (562). The filing deadline for precinct delegates will be May 8, 2018.  No signatures or fee is required, only a notarized affidavit of identity.
  • State law dictates the timing of our conventions and that state convention delegates are selected at preceding county / congressional district conventions.
    • Timing of even-numbered year state convention (591) and odd-numbered year state conventions (168.593, 168.597).
    • Timing of even-numbered year county / congressional district conventions (592), odd-numbered year conventions (168.594), and conventions to select officers (168.599, 168.600).
    • Apportionment and selection of delegates to the state convention are done at county / congressional district conventions (595).
  • State law also describes the internal makeup and length of terms for state Party officials (597), and county/congressional district officials (168.599, 168.600).

The text of each of these statutes is included on pages 78-80 of the supplemental portion of this report and are hyperlinked above and in the 17 recommended proposals when cited.

After the appointment of the committee chair, six members of the party were selected to be on the committee from a list of volunteers and recommendations. Following the election, members of the committee began drafting and discussing various proposals over email before meeting on December 18 in Lansing for formal discussion and voting.  A conference call was held on December 28 to fine tune the language of certain proposals and to address additional issues that arose after the first meeting.

The members of the Special Bylaws Committee include: Greg Stempfle-chair (Oakland), Jim Fulner (Oakland), William Hall (West Michigan), Lawrence Johnson (Washtenaw), Jamie Lewis (West Michigan), Emily Salvette (Washtenaw), and Jeff Wood (Livingston).

We received 29 proposals for consideration; 8 from William Hall (WH), 7 from Greg Stempfle (GS), 7 from Keith Butkovich (KB), 2 from Kim McCurry (KM), 2 from Emily Salvette (ES), 2 Tom Bagwell (TB), and 1 from Jim Fulner (JF).  Proposals were grouped into those related to our change in ballot status (19) and those unrelated (10).  Only those relating to our change in ballot status were considered by the committee.  There will be a regular bylaws committee formed in advance of the 2017 regular convention at which time proposals unrelated to our change in ballot status can be more properly addressed.

The 17 recommended proposals are presented below.  The order they are being listed in is a combination of how much support they received and how logically they can be grouped together.  In the interest of brevity and neutrality, the initial statements of support for each proposal and the discussion of each proposal as described in the meeting minutes are not being included in the main body (part 1) but are being included in the supplemental portion of this report (part 2).  However, each member of the committee was offered space in the main body of the report to provide commentary.

These recommended proposals will be voted on by delegates to the special convention held on February 4, 2017.

Notes about this report:  There are two parts to this report.  Part 1 is the main body which includes this background information, the recommended proposals, and the full draft bylaws incorporating them for full context.  Part 1 would be a reasonable document to have available at the special convention.  Part 2 is supplemental material and includes all of the original proposals and statements of support presented to the committee, the full text of the cited election laws, and the agenda a minutes of the meeting.  There is a lot of redundant text in this part so I would advise against printing these pages.  They are presented for a full record of the committee proceedings for party members who are interested.

I would like to thank the members of the Capital Area Libertarian Party for the use of their office for our meeting and the members of the committee for their time and dedication in tackling such a detail intensive project.

Respectfully submitted,

Greg Stempfle – Chair, Special Bylaws Committee

 

C) Recommended proposals (17)

Name               vote     Descriptor

XI PARLIAMENTARY AUTHORITY    1 proposal

GS03               7-0       Affirm Constitutional Rights under Michigan Election Law

Total                7-0 (100%)

 

VII NOMINATION OF CANDIDATES   2 proposals

WH06            7-0       Rejection of state law regarding delegates to National Conventions*

JF01                4-0       Clarification of candidate nomination processes

Total                11-0 (100%)

 

IV LOCAL PARTY ORGANIZATION   1 proposal

WH04             5-1-1    Incorporate precinct delegates and county conventions into bylaws

Total                5-1-1 (83%)

 

VI CONVENTIONS 11 proposals in 3 categories

Convention Timing

GS01a             5-2       Change timing of even year convention in accordance with state law

GS01b/WH02 5-1-1    Define odd year state conventions as regular conventions

 

Delegates to State Conventions

WH05             5-1-1    Apportionment of delegates to state convention by SoS votes and

Affirm party membership requirement.

KM01 (pt1)     4-0-3    Define number of delegates at state convention

KM01 (pt2)     4-3       All party members are delegates to regular 2017 convention

WH09             6-1       Issuing of call to convention

ES01               5-2       Timeframe for state conv. delegate credentials

ES02               6-1       7/8 approval for additional convention delegates

 

National Delegate Selection Convention

WH07             5-2       National Delegate Selection Convention (*incl. change to VII.2.)

GS06a             5-2       Delegates to NDSC selected by apportionment

WH08             4-3       Candidate endorsements at NDSC

Total                54-18-5 (75%)

 

III Officers     2 proposals

WH03             5-1-1    Make Political Director second vice-chair and replace at-large members (5) with representatives from each congressional district (14).

GS04               4-3       Add nondiscrimination plank

Total                9-4-1 (69%)

 

Not recommended proposals (2)

VI Conventions

GS05               3-4       Apportionment of delegates to 2017 regular convention by SoS votes

(by a 4-3 vote, this proposal will be presented if KM01 (pt2) fails)

GS06b             3-4       Delegates to NDSC include all party members

 Any proposals made to XV Provisos Related to Transition are included in the section which the proviso is referencing.

For the text of the proposals and the full draft bylaws, please refer to the reports linked to at the start of the article.  The rest of this report loses all if it’s formatting when pasted into this blog post. -GS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michigan Election Results for non-Democrats and non-Republicans

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.

US President

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

Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Donald J. Trump 2,279,543 47.50
Democratic Hillary Clinton 2,268,839 47.27
Libertarian Gary Johnson 172,136 3.59
Green Jill Stein 51,463 1.07
US Taxpayers Darrell L. Castle 16,139 0.34
write-in Evan McMullin 8,177 0.17
Natural Law Emidio Mimi Soltysik 2,209 0.05
write-in Michael A. Maturen 517 0.01
write-in Tom Hoefling 95 0.00
write-in Laurence Kotlikoff 87 0.00
write-in Ben Hartnell 39 0.00
write-in Monica Moorehead 30 0.00
write-in Cherunda Fox 10 0.00
 total 4,799,284

 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

lp-president-2016

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.

US Congress

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

lp-congress-2016

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.

State House

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

lp-state-house-2016

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

Party Candidate Votes Office
Republican Donald J. Trump 2,279,543 President
Democratic Hillary Clinton 2,268,839 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

 Party Candidate Votes Office
Republican Donald J. Trump 2,279,543 President
Democratic Hillary Clinton 2,268,839 President
Working Class Mary Anne Hering 224,392 State Board of Education
Libertarian Gary Johnson 172,136 President
threshold for major party ballot status 154,040
Green Jill Stein 51,463 President
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
Libertarian 2016 Gary Johnson President 172,136 3,080,795 154,040 5.59
Reform 1996 Ross Perot President 336,670 3,051,756 152,588 11.03
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 %
2016 Gary Johnson President 172,136 3,080,795 154,040 5.59
2014 Mary Buzuma Governor 35,723 3,080,795 154,040 1.16
2012 Scotty Boman US Senate 84,480 3,173,248 158,662 2.66
2010 Ken Proctor Governor 22,390 3,173,248 158,662 0.71
2008 Bob Barr President 23,716 3,721,910 186,096 0.64
2006 Gregory Creswell Governor 23,524 3,721,910 186,096 0.63
2004 Michael Badnarik President 10,552 3,099,208 154,960 0.34
2002 Scotty Boman State Board of Ed. 88,000 3,099,208 154,960 2.84
2000 Harry Browne President 16,680 3,033,052 151,653 0.55
1998 Diane Barnes State Board of Ed. 100,638 3,033,052 151,653 3.32
1996 Harry Browne President 27,670 3,051,756 152,588 0.91
1994 Jon Coon Senate 128,393 3,051,756 152,588 4.21
1992 Andre Marrou President 10,175 2,492,277 124,614 0.41
1990 Mary Ruwart State Board of Ed. 79,083 2,492,277 124,614 3.17
1988 Ron Paul President 18,336 2,324,064 116,203 0.79
1986 did not have ballot status 2,324,064 116,203
1984 David Bergland President 10,055 2,940,030 147,002 0.34
1982 Dick Jacobs Governor 15,603 2,940,030 147,002 0.53
1980 Ed Clark President 41,597 2,796,628 139,831 1.49
1978 did not have ballot status 2,796,628 139,831
1976 Roger MacBride President 5,406 2,551,158 127,558 0.21

 Moving Forward

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

Frequently Asked Questions about the Libertarian Party of Michigan’s change in ballot status

20161028_182346By Greg Stempfle – LPM Special Bylaws Committee Chair

For the first time in history the Libertarian Party of Michigan has earned enough votes to achieve the same ballot status under state election law as the major party Democrats and Republicans.  This has traditionally been referred to as “major party status” and will result in significant changes to how our party operates for the next few years.  Election law can be messy so I have written this FAQ to help answer the many questions party members, including myself, may be having.

[Please note: Speaking of messy, there are problems with the semantics of term “major party” as it’s applied to ballot status in a poorly written law from 1995.  I address this at the end of the article.]

 

Why is our ballot status changing after this election?

Michigan (and every other state) has a legal system for political parties where Republicans and Democrats end up in a category for “major” parties and all others fall into another category for “minor” parties.  There is a specific mechanism for becoming a major party and this year the Libertarian Party achieved it.  Under Michigan Election Law, so called major party ballot status is achieved when the candidate from a political party, whose name is at the top of the ballot, receives a specific number of votes.  This number is equal to 5% of all votes cast for Secretary of State in the preceding election (MCL 168.532).

In our case, Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson received 172,726 votes.  The total number of votes cast for Secretary of State in 2014 was 3,080,795.  172,726/3,080,795 = 5.6% which is greater than the 5% threshold.   Interestingly, we were not the only third party to achieve this feat.  The new Working Class Party, whose top of the ticket was State Board of Education candidate Mary Ann Hering, received 224,122 votes.  Prior to this year, the last time a third party obtained major party status was in 1996 when Reform Party Presidential candidate Ross Perot earned enough votes for them to be a major party in 1998.

Under the bylaws of the LPM, we are required to hold a special convention within 90 days of obtaining major party status.

LPM bylaws VI.3. “All members of the Party who attend and register at a convention shall be delegates, unless the Party shall receive major party status. In the latter event, new bylaws shall be enacted by a special convention to convene within 90 days of such time as an LPM statewide candidate receives sufficient votes to gain major party status.”

 

What will change for the Libertarian Party of Michigan?

The most significant change is that many of our candidates will be “nominated” by participating in the 2018 August primary election rather than being nominated at a party caucus or convention.  Some candidates will still be nominated at the 2018 state convention. Candidates for the primary will need to collect signatures or pay a filing fee.

Candidates nominated at the August primary (major parties only):

  • Governor (15,000-30,000 signatures, 100 from at least half of all CDs)
  • US Senate (15,000-30,000 signatures, 100 from at least half of all CDs)
  • US Congress (1,000-2,000 signatures)
  • State Senate (500-1,000 signatures or $100 filing fee)
  • State House (200-400 signatures or $100 filing fee)
  • County offices (signatures or filing fee)
  • Township Offices (signatures)
  • Precinct Delegates to county convention (no signatures)

Candidates nominated at the fall state convention (major and minor parties):

  • Lieutenant Governor
  • Secretary of State
  • Attorney General
  • State Board of Education
  • Board of Regents of U of M
  • Board of Trustees of Michigan State
  • Board of Governors of Wayne State
  • Justices of the Supreme Court
  • Presidential Electors

Another change will be the election of the first Libertarian precinct delegates who, under state law, will serve as delegates to Libertarian county and state conventions.  Adherence to state election law would also result in changes to the timing of our conventions, certain aspects of affiliate organization, and the structure of our state executive committee.  State party officials are to be elected to two year terms with a State Central Committee consisting of two men and two women from each of our 14 congressional districts.

 

Who is drafting new bylaws? 

A committee, chaired by myself, Greg Stempfle and consisting of six other party members; Bill Hall, Emily Salvette, Jeff Wood, Jim Fulner, Jamie Lewis, and Lawrence Johnson, will be drafting and recommending changes to our current bylaws.  We will be meeting to December 11 in Lansing to vote on our recommendations.  In January, I hope to attend as many affiliate meetings as I can to discuss the recommended changes with party members in advance of the convention.

 

When will the LPM hold a special convention?

The LPM will hold a special convention on Saturday, February 4, 2017 in Lansing to approve new bylaws.  This special convention will coincide with the annual Defenders of Liberty Awards Banquet.  A second state convention will be held later in 2017, similar to our current bylaws, for regular party business such as the election of officers and platform discussion.

 

When will these changes occur?

The exact changeover date is unclear but probably not until the middle of 2018.  The ballot status of a political party in Michigan does not change immediately.  A number of minor parties have nominated candidates for office in the year following their loss of ballot status, implying the change does not take place until the next election season.  Libertarian precinct delegates, who will serve as delegates to our conventions will not be elected until the August 2018 primary so logically, any candidates the LPM runs prior to August 2018 would be nominated under minor party rules.   This means that the LPM should be allowed to nominate candidates by caucus or convention in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and in any special elections in 2017 or early 2018.

 

Is the LPM technically a “major party”?

Now back to that problem with semantics.  Traditionally “major party” ballot status meant we would be in the same legal category as the Democratic and Republican Parties and subject to the same election laws; primary elections, precinct delegates, etc.  This is what is referred to by “major party status” in the LPM bylaws VI.3.  When the LPM bylaws were written, there was no specific definition for “major” or “minor” party in Michigan Election Law, it was simply implied that major parties are those that participate in the primary and minor parties are those which don’t.  However, in 1995, the same year Ross Perot formed the Reform Party, for the very first time the state legislature defined “major political party” and limited this category to two parties.

MCL 168.16 “Major political party” defined.

168.16. As used in this act, “major political party” means each of the 2 political parties whose candidate for the office of secretary of state received the highest and second highest number of votes at the immediately preceding general election in which a secretary of state was elected.

 

So what does “major political party” mean as opposed to the traditional de facto major party ballot status?  State law specifically mentions “major political party” in three sections, none of which deal with ballot access;

  • In Chapter II, members of the board of state canvassers and board of county canvassers are appointed from the major political parties and their duties described therein.
  • In Chapter XXVIII, election inspectors are appointed from the major political parties and their duties described therein. Members of “minor” parties may be appointed as election inspectors but a specific mechanism is not described (674(2)).  Major political parties are also allowed to contest the appointment of election inspectors.
  • In Chapter XXXIX, on election days members of major political parties verify the ballot equipment is sealed and are entitled to security of election materials and equipment.

The two parties that are defined as “major political parties” have the same ballot access laws as other parties that nominate candidates by primary elections.  They simply have additional enumerated rights regarding the conduct and administration of elections.  Members of so called “minor” parties may also be appointed as election inspectors although nothing specifically prohibits minor parties from the other listed rights.  This is the only reference to “minor” parties in Michigan Election Law and while not defined, it infers that minor parties are simply those which are not the two major parties.  The only other reference to major or minor parties is this pseudo definition of “nonmajor” parties.

MCL 168.686b Nonmajor political party; notice of county caucus or state convention.

Sec. 686b. A political party that is not a major political party, as defined in section 16, and that is required to nominate candidates at a county caucus or state convention shall, at least 10 days before holding the county caucus or state convention to nominate candidates, notify in writing the secretary of state and the bureau of elections of the date, time, and location of the county caucus or state convention of that political party.

 

“A political party that is not a major political party, as defined in section 16”  means all parties besides the Democrats and Republicans, and “required to nominate candidates at a county caucus or state convention” means the Green, US Taxpayers, and Natural Law Parties.  The Libertarian and Working Class Parties will not fall into either of these categories in 2018.

So here are the semantic problems I’ve uncovered with regard to how we describe our current situation.

  • “Major Political Party” no longer refers to ballot status but to enumerated rights with regard to election administration and oversight.
  • The LPM and its candidates have the exact same ballot status as a both “major political parties” but is not a “major political party” by definition.
  • Under the 168.16 definition of “major political party”, the LPM is inferred to be a “minor” party but under 168.686b, the LPM does not fit the definition of a “nonmajor” party.

Now that the Libertarians and Working Class Party have obtained what was formerly known as “major party status” (and now has no name) but are not “major political parties” by definition, what should we call ourselves?  Some have suggested using the term “Primary Party” but that is even more confusing since primary means singular and there will be four parties competing in the 2018 primary election.

I am going to stick with using the term “major party status” because it is understood that we have the exact same ballot status as the Democrat and Republican Parties and the term is consistent with our current bylaws.  Even if we are not a major party by definition, our bylaws must be updated in order to accommodate election law so we can properly run candidates for office in the primary election.

Greg Stempfle can be reached at gregstempfle@gmail.com