DC, West Virginia Libertarians analyze what went right and what went wrong with ballot access efforts

At Next Free Voice, West Virginia Libertarian Party State Chair Matt Harris writes

I’ve told bits and pieces of this story in response to comments on various threads in various places. Having done so over and over, I feel the need to go ahead and put it all out there now so that everyone has one place to turn to for my perspective as state chair. I’m going to go over this first in timeline format, then share a few additional facts about WV and the ballot access situation for us and other parties. If something in the timeline is a bit confusing, see the facts section for clarification.

December 2007: Bill Redpath approaches then-chair Kirsten Milligan about assisting WV with national party funds for ballot access. I was secretary of the party at that time. Kirsten discussed it with the executive committee, and the concensus we reached was that since we did not have a gubernatorial candidate for 2008, national party funds would be better spent elsewhere, and that we would pursue ballot access in 2012 when we had a gubernatorial candidate so that we could achieve major party status and never have to petition again.

March 2008: Kirsten Milligan resigns, and I become interim chairman.

April 2008: Russ Verney contacts me about the possibility of the Barr campaign going for ballot access in WV if Barr wins the nomination. He seems enthusiastic, and I am as well. Mr. Verney comes across very well, and I’m genuinely looking forward to working with him on this together at that point.

May 2008: I’m elected chairman for a full term. Tad Britch is elected to replace me as secretary.

May 2008: Several Barr campaign folks speak to me about the possibility of ballot access in WV while I’m in Denver as a delegate, both before and after Barr receives the nomination. Shane Corey and Russ Verney are among them. I ask them to keep in touch moving forward, and state that I’d love to bring out whatever volunteers the state party has available, but that we have very little in the way of funds, and not enough to really pay for petitioners. I state that we would like some training for our volunteers who primarily reside in the north-central area of WV. This is the last time I would be in contact with any Barr campaign staff, however. I mention to Paulie and others that I’d like to have them come petition and party with me in WV if the Barr campaign sends some funds to the state party for ballot access.

June 2008: Towards the very end of June, Jake Witmer contacts me, and says they are petitioning. I mention that I’d like to get some volunteers trained from the state party’s volunteer base. Jake states that he is in Charleston (a few hours south of the north-central area, where we have very few activists and likely no volunteers.) Jake tells me Shane Corey is coming to the Charleston area, and that he’ll be contacting me. I ask if any petitioners are active in northern WV. Jake doesn’t know. Jake sends me some documents including petitions.

July 2008: I’m still in contact with Jake every once in a while. I offer to house petitioners in my home since Morgantown/Fairmont/Clarksburg/Bridgeport is a good area for petitioning. He says he has a friend who might take me up on it if his friend is brought in by the Barr campaign. That never occurs. I also mention that several other members of the state party would likely volunteer couch space or an air-bed. Later on, Jake gives me contact info for Shane who is apparently in Charleston. I am never able to get in contact with Shane, and he never attempts to contact me.

August 2008: The Barr campaign fails to meet its deadlines. Our state party volunteer base was never utilized. Barr also fails to register as a certified write-in candidate, so that write-in votes for Barr would be counted.

September 2008: A state party member calls me, asking about the Barr lawsuit. This is the first I’d heard of it.

Now for some facts. Ballot access is a 2% theshhold of prior-election voters in WV. To achieve major party status (which means you get free ballot access without petitioning) you must have a gubernatorial candidate who receives 1% of the popular vote. After the national convention, the only person who I was ever in contact with regarding the ballot access efforts was Jake Witmer. Jake was not equipped to really do what needed to be done, as a petitioner and not someone with any real authority. In the future, ballot access efforts will be undertaken by the LPWV. I firmly believe this will better serve the interests of LP candidates throughout the state as we move forward. The Constitution Party achieved ballot access by petition in 2008 for their presidential candidate, as did Ralph Nader as an independent. The Green Party affiliate, which is called the Mountain Party, had major party status and did not need to petition.

And in Ballot Access News, Bradley Jansen comments

The ballot petitioning for Barr failed mostly because we listened to their campaign staffers instead of following our own plans (which got Damien on the ballot).

Regarding the Damien Ober campaign, Ballot Access News reports:

Last month, Libertarian Party nominee Damien Ober polled 5,915 votes for “Shadow” U.S. Senator. The District of Columbia holds elections for U.S. Senate, and U.S. House, even though Congress does not recognize the winners of these elections (the election for U.S. House is separate from the election for Delegate to the U.S. House). Although 5,915 votes is only 2.63%, that is the highest vote total that any Libertarian nominee for partisan office in D.C. has ever polled.

Qualified parties in D.C. are those that poll 7,500 votes for any partisan office. The only qualified parties in D.C. history, besides the Democratic and Republican Parties, have been the Statehood Green Party (formerly the D.C. Statehood Party), the Umoja Party, the Socialist Workers Party, and the U.S. Labor Party.

Previous D.C. Libertarian vote totals (other than for president) have been 3,612 for City Council-at-Large in 1988, 980 for Mayor in 1990, and 4,594 for Delegate to the U.S. House in 2000. For president, no Libertarian has ever polled more than 1,104 votes in D.C. Because the D.C. Libertarian Party has never polled 7,500 votes for any office, it has never been a qualified party.

The U.S. Senate shadow election this year had four candidates. The other three were Democrat Paul Strauss, 183,519 votes; Republican Nelson Rimensynder, 18,601 votes; Statehood Green Keith Ware, 16,881 votes.

Libertarians tried to get Dick Heller on the ballot this year for Delegate to U.S. House. His petition failed, and Bob Barr’s petition also failed. If Heller had qualified, he probably would have received 7,500 votes, since the Delegate’s race had no Republican in the race. The vote totals this year for Delegate are Eleanor Holmes Norton, Democrat, 228,376 votes; Statehood Green, Maude Louise Hills, 16,693 votes.

See also Libertarian Party of Louisiana chair explains factors that led to missing the deadline to put Bob Barr on the ballot.

15 thoughts on “DC, West Virginia Libertarians analyze what went right and what went wrong with ballot access efforts

  1. Vindex

    I remember getting a slew of emails from both Barr and the national Party about volunteering in WV for ballot access. I think I even remember seeing a blog on the LP website talking about how one of the HQ staffers was in WV getting signatures.

    Did Matt Harris not get these emails?

  2. hogarth

    I think a statement such as the following needs more explanation:

    “The ballot petitioning for Barr failed mostly because we listened to their campaign staffers instead of following our own plans (which got Damien on the ballot).”

  3. TheOriginalAndy

    Susan, the Barr campaign and LP National are both run by complete fuck ups. This was the REAL problem.

  4. TheOriginalAndy

    Funny, because I’ve recently had people come to me for advice to make sure ballot access gets achieved for 2010 and 2012.

    What “other side” are you talking about?

  5. VirtualGalt

    There seems to be a lot of distributed knowledge of how to make this happen. Is it not centralized anywhere?

    If there are certain states that are known to be “problem” states, then “somebody” should be responsible for a plan and a budget for each one of them.

    Do we maintain a database of who has signed so we can ask them again? Or do any geographic targeting?

  6. hogarth

    Do we maintain a database of who has signed so we can ask them again?

    I can tell you that in NC at least this would be impractical. People move around too much to make the massive task of tracking worthwhile. Plus, one of our assurances is that signing does NOT place them on any subsequent contact lists.

  7. VirtualGalt

    People move around too much to make the massive task of tracking worthwhile.

    Point taken. I forget that many parts of the country are more mobile than my neighborhood, where my 10 years of residency makes me the newest resident by far. (it’s true.)

    Still, and maybe it’s a stupid question on my part, shouldn’t there be a database of towns where we’ve had success petitioning, or events? I hate to think that we’re reinventing the wheel every 2/4 years in these problem states.

  8. mdh

    The lesson I’ve learned is one I’d learned many, many years before… If you want it done right, do it yourself.

    In response to Vindex, I did not get those emails. Furthermore, it seems silly they’d send such emails since, as far as I’ve been told, they never used any volunteer petitioners in West Virginia.
    With regard to an HQ staffer being in WV, I imagine you mean Shane Corey, who was a staff member for Barr’s campaign HQ. He was in WV from what I’ve been told (though I never saw him personally), and my summary addressed that fact.

  9. mdh

    Also, Vindex, are you in WV? Or do you claim that they sent out those emails nationwide? Who sent those emails, and to whom?

    If you are in WV, how come I’ve never met you before? I know all of the libertarian activists in the state who actually do anything.

  10. JimDavidson

    @7 The process to NCOA (national change of address) a mailing list is cheap and easy. Such a mailing list would be a valuable resource for any group.

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