Delaware Department of Justice: Affirming Libertarian ballot access ‘waste of precious state resources’

From Delaware State News:

Libertarian Party of Delaware's Secretary William McVay

DOVER — A standoff between the Department of Elections and Libertarian Party of Delaware has come to a head.

In April, the party filed a complaint in Superior Court demanding that the elections commissioner recognize their ballot access. The Department of Justice fired back last week calling their request “a needless waste of precious state resources.”

But, the Libertarian Party of Delaware has no intention of backing down until its legitimacy is recognized, party leadership says.

Since late last year, the party has been struggling to cement the state’s recognition of its ballot access.

Confusion initially arose when a splinter group (Libertarian Party of Delaware Inc.) broke off and formed a rival committee that sought to “hijack” the long-recognized Libertarian Party of Delaware’s ballot access, said the party’s secretary Will McVay.

This paper reported back in February that the state’s election commissioner Elaine Manlove didn’t know which party should get the ballot access belonging to Delaware’s more than 1,600 registered Libertarians.

“I don’t know who gets to claim them at this point,” she said at the time.

Befuddled with the scenario, the Libertarian Party of Delaware claims it’s both been putting candidates on state ballots and sending delegations to the National Libertarian Party’s conventions for many years. Mr. McVay said Ms. Manlove told his party leadership at the Feb. 12 Board of Elections meeting that their party was the one who would maintain ballot access, but has failed to provide it in writing.

“She knows who we are — everyone with the commissioner’s office knows who we are,” said Mr. McVay. “They’re well aware of who the real Libertarian party is. Why they’re not willing to make a ruling on it in writing in a timely fashion is, honestly, beyond me.”

The national Libertarian Party has also urged the commissioner to address the issue promptly. In February, a statement from the executive director of the Libertarian National Committee, Wes Benedict, both recognized the Libertarian Party of Delaware as their only state affiliate and disavowed the claim made by the Libertarian Party of Delaware Inc. The statement reads:

“The Libertarian Party cannot have more than one statewide affiliate in any state, nor can it have more than one county-level affiliate in any county. The LNC has therefore requested that the Commissioner of Elections take prompt action to resolve this matter in accordance with Delaware law.”

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9 thoughts on “Delaware Department of Justice: Affirming Libertarian ballot access ‘waste of precious state resources’

  1. Stewart Flood

    Haven’t we been on this merry-go-round before? What a waste of time. The state responds with a letter saying they don’t need to respond instead of just responding. That would have been a shorter letter!

  2. Richard P. Burke

    My Fellow Libertarians,

    Yes, this sounds almost EXACTLY like another Oregon. The Delaware situation underscores the danger of ceding the power to determine who our leaders are to government officials. For those new to this sort of problem, it is useful to briefly review the Oregon situation:

    On March 31, 2011, a regular monthly meeting of the LPO State Committee was held. At the meeting, a majority of those present, led by the LPO’s legitimate “Chair of Record,” purportedly enacted new LPO governing documents, appointed new party leaders, and canceled a state business convention session. All of this was done in violation of LPO governing documents in force at the time which required such changes to be made ONLY in properly noticed conventions. No notice to members was provided of the proposed changes.

    Still, the LPO Party Chair (Wes Wagner) submitted his new governing documents and officer lists to the Secretary of State. Oregon’s Secretary of State, barred from interfering with internal party governance by U.S. Supreme Court rulings, follows an unwritten policy of accepting as valid whatever governing documents and officer lists are submitted to them by a political party’s “Chair of Record.”

    The Sec. of State does not (and legally cannot) care whether documents submitted by a “Chair of Record” are properly adopted in accordance with a political party’s rules. If Kyle Markley, the new “Chair of Record” (a nice guy), were to write new governing documents and officer lists at his kitchen table, then submit them to Oregon’s Secretary of State, they would be accepted as well. Such is the environment we are working with and trying to fix.

    After the LNC and the LNC Executive Committee condemned the 3/31/11 coup in four resolutions, Nicholas Sarwark wrote for a 4-3 majority in a 2011 Judicial Committee ruling on the matter which found for those who supported the coup. Sarwark wrote – AND THIS IS IMPORTANT, “We find that the Libertarian Party of a particular state, in this case the State of Oregon, is the entity that is recognized by the secretary of state, in this case the Secretary of State of Oregon.”


    With those words, Mr. Sarwark and those who voted with him on the Judicial Committee handed the power of determining who our leaders are, and how they operate, to government officials – specifically, secretaries of state. No matter how one may fall along factional lines within the LP, I submit this should bother ALL of us. I am not taking Sarwark’s writing out of context. The entire ruling can be read here:

    According to Sarwark’s logic, if Delaware’s Secretary of State gets is wrong, we have to accept it. Just take the language from his ruling, replace the word OREGON with DELAWARE, and you see the problem. If Secretaries of State wanting to purposely send us into chaos, Sarwark’s ruling could be used to find legally defensible reasons to recognize groups of Republicans and Democrats who fraudulently form Libertarian organizations claiming to represent the party (fortunately, I don’t think they have yet thought it through that far).

    Thankfully, Sarwark’s ruling was rescinded 5-2 by the 2015 Judicial Committee. Unfortunately, by that time, Mr. Sarwark was LNC Chair and refused to implement their rescission on the same grounds he wrote about in the 2011 decision. Saying the LNC affiliates with “parties, not people,” Sarwark doubled-down on ceding to government officials the power to determine who our leaders are. The LNC, lacking a 2/3 majority to circumvent Sarwark, was powerless to do anything about it. The 2015 Judicial Committee ruling can be read here:

    As the national party could not speak on the matter with one voice (Sarwark’s position vs. LNC resolutions and the 2015 Judicial Committee ruling), Oregon’s Secretary of State held to the status quo for fear of being vulnerable to charges of interfering in the internal governance of our party. But, recognizing the dispute is not resolved, the Sec. of State has allowed both groups to operate as under the name “Libertarian Party of Oregon.” So it has been to date. The other group is in the middle of a primary election. Our group held a press conference on an upcoming special legislative session. At the press conference, the first question was about the factional split. What a mess.

    I am happy to report that, after hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, years of wasted time, and a lot of bad feelings, the two Libertarian Parties of Oregon are very close to a reunification agreement and have already started to work together in a variety of ways. For this reason, I am not interested in rehashing the Oregon situation other than to present it as a cautionary tale to those who are concerned about Delaware and to show what happens when we allow government officials to tell us who our leaders are.

    I respectfully submit that it is inherently dangerous for any libertarian organization to accept Mr. Sarwarks’ position, allowing government officials to tell us who our leaders are, as valid. It is also dangerous to accept any LNC Chair who believes he or she has the power to ignore LNC resolutions and national Judicial Committee rulings.


    Richard P. Burke, Secretary
    Libertarian Party of Oregon (PAC#16869)

  3. Chuck Moulton

    Who are the people involved with the Libertarian Party of Delaware Inc.? Are they LP members? Are they former LPDE officers? Are they Republicans or Democrats?

  4. From Der Sidelines

    Shut up, Burke. You lost years ago. Go back under the Republican rock you crawled out from under.

  5. Richard Winger

    Delaware elections are run by the Election Commission. Although Delaware has a Secretary of State, the Delaware Secretary of State has no connection with election administration.

  6. Thomas L. Knapp

    “Mr. Sarwark and those who voted with him on the Judicial Committee handed the power of determining who our leaders are, and how they operate, to government officials”

    No, they didn’t.

    The LNC retains the power to determine which, if any, organization is its affiliate in a state. And it can do so any time it likes by disaffiliating the existing affiliate and recognizing another (what it can’t do, per the bylaws, is let its executive committee disaffiliate a state affiliate while pretending to do something else).

    State election authorities, on the other hand, have, and have in the modern era always had, the power to decide pursuant to various laws, which organization is that state’s [insert party name here].

    The Libertarian Party of [insert state here] and the LNC’s affiliate in that same state need not be the same organization. The LNC does not and never has had the power to determine the status of the former.

    It’s sad that Mr. Burke continues to hold on to his rage that he wasn’t able to slip his impostor organization past either the Secretary of State of Oregon, as if it was the real Libertarian Party of Oregon, or the LP’s Judicial Committee, as if it was the LNC’s real Oregon affiliate. He’ll have to console himself with the fact that he was able to con the national convention credentials committee and delegates a couple of times before that version of his scam got rolled up too.

  7. Richard P. Burke

    Mr. “From der Sidelines,”

    If you STILL claim I am a GOP plant, you might want to reconcile this claim with our recent press conference where I pointed out that the LP, which has cost the GOP legislative seats in the past, will capitalize on any GOP failure to hold the line in the upcoming May 21st special session.

    Also, we did not “lose” in Oregon. The issue is still in play. Litigation is still active, we are still allowed to operate as “The Libertarian Party of Oregon” by the Secretary of State as a Misc. PAC, and a change in LP national leadership could shake things up a lot. Also, if you look at, you will see that we have been very active.

    Best of all, if current negotiations relating to the Unification Resolution are successful, there will be no losers at all on either side. Both sides will get most of what they want through the current draft of the Resolution, which could be an outcome better than complete victory for either side. As a prelude to reunification, both sides have agreed to send a joint delegation to this year’s national convention and have jointly selected Drew Layday, a member of both groups, to be the delegation chair. WINNING! – for both sides.

    Richard P. Burke, Secretary
    Libertarian Party of Oregon

  8. Richard P. Burke

    Mr. Knapp,

    Mr. Sarwark, and those who voted with him in his later rescinded 2011 Judicial Committee ruling, did indeed hand Secretaries of State, or top election officials depending on the state, the power to determine who our leaders are. Again, Mr. Sarwark wrote, “We find that the Libertarian Party of a particular state, in this case the State of Oregon, is the entity that is recognized by the secretary of state, in this case the Secretary of State of Oregon.”

    Despite four LNC resolutions recognizing that our side was the legitimate LNC affiliate, not to mention the 2015 Judicial Committee ruling rescinding Sawark’s ruling and making it clear that our side was the legitimate LNC affiliate, Sarwark doubled-down on his position. He wrote, “We affiliate with parties, not people,” and refused to implement both the LNC resolutions and the 2015 Judicial Committee rulings. The 2/3 LNC majority needed to go around Sarwark or otherwise deal with him did not exist, so we have been stuck with the status quo. Had someone like Mark Rutherford been elected LNC chair, we would not be in this position. If someone else gets elected this year, things could change markedly.

    Fortunately, in Oregon’s case, the whole thing can be rendered moot by the reunification process currently underway. It is a way for both sides to win after a long and destructive conflict. But that won’t help Delaware. Nor will it help other state LP affiliates that might split in the future. If the top election officials in Delaware recognize the “wrong” Libertarian Party of Delaware, the LNC will have to accept it in accordance with Sarwark’s reasoning. If it is not accepted, then Sarwark’s position in Oregon would represent a major inconsistency.

    Richard P. Burke, Secretary
    Libertarian Party of Oregon

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