Libertarian Party

Libertarian Party Wins COVID-19-Related Lawsuit Over Ballot Access in Illinois

COVID-19 was making the traditional means of collecting petition signatures impossible.


A judge in Illinois yesterday paved the way for the Libertarian Party (L.P.) to actually get on the ballot in her state after COVID-19 made traditional petitioning to gather signatures for ballot access impossible.

Richard Winger reports in the indispensable Ballot Access News that Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, in an as-yet-unwritten opinion in the case of Libertarian Party of Illinois v. Pritzker, decided that if a third party was on the ballot in 2016 or 2018 for an office, it can be on the ballot again this year with no petition signatures required. For the L.P., this includes the presidential and Senate ballot slots.

For other legislative seats, candidates will only need to collect 10 percent of the normal requirement this year (which will mean 2,500 required instead of 25,000). The previous deadline for the petitions of June 22 has also been pushed back to August 7. The petitions can also be collected via e-signed electronic documents (although "the candidate or party must then print out the results and transport a piece of paper to election officials.")

The Illinois Herald & Review reports that Illinois asked Pallmeyer to approve a proposal that would have required voters "to print out ballot petitions, sign them with a pen and return them to candidates either physically or electronically. The deadline would have remained June 22 and the number of required signatures would have been halved."

L.P. national chair Nicholas Sarwark says no longer needing to collect a huge number of Illinois signatures is a "big story" for the L.P. Actually meeting the original Illinois requirements with COVID-19 would have been an "impossible dream," but with this legal win behind them, he's confident similar arguments, either made inside or outside formal lawsuits, can be expected to win over other judges or state officials.

Winger notes that although Illinois insisted that an August 7 deadline was far too late, "The minor party petition in Illinois was due in early August in all the years 1931 through 1999.  Before 1931, it was in September, and it was in October from 1891 through 1929."

The L.P. is facing COVID-19-related ballot access problems in many states, with traditional petitioning methods essentially illegal or impossibly difficult. (Ballotpedia is keeping a running tally of every election law or requirement change that COVID-19 is inspiring.)

The L.P. as of today is on 36 ballots (plus the District of Columbia), and involved in active lawsuits against Maine, Georgia, Maryland, and Connecticut over ballot access issues (though not all of them are strictly about COVID-19-related problems).

The L.P. would prefer to get concessions on impossible signature rules via negotiation, not lawsuits, and its members are in discussions with many states about these issues. However, L.P. Executive Director Daniel Fishman says some states, such as Alabama, have so far ignored their communications.

Still, Fishman says L.P members tend to get generous with donations when ballot access issues are in question. He expects the party will have the resources it needs to fight it out with various states in court if it comes to that, and "we fully intend to pursue legal action everywhere we have to."

If circumstances push the party's selection of its presidential ticket past the currently scheduled late May convention in Austin, Texas, which may have to be canceled or postponed, it could harm the L.P. in certain states, such as New Hampshire, that require the specific presidential candidate to be named on petitions. A decision on holding, postponing, or otherwise rethinking the convention and nomination process is likely to be made on May 2, and Fishman regrets the potential loss of a national C-SPAN audience if an in-person convention is ruined by COVID-19.

Many in the L.P. are eagerly awaiting a possible decision from Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.), who has been hinting at a potential run. Fishman is not afraid that falling short of 50-state ballot access will discourage professional officeholders like Amash from thinking of the L.P. as a potential home for a presidential run.

"I don't think any [such candidate] is going to try to run with the L.P. just because we have 50-state ballot access," Fishman says, though he grants that "is a perk." Rather, he says that "people run with us because we are expressing a philosophy that is neither Right nor Left that appeals to principled politicians who otherwise have no home." The recent history of both major parties have shown them to be shifting masses of personality cults (such as the one dedicated to Trump) and opportunists who respond to shifting winds (such as the Democrats' slow turnaround on gay marriage and marijuana legalization, which the Libertarians have long been for).

Regardless of whether Amash goes Libertarian this year, Fishman thinks it would be great to have a sitting elected congressperson stressing the iniquities of ballot access law, an issue Amash even as a Republican was dedicated to reforming.

Still, the L.P. does intend to fight it out, COVID or no COVID, to once again reach that 50-state prize. A typical letter requesting a secretary of state be reasonable, from Georgia L.P. Chair Ryan Graham, argued that "In light of [COVID-19], we would ask that the Secretary of State understand the effect this crisis and the states of emergency has had on people's willingness to be approached by a stranger, let alone take a pen or a clipboard. Additionally, though all of our petitioners are healthy and would stop petitioning at the first sign of illness, Corona is often spread by people who are asymptomatic…[this] seriously threatens our ability to get on the ballot….In light of the states of emergency and in the interest of public health, we would ask that the petition requirement for all political body and independent candidates be waived for the 2020 General Election."

NEXT: Did Subway Riders or Motorists Do More To Spread COVID-19 in New York City?

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    1. Get ready for President Borat

      1. Democracy is different in America. For example, women can vote but horse can not!

        1. I hope women’s votes are counted as 3/5ths of a full vote.

  2. Why would I vote for anyone from the Libertarian Party when we have the most libertarian President ever in the WH– who is currently exercising his fiscal restraint by running a [checks] 4 trillion dollar deficit? Pfft, Brian Doherty, you and your funny Libertarian Party.

    1. You jest, but according to my MAGA friends, Trump is not Hillary, therefore MOST LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENT EVAH!!!

      1. In practice he has been the most libertarian President in most people’s lifetimes. Only because that’s such a low hurdle, of course, but he did clear it.

        1. From the tariffs and immigration practices to the statist womb management and government spending, ‘the most libertarian President” . . . you are a delusional, birther-class clinger whose defeat in the culture war has been richly deserved.

        2. Hmm, I guess if you mean younger folks’ lifetimes that holds up? I dunno, though, I think arguably Bill Clinton wins that one for most people. Mind you, that’s pretty much strictly because he was a centrist democrat president with a republican-held congress, but he did welfare reform. Try to imagine a current democrat doing any kind of reform to welfare that isn’t increasing the programs’ size by twenty times. He also ran a budget surplus. Again, to a certain extent you can thank the red team for that, but they probably wouldn’t’ve had such restraint with one of their own in office (and indeed, they didn’t in the very next terms with Bush).

          He did get us into the Bosnian conflict, but limiting yourself to only one congressionally unauthorized military action seems to be what passes for restraint amongst american presidents of recent decades.

          The reason I typically find most commentators arguing a president’s relative libertarian-ness tends to simply be because they’re centrist. Clinton was a centrist democrat, and Trump is basically a centrist republican (with a slightly odd slate of key issues, but fairly centrist) so I’m not surprised they seem to rate relatively better for freedom than either of the duopoly’s true believers. It’s mostly a matter of being less willing to do radically terrible things.

  3. Can I tell you guys something? I mean, I’m a socialist and all, but I’m a *libertarian* socialist and thus close enough to you all ideologically to call you my friends, ok? And between us friends I have to say that I’m embarrassed by the way you are acting. I mean, we have a pandemic crisis. This is your time to shine and YOU… ARE…FUCKING…IT…UP!!! What I wanted from you all was to demonstrate your libertarianism by having a shootout with the local constable, taking on the local police with your tank, and dressing up like the hot guitar player in “Mad Max:Fury Road”. Instead you’re palling around with some sad sack fat guy screaming about “giving me liberty” and generally acting like a whiny bitch. That’s beneath you all. You think as a socialist I would react the same? Pfft… let me tell you, if I get fired from my job you think I’m going to go around telling everyone how great private enterprise is and how I now love the free market because I want a new job. Fuck that… I’m going to take as much money from my unemployment benefits, maybe get retrained at a community college and try to sleep with college chicks in some emo liberal arts class. That’s going to be my time to shine. YOu should take advantage of the now and not let whiny socialists tell you how badly you are acting. Carpe diem, libertarians!

    1. When socialists attempt humor.

      At least it keeps them off the barricades.

      1. This is a missive between friends— not an attempt at humor. God, another thing libertarians should stop doing is taking everything so seriousry.

    2. Since you include American in your screen name I assume you are a National Socialist.

    3. Most people in the Reason comment section are NOT libertarian. Even if they sounded vaguely libertarian once upon a time, they were really contrarians. Do the opposite of whatever everyone else is doing. So they pretended to be libertarians when because it was the contrarian position. But now that we have an actual knee-jerk contrarian in the White House, they all jumped ship and became Trumpaloompas.

      I mean, one of these guys used to call himself an fucking anarchist, and now he’s wearing a MAGA hat. Crazy. Big government is okay so long as it’s a contrary to the big government the “other” side wants.

      1. Contrarian . . . malcontent . . . disaffected . . . misfit . . . alienated . . . clinger . . . faux libertarian . . . anti-social — it’s all just shorthand for inconsequential loser.

        1. Sounds like you and Brandy

    4. This guy has the patter that sank the LP in the 1980s down pat. The gipper created a LOT of communist unemployment and those unemployables were assigned to cling to the LP and stink.

    5. Why do we allow socialists? Not on the Reason comment section, I enjoy the freedom of expression. It’s very Libertarian. So that’s all cool. In our society. Why?

      We have memes on social media about ‘punch a Nazi’. Which are generally accepted because Nazi’s were terrible people and they did terrible things. And the people who are wuss-nazis today are also arguably terrible people or at least very badly misguided. They are generally marginalized by everyone, and don’t have any power to implement their stupid, terrible ideas, and that’s how it should be. They are no threat.

      Socialists killed so many more people, and just as horribly, in the 20th century, and they just get a pass? Why? They are still killing people and impoverishing people and making human life miserable across the planet for no good reason other than a failure to understand the idiocy of their philosophy.

  4. “appeals to principled politicians who otherwise have no home.”

    The LP appeals to principled politicians? Why not nominate one of those, instead of the other kind?

    1. We did. But you jumped ship to vote for God Trump.

  5. Finally, the path to a libertarian president has been cleared! Now we just need to keep Aleppo out of the news.

    1. Some leppo will always find his way into the news.

    2. The media was just so flummoxed that he wasn’t advocating bombing Aleppo. Not bomb a city in the Middle East? What mad sorcery is this?

    3. What is a leppo?

  6. I am amazed at all the things I can do on-line, banking, bill paying, buying stock, talking to my doctor. But signing nomination papers, registering to vote and voting are all done the same way as my grandfather did them. Yes, we live in an amazing country on foot in 21 century the other in the 19th.

    1. The difference is that you directly know the outcome of those other transactions, and are incentivized to make sure nefarious things aren’t happening (and they do happen! CC numbers are stolen all the time…). With voting, it is impossible to know if the chain of custody was properly maintained (mail) or if the vote was even counted (electronic/online). So there is a good argument that voting should be in-person and on paper.

      1. At the minimum, any online voting needs to result in a verifiable hash code. Not that I don’t trust the chads, but way too many shenanigans available to a hacker.

      2. I walk around with a computer in my pocket that is more powerful and the one used to take men to the moon. I think we could figure a way to safely vote on-line. I don’t think technology is limiting us as much as politics. There are interest groups who want voting limited to a small group of spoon fed followers.

        1. As opposed to mail-in voting which involves no risk of spoon-feeding?

          1. There is a big difference. Mail in voting puts a priority on letting the most people vote. It assumes that party best able to sell its ideas will win. Republican ideas are not selling so they want a smaller number of voters, primarily ones that buy what they are selling. It is worth noting that the Republicans failed at this in the Wisconsin April 7th election. They wanted small turn outs and they lost.

        2. I’m certain we could figure out a way to safely vote online. Now figure out how to explain to the general population, half of whom have IQs under 100, and most of whom have never taken a computer science class in their lives, why they should believe it’s safe.

          Worse, given the history of computer voting machines in this country, why are you drawing a connection between being able to do it safely, and it actually getting done safely? Is something going to magically arrange for the guys with the safe system to pay the biggest kickback?

          1. The question is not can we safely vote online, of course we can.
            The question is can we trust and verify the results of online voting?
            Of course not.

            1. More honest than the others. You can photograph your mail vote, and if they claim you waited too long (like till 29 days before the election) they mail you back a scolding letter that proves how you at least tried to cast your vote. So either way you can produce evidence.

              1. You can screen shot your vote if done electronically. The software could be built with a date clock showing the time you voted and a watermark. If they question your vote you print the screen shot and mail it in. You could also send the screen shot in for an independent recount.

  7. Guaranteed Libertarian Party position on the ballot . . . to 1.5 percent, and beyond!

  8. Every Crash and Depression gets the Republicans tossed out. And is is asking a lot of coincidence that mystical asset-forfeiture prohibitionists just happen to preside over the wreckage of a fractional reserve banking panic and market crashes wiping out our savings EVERY forking time! So the ChiCom Party may put the Dems in control of the ruined economy the way Georgie Bush Junior did in 2008. But voters seek out third parties, and ours is the only one that isn’t communist or christianofascist–yet.

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  10. Speaking of stimulus money, it seems that what the government considers small businesses is more flexible what most people think of as small businesses. Will my barber get a bailout for his one man business?

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