Once again, Virginia’s quadrennial political races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general are approaching, and as always, Republicans and Democrats will be on the ballot. But once again, Virginia voters will be denied the right to vote for a Libertarian candidate for any of these three statewide offices.
The Libertarian Party is the third-largest political party in the United States. Since it was founded 25 years ago, it has fielded a presidential and vice presidential candidate in every presidential election. In 1992 and in 1996, Libertarian candidates for president and vice president were on the ballot in all 50 states. Libertarians have been elected to state legislatures in Alaska and New Hampshire, and more than 190 are serving in public office in the United States.
Unfortunately, the people of Virginia once again won’t have the opportunity of voting for – or even hearing – a Libertarian candidate for governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general because of the commonwealth’s ballot-access laws.
For a Libertarian candidate to get on the ballot for a statewide office, he or she must:
(1) Circulate petitions and collect the signatures of one-half percent to one percent of the number of voters registered as of December 31 in the year preceding the election. For the November 1997 election, that means approximately 16,000 signatures. Anyone who has collected petition signatures knows what an enormous undertaking that is.
(2) Receive 10 percent of the total votes cast for a statewide office in either of the two previous elections. Obviously, this is an insurmountable obstacle for Libertarians, because in order to receive the required percentage, their candidate must first get on the ballot.
So, come November, Virginia voters will get to vote for Republicans and Democrats – but not for Libertarians – for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. This is unfortunate, because in Virginia, both major political parties are committed to such things as the drug war, public schooling, welfare, regulations, zoning and the high levels of taxation to pay for all of this. The details vary, but both parties have a commitment to a paternalistic welfare state.
So what conceivable harm could come from Libertarian candidates with a different approach being allowed on the ballot? Libertarians’ commitment to individual freedom, private property, free markets and limited government could only raise the level of political debate.
Jacob G. Hornberger delivered the keynote speech at the 1996 national Libertarian Party convention.