Election results could expand number of major political parties

By Evan Smith

Results of the November general election could expand the number of major political parties in Washington.

The Libertarian Party could join the Democratic and Republican parties with major-party status for the next four years if Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson can get at least 5 percent of the votes for president in the state. A recent Stuart Elway Washington poll showed Johnson getting support from 7 percent of likely voters. Washington Libertarians cite a poll that shows Johnson at 16 percent.

The Green Party also could reach the 5 percent threshold for major-party status, but the most recent Elway poll showed Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein with 4 percent.

Qualification for major-party status is based solely on the statewide vote for president. The Libertarians can’t qualify based on the number of votes their candidates get for a statewide office. For example, it doesn’t matter how many votes the Libertarian candidate for state attorney general gets as the only challenger to the incumbent Democrat. It certainly doesn’t matter how many votes Libertarian Alex Hels gets in the 21st Legislative District or any of the nine other Libertarian legislative candidates on November ballots around the state gets.

Major-party status could bring elections for Libertarian precinct committee officers (PCOs) in 2018 and 2020.

It also could mean that those Libertarian PCOs could nominate replacements for any elected Libertarian office holder. So if Hels would win and then resign, Libertarian PCOs from around the district would meet to nominate three candidates, whose names would go to the Snohomish County Council, which would make the appointment. Hels is challenging incumbent Democratic State Rep. Strom Peterson in the 21st Legislative District, which includes most of Edmonds, unincorporated areas north of Edmonds and Lynnwood and northeast of Lynnwood, all of Mukilteo and part of south Everett.

The most visible aspect of major-party status would be a Libertarian (and perhaps Green) place on the 2020 presidential-primary ballot. So we could choose to vote as a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, (or perhaps a Green). Each major party, old and new, will have a section of the primary voters’ pamphlet.

Washington Libertarians will be well prepared for major-party status. They already are seeking PCOs and possible PCO candidates. In addition to the 10 Libertarian legislative candidates in the general election, there were 10 more who lost in the primary. In addition to Libertarian attorney general candidate Joshua Trumbull on the November ballot, there were four other Libertarians running for statewide office in the primary, along with one for U.S. Senate and three for the House of Representatives.

The Green Party, on the other hand, has shown little effort to seek openings for state and local office and had only one candidate in any of the state’s 10 congressional districts in the primary.

Evan Smith can be reached at schsmith@frontier.com.

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