Libertarians close to getting major-party status in state

By Evan Smith

Libertarians are on track to become Washington’s third major political party, but just barely.

The Libertarians could get major-party status if their presidential candidate ends up with at least 5 percent of the statewide vote from the Nov. 8 election.

As of Wednesday evening, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and vice presidential candidate Bill Weld had 5.01 percent of Washington presidential votes.

That’s down from the Libertarian candidates’ 7 percent in an October Elway Washington poll and the 9 percent in a September Elway poll.

Votes for Libertarians and four other minor-party presidential tickets seem to have been held down because 4.57 percent of Washington ballots showed either write-in votes or no votes for president at all.

In Snohomish County, the Libertarian candidates took 5.45 percent, the other minor-party candidates combined for 2.63 percent, write-in votes made up 3.54 percent and nearly 1.5 percent made no choice president.

Write-ins have 3.50 percent (12,248 votes), while 5,258 voters have left the presidential line of their ballots blank. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine have 52.27 percent of Snohomish County votes, while Republicans Donald Trump and Mike Pence have 36.18 percent.

Major-party status for Libertarians would mean that we’d be voting for Libertarian precinct committee officers in the 2018 and 2020 primary elections. Those PCOs could nominate replacements for any elected Libertarian official who would resign. Libertarian candidates would automatically get one of the top three spots on the 2020 presidential/vice presidential ballot. And they wouldn’t have to petition to get their presidential and vice presidential candidates on the ballot. We could see a Libertarian section on a 2020 presidential-primary ballot.

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

Washington Libertarians will be well prepared for major-party status. They already are seeking precinct committee officers and possible PCO candidates. In addition to the 10 Libertarian legislative candidates on the general election ballot, there were 10 more who lost in the primary. In addition to Libertarian attorney general candidate Joshua Trumbull, who lost to incumbent Democrat Bob Ferguson 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, which is far short of getting major-party status with its presidential ticket at 1.82 percent of the statewide vote, 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.

With major-party status, elected Libertarian precinct committee officers could nominate replacements for any elected Libertarian office holder. So if Libertarian Alex Hels had beaten incumbent Democratic 21st District State Rep. Strom Peterson and then resigned, Libertarian PCOs from around the district would meet to nominate three candidates, whose names would have gone to the Snohomish County Council, which would make the appointment. The 21st District includes most of Edmonds, unincorporated areas north of Edmonds and Lynnwood and northeast of Lynnwood, all of Mukilteo and part of south Everett.

Evan Smith can be reached at

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