Libertarian Kurt Evans got 20.05% of the vote Tuesday against incumbent State Auditor Steve Barnett (who, among possible successors to Governor Dennis Daugaard in 2018, was the second-most popular Republican on the ballot, behind only Marty Jackley). If Evans had been running for Governor, that percentage would have earned his party another four years of official recognition.
But Evans didn't run for Governor, and neither did any other Libertarian, so, per SDCL 12-1-3, the South Dakota Libertarian Party now disappears in the eyes of the Secretary of State. Libertarians similarly lost official status in Ohio and the District of Columbia and gained it in North Dakota.
In good news for Libertarians, reclaiming that official party status in South Dakota will require a thousand fewer signatures, thanks to low voter turnout. I'm not happy about lower voter turnout, but I am happy that the SDLP has an easier path to ballot access. (I could say the same about the similarly defunct Constitution Party, but their persistent whackdoodlery has yet to add value to our electoral process.)
I encourage Evans, Ken Santema, John English, and his fellow Libertarians to start pounding the pavement (when the weather gets warm, because who wants to sign petitions in winter?) to reëstablish their party for several reasons:
- The Libertarian philosophy, properly articulated, offers voters a much more interesting and consistent political worldview than the South Dakota Republican Party's sloppy mix of authoritarianism, corporate welfare, and personal opportunism.
- An active Libertarian Party peels votes away from Republicans, making my job of rebuilding the Democratic Party that much easier.
- The Libertarian philosophy provides more useful clash with Democratic ideology and thus offers voters a clearer choice of ideals and policies. A debate between Kurt Evans and Rick Weiland or between Ken Santema and me would be much more honest, informative, and fun than a debate between any decent Democrat and a Republican dodger like Mike Rounds.
- Put points 1, 2, and 3 together: while Democrats and Libertarians differ starkly in their view of the proper role of government, we share the goal of ousting Republican corruption and opening government to more citizen participation. I believe the Democratic Party could form a useful partnership with an active and serious Libertarian Party to achieve common goals. (I'm serious, Kurt: win back recognition for the SDLP, purge the folks who hijacked the 2014 convention, and let's talk.)
- Libertarians have a chance for some real organizing fun: they can combine their petition drive for party ballot access with an initiative push to abolish the Office of School and Public Lands. Placing that initiative on the ballot would require just about 28,000 signatures (that's a constitutional amendment, not just a statutory change), but that effort would raise even more awareness of the Libertarian brand and give Libertarians a chance to advocate a policy consistent with their philosophy of reducing government.
- Along with their now experienced crew of candidates from 2014, the Libertarians have two marquee candidates whom they can try to recruit for the 2016 House and Senate races: Gordon Howie and Stace Nelson. Add those two disaffected Republicans and their statewide network of supporters (think but bigger than the SDLP's!) to your team, and you have the makings of a coordinated campaign that could make a real difference in the outcome of the 2016 election.
(Wow—my life would be so boring if I were a Republican. I wouldn't have the time or motivation to think of ways to help the underdogs in South Dakota.)
Kurt! Ken! Libertarians! Your future looks bright; ready those petitions, break in some new shoes, and when spring comes, let's see a big Libertarian Party push to get back on the ballot!