In casual conversations with people over the past few days, I have noticed a widespread disenchantment with the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor this year. Many say they will vote for the Libertarian Party candidate, Robert Sarvis. And some public opinion polls indicate that as much as 10% of the electorate favor him.
The conventional wisdom says that that Sarvis’ support will fade as the election draws down to the wire. People won’t want to “throw away” their vote on someone with no chance of winning the election.
The odds of Sarvis winning the gubernatorial election are astronomically low. But a vote for the 37-year-old Libertarian is not necessarily a wasted one. If he garners at least 10% of the vote, the Libertarian Party would win official party recognition in Virginia through the November 2016 election, including elections for U.S. Senate in 2014 and U.S. President in 2016.
As former Libertarian candidate for governor and U.S. Senator William Redpath explains to me, “If recognized political parties in Virginia nominate candidates by convention, no petitioning is required. If they nominate by Primary, the candidates must petition to get on the party’s primary ballot, but the winner of the primary gets automatic ballot status for the general election.”
Sparing the Libertarian Party the expense of petitioning to get its candidates on the ballot would allow it to husband its resources to help candidates campaign. Another advantage is that it would be more difficult for media and debate organizers to rationalize the marginalization of Libertarian candidates in electoral coverage and debates. That would be huge.
Would that be sufficient inducement for voters to cast their ballot for Sarvis? In theory, it could be. Given the number of independents in the state, I suspect that a third or more of Virginians would like to see a viable third-party choice. The trouble is, if people don’t know that 10% confers official party status upon the Libertarians, many will conclude that a Sarvis vote would be wasted, even though it wouldn’t be. Making the case that a vote for Sarvis does make a difference, it strikes me, should be a major priority of the Libertarians this fall.