A Vote for Sarvis Not Wasted — If You’d Like to See a Viable Third Party in Virginia

Robert Sarvis: There would be tangible benefits to the Libertarian Party if he broke the 10% barrier.
Robert Sarvis: There would be tangible benefits to the Libertarian Party if he broke the 10% barrier.

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.


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30 responses to “A Vote for Sarvis Not Wasted — If You’d Like to See a Viable Third Party in Virginia”

  1. 10% would level the playing field and create a more competitive political environment in Virginia. Competition in politics brings new ideas and better candidates to the forefront. The lack of competition produces lamentable candidates, like McAuliffe and Cuccinelli – neither of whom had any challengers in their primary and convention, respectively.

    Therefore, a vote for Sarvis is a WIN for all Virginians, our Commonwealth, and our constitutional republic.

    Voting for McAuliffe or Cuccinelli is the wasted vote!

  2. Breckinridge Avatar

    “Sparing the Libertarian Party the expense of petitioning to get its candidates on the ballot.”

    There is no significant expense unless you use paid solicitors to get the petitions. If you have a statewide cadre of volunteers — which is the basis of any political party — then getting the signatures is not a major barrier. Sarvis is, after all, on the ballot! He got the signatures.

    A vote for Sarvis is not wasted in that it does send a protest message. But it will not impact the outcome, so it is wasted in that respect.

    People believe that the Tea Party took over the GOP in recent years, which is of course ridiculous because the Tea Party is just the right wing of the party and was always there. The recent development is that many of the Ron Paul fans came into the party structure, as well, the so-called “Paulbots”. Third parties have always failed under our political structure, but new parties do rise when traditional parties collapse or parties do change course. The Ron Paul supporters realized they were doomed as a third party and needed to move into the GOP and move its candidates their way. Sarvis apparently didn’t get the memo….

    1. Virginia has one of the hardest ballot access laws in the country.

      The state requires each candidate to submit 10,000 signatures to the state board of elections, including 400 from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts. Achieving 10% on election day is another artificial barrier; most states allow official recognition after 2%. Regardless, obtaining signatures and achieving 10% against a state political monopoly requires time and money. The monopoly in VA politics only benefits the major parties and those candidates who are bankrolled by big financial players.

      In fact, candidates Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum were unable to obtain ballot access in Virginia during the 2012 GOP primaries. Goes to show it’s not so simple as you say.

      Also, your assumption that, “third parties have always failed under our political structure” is false, because at one point in time the GOP was a third party (prior to 1861). The major parties in U.S. history have been: Whigs, Federalists, Anti-Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, Southern Democrats, Democrats, and Republicans.

      Finally, Robert Sarvis is doing more good for Virginia by running as a Libertarian than McAuliffe and Cuccinelli have. And by God, I hope Sarvis beats the 10% threshold to help end the insanity here in VA.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        The ballot access laws are ridiculous. So are off year elections. Those are but two of the ways that the ass hats in Richmond preserve their monopoly on power. I wish Sarvis well. I just hope he doesn’t flame out in this bizarre election.

      2. Breckinridge Avatar

        The Republican Party of today (which of course is very different) rose in the 1850s out of the wreckage of the Whigs. I do not disagree that if the current GOP crashes and burns the Libertarians could step into the place, but then they would be the second party, wouldn’t they?

        Our congressional elections are one winner per district, not proportional as in England or other parliamentary systems. Our president is not chosen from among the members of parliament. Our system makes is hard for third parties. There is no coalition government of multiple parties, but there are parties that must find a way to hold together diverse coalitions. I still predict that Sarvis will fade on election day although it might be bigger showing than some other third party or independent candidates. And he would be showing squat if either of the two major party candidates had even average favorable-unfavorable ratios.

  3. DJRippert Avatar

    Sarvis is a certifiable genius. A polymath in the fashion of Thomas Jefferson. A math degree from Harvard, a law degree from NYU, a masters in Economics. He’s been a clerk to a judge, a software developer and a teacher.

    However, like many very smart people, Sarvis doesn’t have much of a plan. He ran for State Senate as a Republican against Dick Saslaw without enough campaign funding to successfully win election as a dog catcher. Now he’s tilting at windmills in the governor’s race.

    It’s a shame. Virginia could use a man like Sarvis in public service. However, he’ll never get there on the path he’s taken.

    Sarvis ought to be willing to trade his endorsement for one of the two candidates accepting some of his libertarian principles. He would then endorse that candidate and (perhaps) end up in the next cabinet. Secretary of Technology would be an obvious choice but Secretary of Transportation would make a bigger difference. From there – he would be a lot more credible in future elections.

    1. Sarvis has obtained greater name recognition by running for Gov. of VA than if he had run for something else. He’s also bringing Libertarian ideas to the forefront of political discussion and pointing out serious flaws in VA politics.

      He’s changed the discussion in Virginia. He’s gaining name recognition. He could achieve 10% on election day and allow the Libertarian Party to become a ‘recognized party’ per the Code of Virginia subsection 24.2-101.

      By doing so, he’s making a big difference: this discussion proves it. It’s also a well calculated move on his part, because an increase in name recognition opens the door to a future run for elected office, if he so chooses.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        I am guessing that he’ll get about 5% of the vote but we’ll see.

        He ran as a Republican in 2011 so I am not so sure he’s a dyed in the wool Libertarian.

        Almost nobody understands his policies. He is the protest vote. His relative popularity proves the major parties are screwed up, etc, etc.

        His ideas are fine but his strategy is not.

        A third party needs to find some competitive races for Delegate and (in two years) for Senate. Two senate seats makes the third party the “swing vote” on partisan battles.

        Sarvis is a smart guy. He’d be a breath of fresh air in public office. But he’s going to be known as “that Libertarian guy” who runs and runs but loses and loses.

        Sarvis should have sat this one out. Most people are not voting for Sarvis, they are voting against Cuccinelli / McAuliffe. It didn’t require a man of Sarvis’ talent to get the Libertarian Party name recognition. Any competent person could have been the “lightening rod” for a 10% protest vote.

        1. The Libertarian Party of Virginia has also fielded several candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates.

          Jonathan Parrish – House of Delegates, District 23
          Patrick Hagerty – House of Delegates, District 33
          Laura Delhomme – House of Delegates, District 47
          Anthony Tellez – House of Delegates, District 53
          Christopher Sullivan – House of Delegates, District 55
          Dan Foster – House of Delegates, District 78

          1. Perhaps, good,bad or indifferent but the Dem and the GOP tend to have a party plank with individual variations.

            A legitimate 3rd party would have to be, IMHO, MORE than a group of folks who themselves do not have a generalized approach that they support – as a “party”.

            That coalescence gives a group of like-thinking folks some level of differentiation from the GOP and Dems.. on their philosophy of government but then – I’m sure some might make this point – party politics itself is at the root of some of our disaffection right now.

            but I’m still not sure how a part of like-thinking but not really quite willing to commit themselves to actually functioning as a true 3rd party on legislation and voting – perhaps such a thing might be a “plus” when we see one political party split down the middle…on an issue – as opposed to them “aligning” for the betterment of the “party” to actually influence legislation.

            Got some Libertarian types reading here. How about sharing your thoughts about how a would-be 3rd party of Libertarians would compare and contrast in their approach to governance, with respect to GOP / Dem?

            any of you willing to weigh in and help some of us better understand?

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Tilting at Windmills might be just what we need although I am hardly a Libertarian fan. We have a wing nut and a coat holder running now.

  5. re: wasted votes

    a boni-fide 3rd party has to be a mainstream party not a ‘wing’ or similar “fringe” party – of which most libertarians are … not…

    So what does that tell us – in terms of getting the 10% as Breckinridge as shown is just not THAT difficult if you have at least SOME level of statewide support.

    but if the most you’re ever going to get is about 10% and there are slim prospects for more – I just don’t see that as a viable basis for a 3rd party.

    so why haven’t we ever got – a true – viable 3rd party – one that would compete for votes – left, right and middle if, in theory, there are people in all 3 slices that are sick of the two-party system?

    I _might_ vote for someone with Libertarian “principles” …. depending on how realistic they are in advocating for their positions – but I simply will not vote for wacko birds – no matter what.

    Libertarians come in some many flavors – they actually hate each other but the one thing that distinguishes many of them is that they are essentially opposed to government and believe that elected governance – in a one-man-one-vote, majority wins world is fundamentally wrong – i.e our founding Constitution document is wrong.

    Having that kind of person sitting in the helm of govt is a scary proposition and though I hate the stranglehold that the Dems/GOP have on our political process, I’m not quite ready to go the anarchist route yet.

    1. Sarvis is not an anarchist. Have you even done any research on him, or are you just another partisan spouting out nonsense? Sarvis is the moderate candidate in this election.

      Also, as I pointed out, Breckenridge is wrong.

      1. I truly do not know his specifics and would be happy to be informed.

        I know enough about Libertarians though to know that even the mild ones can be unrealistic about government. Take Ron Paul or even Rand – they’re not mainstream IMHO and much of their agenda would simply not be acceptable to the vast majority of voters.

        There main purpose at this point is to show some boundaries of economic thought… but few would seriously believe in doing what they say they would do -if they could.

        A “reasonable” Libertarian Governor would take baby steps.. not revolutionary attempts.

  6. Libertarians don’t hate the Constitution. Au contraire, they see the Constitution as a magnificent document created by our genius founding fathers. Ever hear of 2nd amendment rights? 4th amendment rights? Limitations imposed by the 10th amendment? Which specifically states that all rights not enumerated in the Constitution or the amendments is reserved as the sole province of the States and/or the people. Hence, small government is what’s called for, not huge behomoths.

  7. I know this comes as a shock – but there are Libertarians that believe that elected government, majority rule, collective actions and central management are evils…

    they’re certainly entitled to the views – but the average American is going to be fairly horrified … as some of these things.

    Anyone elected to office who believes our Constitution – and the basis for it – one-man-one-vote and majority rule – are evil – are not going to be representing the majority of the country.

    and that’s the key to elective governance. you represent people to govern according to their votes… if that’s not your game, Dem, GOP or Libertarian then you’re in the wrong business INHO of course.

  8. Ok. So he’s NOT an anti-govt Libertarian and he’s not really a politician and he does cover general issues well but is no more specific on most things than the other two – except on schools – in which he basically is opposed to SOL and other standards and wants the parent and teacher to decide – which is going backwards in a world where parents move from one school to another and if the curriculum is not standardized – the child will not have continuity in their schooling – and that’s not good.

    He apparently wants to get rid of School Boards also – which is in my view – not reasonable – since they ARE elected and that does give people some level of accountability.

    He sounds like he’s had some personal experiences that has shaped his views which I find naive … like he wants to get rid of the income tax and decide how to spend local funds on education… epic fail!

    he’s NOT entitled to taxpayer funds to start with… taxpayers play a role in how that money is spent!

    but I DO LIKE the fact that he is well educated, got the GOOGLE prize for Android development and in general is engaged in the tech world… which puzzles me a big with respect to how he thinks education should work.

    I think in order for him to get MORE than the basic Libertarian votes plus some DEM/GOP disaffected.. he needs more flesh on the bones of his proposals..

    I like the fact that he’s identified some onerous taxes but it’s a tall order to get rid of the income tax and I wonder how he feels about the sales tax and how he would fund the SOQs….and Law enforcement…MedicAid which are the big 3 in the Va budget.

    1. What’s naive is thinking that the Governor puts forward bills…

      Sarvis, like McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, would only have the authority to sign or veto proposals. Unfortunately, McAuliffe would sign and veto bills that would help the Democrats and his cronies, and Cuccinelli the Republicans and his.

      Sarvis is the only one who isn’t beholden to special interests like McAuliffe’s with his DC connections and Cuccinelli with his energy connections.

  9. @larryg You obviously a statist, either a troll for McAuliffe or Cuccinelli. I am a libertarian, and I am offended by your remarks. Libertarians believe that the Constitution is a glorious document, in that the founding fathers realized that government is a necessary evil, NOT that the Constitution is evil. You are saying we are anarchists, which is blatantly untrue. There has to be some government to protect people from harm. But libertarians believe the government does too much.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      @timsabin – LarryG did not personally insult you or your candidate. Calling him a troll is inappropriate. There are plenty of political boards where ad hominem attacks are not only allowed they seem almost encouraged. This is not one of those boards.

      1. it’s standard procedure on many Libertarian boards though…. as soon as you utter a differing view – you are descended upon by the true believers as a “moron”, an “idiot” and worse.

        it’s like poking a nest of hornets!

  10. @timsabin –

    there are different kinds:


    and many of them do seem to get “offended” fairly easily. 😉

    What’s funny here is that I’ve seen folks labeled as “statists” who have expressed the belief that one purpose of govt is to “protect people from harm” and they cite a favorite expression:

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    (Libertarians also seem to be “big” on quotes)!

    I’m sorry you are offended.. my apologies to you – no disrespect intended.

    I tend to call things as I see them and I actually LIKE – REASONABLE Libertarian principles that emphasize personal responsibility.

    but I’m less than impressed with the list of govt that people would get rid of when what’s left makes us look like a 3rd world country.

    Most Libertarian folks don’t seem to know that the Govt is what built the rails and roads and eminent domain granted to pipeline operators as well as electricity companies , etc…

    we have the most robust commerce infrastructure in the world and it has (IMHO) fueled the most powerful economy in the world and it came about because of Govt – not the free market.

    Now – that we have the most robust commerce infrastructure in the world – after the fact…. we want to scale back the govt…

    if you drive a car – you travel on land that used to belong to someone else and had it taken… where would we be without public roads?

    the most advanced economies in the world with the highest literacy rates – the OECD countries – ALL have govt funded and organized public schools

    the people who live the longest and healthiest lives – get govt sanctioned healthcare – the rest of the world – the non-OECD countries has abysmal life expectancies compared to the OECD countries.

    GPS, NOAA Satellites, the NTSB, the FDIC, the CDC, the FDA are all govt agencies that have contributed mightily to our prosperity and success.

    The EPA, one of the big bugaboo agencies has taken over more than 1000 superfund sites left behind by “free enterprise”. It has gotten lead out of gasoline, dioxin and PCBs out of rivers and reduced mercury and other toxics – all generated by “free enterprise….

    So.. what really distinguishes us from the 3rd world and developing world countries IS, in fact government.

    Some of us keep saying – we could be even BETTER with LESS Regulation but look at the countries in the world with the least regulation and most free markets – they’re all 3rd world or developing world countries.

    Is Govt too big, corrupt, inefficient, etc?

    Yes. what’s the alternative that you can show me that really exists in the real world -on the planet – not some ideological concept?

    If Libertarianism were a superior governance – why did it not – out-compete the other forms of governance and dominate the world instead of not having a single country out of 200 that is 1. primarily Libertarian and 2. more prosperous than non-Libertarian countries?

    Just my view – no disrespect for yours.

  11. There’s little or no virtue in simply having a third party, which can be destructive or helpful. The goal shouldn’t be simply to have a third party, but a party representing some sound, economically/environmentally/socially practical governmental principles. This Libertarian venture doesn’t qualify.

  12. I’d certainly sign on to a party that is fiscally conservative but not socially conservative.

    and I’d support a govt that has core services provided by taxpayers and fee-based services for “extra”, “more” and I’d be just fine with those “extra” being provided by the private sector – with standards.

    Two good existing examples are water/sewer and electricity.

    you get core services and if you want “more” – you pay more.

    I’d sign on to Medicare – totally supported by premiums and core services and if you want more – you pay more.

    same for roads. You get surface streets “free” for your taxes. If you want more/better then pay tolls.

    Ditto education. You get core academics. If you want more – you pay more and competition would be fine as long as the core was standardized and accountable – no matter public or privately-provided.

    Right now the Dems are too much kitchen sink and taxes to match and the GOP has essentially become virulently anti-govt such that they’d just wipe out core services to save taxes.

    I’d like to see “smarter”… “scalpel” type fiscal policies.

    and I have absolutely no problem requiring work for entitlements but you must have child-care/head start/at-risk kids special education.

    1. goobgrover Avatar

      “I’d certainly sign on to a party that is fiscally conservative but not socially conservative.

      and I’d support a govt that has core services provided by taxpayers and fee-based services for “extra”, “more” and I’d be just fine with those “extra” being provided by the private sector – with standards.”

      Congratulations, Larryg! You are on your way to agreement with many Libertarian principles!! I welcome you to come further.

      It’s OK, there’s no need for a 12-step program for it!!

      What you have expressed support for is what the Libertarian Party has been working for all these years. It is true there are arguments inside the Party that DO pit the “purists–I want it all, NOW” vs the “pragmatists–I want to work towards long-range goals and am very happy with baby steps in that direction.”

      While the purists like to sit in a corner and grouse about how the world never listens to them and could be a much better place, ONLY IF… we pragmatists are the ones trying to work our tails off and get those baby steps going. It’s a hard slog, yes. It seems damn nigh impossible, maybe.

      Back in 2002, I managed the ballot drive in Maryland for our candidate for governor. Although Breckenridge has no clue what it takes to reach the thresholds for qualification, many of us on the ground do. In our case, we needed some 27,000 signatures to qualify. Our campaign raised $47,000… and had to spend $40,000 on just getting him on the ballot. We had to use paid petitioners because our cadre of volunteers was so small. Many people, myself included, are either not comfortable with or even good at closing the deal on a signature. We had to gather some 37,000 signatures just to guarantee we had enough, and we made it.

      Having ballot status means quite a savings on election expenses. Without having to gather signatures, the money can actually be spent on getting out the candidate’s message and garnering support. Overcoming Virginia’s high threshold means that the presidential candidate for 2016 will automatically be on the VA ballot–without having to run a massive drive. Candidates for Congress and other positions would also not have to spend money on gathering signatures.

      “There aren’t many candidates on the ballot for the Libertarians…” True, but having ballot status allows more candidates to run without petitioning and more competition. Problem? No.

      I’m spoiled now that I live in Delaware. Our party is recognized and on the ballot in every election, along with the Greens and the Independent Party of Delaware (IPOD). It’s still a task to get candidates to run, but the issue of having to spend money for access is not a barrier.

      And, Mr. Sarvis, even though I can’t vote for you, I’ll be sending you a check and my best wishes! I’ll be watching election night.

      1. ” leads to a coalition that can be unstable as in Italy”

        well.. maybe.. but can we really get worse than we are right now?


        I’ve come to despise the two party system. The two parties have become ideologues who do not give a rat’s behind about people.

      2. GOOD LORD goobgrover, I’ve spent the last two years being labelled as a librard, lefty-looney, moron, idiot, you name it… for espousing the above values.

        I mean Jim Bacon and many here on BR ARE polite but still consider me to be a “leftie”…

        THANK YOU!

        I’m going to enjoy my supper tonight!

  13. Les Schreiber Avatar
    Les Schreiber

    Yes this is a clothes pin election-hold your nose and take you pick, but the American “winner take all system” makes it virtually impossible for third parties. If you want a good example of how small parties can thrive and become important just look and the recent parliamentary elections-different system different result. Seat are allocated in the German Parliament with any party getting 5% of the votes at least on seat. Such a system usually leads to a coalition that can be unstable as in Italy

  14. […] stuff. It would go a long way toward getting rid of the 2 party only system that is in place now. https://www.baconsrebellion.com/2013/…-virginia.html Cheap, Fast, Reliable – pick any two Reply With […]

  15. […] Terry McAuliffe edged out Ken Cuccinelli by less than three percent to earn a residence at the Governor’s Mansion. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis managed just 6.5 percent. With Sarvis hitting less than 10 percent of the vote, the Libertarian party will not achieve “major party” status. […]

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