The 1600 registered member strong Libertarian Party of Delaware has legally obtained ballot access, but is struggling to get the State of Delaware to recognize it as a legitimate political party. Delaware election officials claim that, due to a dispute between a small splinter group of members that coalesced around a political party with a similar name and the larger Libertarian Party of Delaware, they are having a difficult time figuring out which party should be listed on the ballot.
Delaware State News notes that the party filed a Superior Court complaint in April against the state’s election commissioner in an effort to force officials to acknowledge in writing that the party is ballot-qualified.
However, after the Libertarian Party of Delaware obtained ballot access, a small splinter group of radical members left the party, reportedly over its support of a state-level cannabis legalization measure that they felt would not have gone far enough in avoiding taxes and regulations, and registered a similarly-named political party, The Libertarian Party of Delaware Inc, with the state. Libertarian Party of Delaware secretary Will McVay told Delaware State News that this new splinter party held a nominating convention that only drew 8 people.
McVay says that it should be obvious to officials which party is the real Libertarian Party of Delaware. “Our Facebook page has almost 900 followers and has been around for years, and theirs has like 20 followers and has been around only since December,” he said.
At the Libertarian Party of Delaware’s March 24 state convention, it nominated Nadine Frost as its candidate for U.S. Senate and filed paperwork with the Department of Elections to submit her for inclusion on the ballot. Initially, officials did not respond to the filing, but after the Libertarian Party of Delaware filed a lawsuit, she was listed on the ballot, meaning that the state has already acknowledged a candidate from the party’s nominating convention despite the fact that it claims not to know which party is which.
Libertarian National Committee executive director Wes Benedict said that the Libertarian Party of Delaware is the party it recognizes as a state affiliate rather than the splinter group. “The Libertarian Party cannot have more than one statewide affiliate in any state, nor can it have more than one county-level affiliate in any county. The LNC has therefore requested that the Commissioner of Elections take prompt action to resolve this matter in accordance with Delaware law,” he said in a statement.
However, despite the facts that the national Libertarian Party acknowledges only the Libertarian Party of Delaware, the state has already acknowledged one of its candidates, and the Libertarian Party of Delaware Inc. is exponentially smaller and distinctly different, state election commissioner Elaine Manlove said, “I don’t know who gets to claim [Libertarian registered voters] at this point.”
“She knows who we are — everyone with the commissioner’s office knows who we are. They’re well aware of who the real Libertarian party is. Why they’re not willing to make a ruling on it in writing in a timely fashion is, honestly, beyond me,” said party secretary McVay.
Deputy Attorney General Robert Willard issued a written response from the Department of Justice addressing the Libertarian Party of Delaware’s court complaint demanding recognition of the party’s ballot access, saying that their request has been rendered “moot” by the fact that the state has acknowledged one of its candidates and claims that efforts to obtain written confirmation of ballot access are motivated by an effort “to achieve a tactical advantage in a dispute between rival factions of the Libertarian Party of Delaware.”
“Your refusal to dismiss your complaint is not appropriate under any conceivable legal standard and will result in the needless waste of precious state resources. We again request that your complaint be dismissed without further delay. To the extent the state is required to respond to your complaint, we reserve the right to seek counsel fees and any other appropriate relief,” wrote Deputy Attorney General Willard.
McVay says written acknowledgement is important in ensuring that future candidates get the ballot access that they legally deserve without having to resort to lawsuits. “We can’t afford to go through this every election, we’re a small party. If we have something in writing from the commissioner, we’d at least have something to hang our hats on if our party is ever [legally] challenged again.”
He added, “They’re well aware that they could settle this easily. Especially since we asked them nicely to do that without a lawsuit back in mid-February. It should be a statement of obvious fact that requires no resources whatsoever.”
The Libertarian Party of Delaware Inc Facebook page administrator reportedly told Delaware State News, “The LPD is not affiliated with the Libertarian Party according to the Department of Election’s registration forms available to the public. The LPD, INC was established in 1975, and is in good standing with the state of Delaware.”