The Libertarian Party of Arkansas submitted 15,709 signatures to the secretary of state’s office Tuesday – far more than the 10,000 needed to qualify for the ballot.
Dr. Michael Pakko, newly elected LPA chair, said the party began collecting signatures March 20 using volunteers and paid petitioners funded with a grant from the Libertarian National Committee. It had 90 days to collect the signatures and turned in its petition more than two weeks early. Pakko said it started collecting signatures early to beat the summer heat and to have more time to recruit candidates.
The party is required by law to collect 10,000 signatures because it did not receive 3% of the vote in the last governor’s election. Frank Gilbert of Tull won 1.92%.
If its presidential candidate does not receive 3% of the vote in Arkansas in 2016, the party again will have to collect signatures. In 2012, the party’s presidential nominee, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, won 1.52%.
“Overall, it cost us over $30,000 to conduct this campaign, and one question I’d like to know the answer to is how much it’s going to cost the secretary of state’s office to count them all, how much taxpayer money is going to go into this process,” Pakko said. “It’s certainly an ordeal, and this is the third time we’ve gone through this in order to become a new political party once again.”
Libertarians are difficult to place on the left-right political spectrum. They support limited government both economically and socially, including greatly reduced social spending and much lower taxes and also expanded personal freedoms, such as legalizing marijuana.
In 2014, Libertarians ran candidates in every Arkansas congressional and constitutional officer race. The party’s state treasurer candidate, Chris Hayes, won 6.36%, while its land commissioner candidate, Elvis Presley, won 6.24%.
“Last time around, we were very proud of the fact that we had nine Libertarians on every Arkansan’s ballot,” Pakko said. “We’re not going to be able to do that this time because all those constitutional offices aren’t up again, but we’d like to see as many L’s on those ballots as possible because our goal at this point is one of public education, one of letting the voters know that there is another option; there is an alternative to the old two-party system.”
Gilbert, who accompanied Pakko to the secretary of state’s office, said he would run for office in 2016, though he’s not sure which one.
As chief economist and state economic forecaster at UALR’s Institute for Economic Advancement, Pakko is perhaps Arkansas’ most visible Libertarian. Asked if he would run for office, he said, “I’m not making any decisions about that at this point. … I do have a public profile in my professional position, so I have to take that into consideration.”