By Lawrence Messina
Libertarian candidates will again appear automatically on the West Virginia ballot following an absence of more than a decade, after the party’s gubernatorial hopeful attracted enough votes in Tuesday’s general election.
David Moran received more than 8,700 votes, or 1.3 percent of the total. State law recognizes a party for ballot access when its gubernatorial candidate gets at least 1 percent of the vote.
Clearing that threshold means a party’s candidate doesn’t have to collect petition signatures to get his or her name on the ballot. The Libertarian Party now can also choose nominees through a primary or a party convention, said Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who is West Virginia’s elections chief.
Tuesday’s ballot also featured Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico and the Libertarian candidate for president. Johnson received 6,204 votes from West Virginians, or just less than 1 percent of the total cast for president.
“I vote for who I think is going to do the right job. I can see him doing a good cleanup plan,” said Barbara Bolyard, 50, of Newburg, who chose Johnson. She added, “I would like to see us get on the right foot, but I don’t think either a Republican or a Democrat would do that.”
Tennant’s office said 1,448 of the state’s voters are registered Libertarian. The party promotes individual rights and limited government.
The Libertarian Party had cleared the 1 percent threshold in 1996. But it then lost ballot status in the following election for governor, in 2000, when its candidate missed the mark.
That 2000 election saw another alternative party, West Virginia’s Mountain Party, win ballot access. That status will continue after its candidate for governor this year, Jesse Johnson, got 16,476 votes, or 2.5 percent. It also fielded candidates for president and U.S. senator as well as for five House of Delegates seats. None prevailed. Around 1,380 people are registered with that party, according to figures from Tennant’s office.