Libertarian Party (United States)

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Libertarian Party
Chairperson Nicholas Sarwark (NH)
Secretary Caryn Ann Harlos (CO)
Presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen (SC)
Vice Presidential nominee Spike Cohen (SC)
Slogan "Minimum government, maximum freedom."
Founded December 11, 1971; 50 years ago (1971-12-11)
Headquarters 1444 Duke St.
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Membership  (February 2020) Increase 609,234[lower-alpha 1][1]
Ideology Majority:
Classical liberalism[3]
Cultural liberalism[3]
Economic liberalism[3]
Fiscal conservatism[3]

Libertarian conservatism
Libertarian socialism[6]
International affiliation International Alliance of Libertarian Parties
Colors      Gold-yellow
Seats in the Senate
0 / 100
Seats in the House of Representatives
1 / 435
0 / 50
Seats in state upper chambers
0 / 1,972
Seats in state lower chambers
0 / 5,411
Territorial governorships
0 / 6
Seats in territorial upper chambers
0 / 97
Seats in territorial lower chambers
0 / 91
Other elected offices 234 (2020)[8]
Election symbol
Politics of United States
Political parties

The Libertarian Party (LP) is a political party in the United States that promotes civil liberties, non-interventionism, laissez-faire capitalism, and limiting the size and scope of government. The party was conceived in August 1971 at meetings in the home of David F. Nolan in Westminster, Colorado,[9][10] and was officially formed on December 11, 1971 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.[10] The founding of the party was prompted in part due to concerns about the Nixon administration, the Vietnam War, conscription, and the introduction of fiat money.[11]

The party generally promotes a classical liberal platform, in contrast to the Democratic Party's modern liberalism and progressivism and the Republican Party's conservatism. Gary Johnson, the party's presidential nominee in 2012 and 2016, states that the Libertarian Party is more culturally liberal than Democrats, and more fiscally conservative than Republicans.[12] Current fiscal policy positions include lowering taxes, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), decreasing the national debt, allowing people to opt out of Social Security and eliminating the welfare state, in part by utilizing private charities. Current cultural policy positions include ending the prohibition of illegal drugs, advocating criminal justice reform,[13] supporting same-sex marriage, ending capital punishment and supporting gun ownership rights.

It is currently the third largest political party in the United States by voter registration,[1] and has one member in Congress, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan. The Libertarian Party has no governorships, and over the past decade, has had fewer than 10 members elected to state legislatures or other state office. There are 609,234 voters (0.53% of total electorate) registered as Libertarian in the 31 states that report Libertarian registration statistics and Washington, D.C.[14] The Libertarian Party was the party under which the first electoral vote was cast for a woman (Tonie Nathan) for Vice President in the 1972 United States presidential election due to a faithless elector.


David Nolan, founder of the Libertarian Party, with the Nolan Chart

The first Libertarian National Convention was held in June 1972. In 1978, Dick Randolph of Alaska became the first elected Libertarian state legislator. Following the 1980 federal elections, the Libertarian Party assumed the title of being the third-largest party for the first time after the American Independent Party and the Conservative Party of New York (the other largest minor parties at the time) continued to decline. In 1994, over 40 Libertarians were elected or appointed which was a record for the party at that time. 1995 saw a soaring membership and voter registration for the party. In 1996, the Libertarian Party became the first third party to earn ballot status in all 50 states two presidential elections in a row. By the end of 2009, 146 Libertarians were holding elected offices.[15]

Tonie Nathan, running as the Libertarian Party's vice presidential candidate in the 1972 presidential election with John Hospers as the presidential candidate,[16][17] was the first female candidate in the United States to receive an electoral vote.[10][18]

The 2012 election Libertarian Party presidential candidate, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, received the highest number of votes—more than 1.2 million—of any Libertarian presidential candidate at the time.[19] He was renominated for president in 2016, this time choosing former Massachusetts Governor William Weld as his running mate. Johnson/Weld shattered the Libertarian record for a presidential ticket, earning over 4.4 million votes.[20] Both Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein received significantly more news coverage in 2016 than third-party candidates usually get, with polls showing both candidates potentially increasing their support over the last election, especially among younger voters.[21]

The Libertarian Party has had significant electoral success in the context of state legislatures and other local offices. Three Libertarians were elected to the Alaska House of Representatives between 1978 and 1984 and another four to the New Hampshire General Court in 1992.[22] Neil Randall, a Libertarian, won the election to the Vermont House of Representatives in 1998 and was re-elected until 2002, which marked the last time to date a Libertarian was elected to a state legislature.[23] Rhode Island State Representative Daniel P. Gordon was expelled from the Republicans and joined the Libertarian Party in 2011.[24] In July 2016 and June 2017, the Libertarians tied their 1992 peak of four legislators when four state legislators from four different states left the Republican Party to join the Libertarian Party: Nevada Assemblyman John Moore in January,[25][26] Nebraska Senator Laura Ebke (although the Nebraska Legislature is officially non-partisan) and New Hampshire Representative Max Abramson in May[27][28] and Utah Senator Mark B. Madsen in July.[29] In the 2016 election cycle, Madsen[30] and Abramson did not run for re-election to their respective offices while Moore lost his race after the Libertarian Party officially censured him over his support of taxpayer stadium funding.[31] Ebke was not up for re-election in 2016. New Hampshire Representative Caleb Q. Dyer changed party affiliation to the Libertarian Party from the Republican Party in February 2017. New Hampshire Representative Joseph Stallcop changed party affiliation to the Libertarian Party from the Democratic Party in May 2017.[32] New Hampshire State Legislator Brandon Phinney joined with the Libertarian Party from the Republican Party in June 2017, the third to do so in 2017 and matching their 1992 and 2016 peaks of sitting Libertarian state legislators.

In January 2018, sitting New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Aubrey Dunn Jr. changed party affiliation from Republican to the Libertarian Party, becoming the first Libertarian statewide officeholder in history.[33]

In April 2020, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan became the first Libertarian member of Congress after leaving the Republican Party and spending time as an independent.

Name and symbols

File:Libersign - TANSTAAFL.jpg
Original TANSTAAFL logo
File:Libertarian Party.svg
A recent logo of the Libertarian Party

In 1972, "Libertarian Party" was chosen as the party's name, selected over "New Liberty Party".[34] The first official slogan of the Libertarian Party was "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" (abbreviated "TANSTAAFL"), a phrase popularized by Robert A. Heinlein in his 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, sometimes dubbed "a manifesto for a libertarian revolution". The current slogan of the party is "The Party of Principle".[35]

Also in 1972, the "Libersign"—an arrow angling upward through the abbreviation "TANSTAAFL"—was adopted as a party symbol.[34] By the end of the decade, this was replaced with the Lady Liberty until 2015, with the adoption of the current "Torch Eagle" logo.[36]

In the 1990s, several state Libertarian parties adopted the Liberty Penguin ("LP") as their official mascot.[37] Another mascot is the Libertarian porcupine, an icon that was originally designed by Kevin Breen in March 2006 and inspired by the logo of the Free State Project (FSP).[38]

File:Libertarian Party Porcupine (USA).svg
A modern version of the Libertarian porcupine, styled after the original by Kevin Breen
File:Justin Amash official photo.jpg
Representative Justin Amash, the first Libertarian member of Congress

Structure and composition

The Libertarian Party is democratically governed by its members, with state affiliate parties each holding annual or biennial conventions at which delegates are elected to attend the party's biennial national convention. National convention delegates vote on changes to the party's national platform and bylaws and elect officers and "At-Large" representatives to the party's National Committee. The National Committee also has "Regional Representatives", some of whom are appointed by delegate caucuses at the national convention whereas others are appointed by the chairpersons of LP state affiliate chapters within a region.[39]

Libertarian National Committee

The Libertarian National Committee (LNC)[40] is a 27-member body including alternates, or 17 voting members and is currently chaired by Nicholas Sarwark.[41] The LNC is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations of the Libertarian Party and its national office and staff. Dan Fishman is currently the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party.[42]

State chapters

The Libertarian Party is organized in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each state affiliate has a governing committee, usually consisting of statewide officers elected by state party members and regional representation of one kind or another. Similarly, county, town, city and ward committees, where organized, generally consist of members elected at the local level. State and local committees often coordinate campaign activities within their jurisdiction, oversee local conventions and in some cases primaries or caucuses and may have a role in nominating candidates for elected office under state law.


Since the Libertarian Party's inception, individuals have been able to join the party as voting members by signing their agreement with the organization's membership pledge, which states that the signer does not advocate the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals. During the mid-1980s and into the early 1990s, this membership category was called an "instant" membership, but currently, these are referred to as "signature members". People joining the party are also asked to pay dues, which are on a sliding scale starting at $25 per year. Lifetime membership is granted with a $1,500 donation in one calendar year. Dues-paying members receive a subscription to the party's national newspaper, LP News.[43] Since 2006, membership in the party's state affiliates has been separate from membership in the national party,[44] with each state chapter maintaining its own membership rolls.

Most rights to participate in the governance of the party are limited to "bylaws-sustaining members" who have either purchased a lifetime membership or donated at least $25 within the past year. Most state parties maintain separate membership, which may be tied to either payment of dues to the state party, or voter registration as a Libertarian, depending on the state's election laws.[45]


The preamble outlines the party's goals: "As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others. [...] Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime, and it is to this end that we take these stands". Its Statement of Principles begins: "We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual". The Statement of Principles is foundational to the ideology of the party and was created specifically to bind the party to certain core principles with a high parliamentary burden for any amendment.[46]

The platform emphasizes individual liberty in personal and economic affairs, avoidance of "foreign entanglements" and military and economic intervention in other nations' affairs, and free trade and migration. The party opposes gun control. It calls for Constitutional limitations on government as well as the elimination of most state functions. It includes a "Self-determination" section which quotes from the Declaration of Independence and reads: "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of individual liberty, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to agree to such new governance as to them shall seem most likely to protect their liberty". It also includes an "Omissions" section which reads: "Our silence about any other particular government law, regulation, ordinance, directive, edict, control, regulatory agency, activity, or machination should not be construed to imply approval".[47]

The party favors minimally regulated markets, a less powerful federal government, strong civil liberties (including LGBT rights, with the party supporting same-sex marriage), the liberalization of drug laws, separation of church and state, open immigration, non-interventionism and neutrality in diplomatic relations, free trade and free movement to all foreign countries and a more representative republic.[47] In 2018, the Libertarian Party became the first in the United States to call for the decriminalization of sex work.[48] The party's position on abortion is that government should stay out of the matter and leave it to the individual, but recognizes that some "good-faith" opinions on this issue are different.[49] Ron Paul, one of the former presidential nominees of the Libertarian Party in 1988, is strictly anti-abortion. Gary Johnson, the party's 2012 and 2016 presidential candidate, is pro-abortion rights, as were most of the party's past nominees other than Paul.

The Statement of Principles was written by John Hospers.[50] The Libertarian Party's bylaws specify that a 7/8ths supermajority of delegates is required to change the Statement of Principles.[51] Any proposed platform plank found by the Judicial Committee to conflict with the Statement requires approval by a three-fourths supermajority of delegates.[52] Early platform debates included at the first convention whether to support tax resistance and at the 1974 convention whether to support anarchism. In both cases, a compromise was reached.[53]

Size and influence

Presidential candidate performance

Former Governor Gary Johnson during the 2012 election
File:Libertarian party 1972 2016.png
The presidential election results for all Libertarian Party candidates from 1972 to 2016.

The first Libertarian presidential candidate, John Hospers, received one electoral vote in 1972 when Roger MacBride, a Virginia Republican faithless elector pledged to Richard Nixon, cast his ballot for the Libertarian ticket. His vote for Theodora ("Tonie") Nathan as Vice President was the first electoral college vote ever to be cast for a woman in a United States presidential election.[54] MacBride became the Libertarian nominee himself in 1976. This was the last time that the Libertarian Party won an electoral vote until 44 years later, in the 2016 presidential election, when Texas Republican faithless elector Bill Greene, who was pledged to cast his vote for Donald Trump, instead cast his vote for Libertarian Party member, 1988 presidential nominee, and former Republican congressman Ron Paul for President.[55]

During the 2016 presidential election, Gary Johnson and vice presidential candidate Bill Weld received a record percentage of 3.29% of the popular vote (4,489,233 votes),[56] getting 9.34% in New Mexico, where Johnson had previously been elected Governor. In the 2012 presidential election, Johnson and running mate Jim Gray received 1,275,821 votes (1%).[57]

Year Presidential/Vice presidential candidate Popular votes Percentage Electoral votes
1972 John Hospers/Tonie Nathan 3,674 <0.01% 1
1976 Roger MacBride/David Bergland 172,553 0.21% 0
1980 Ed Clark/David Koch 921,128 1.06% 0
1984 David Bergland/James Lewis 228,111 0.25% 0
1988 Ron Paul/Andre Marrou (campaign) 431,750 0.47% 0
1992 Andre Marrou/Nancy Lord 290,087 0.28% 0
1996 Harry Browne/Jo Jorgensen 485,759 0.50% 0
2000 Harry Browne/Art Olivier (campaign) 384,431 0.36% 0
2004 Michael Badnarik/Richard Campagna (campaign) 397,265 0.32% 0
2008 Bob Barr/Wayne Allyn Root (campaign) 523,713 0.40% 0
2012 Gary Johnson/Jim Gray (campaign) 1,275,923 0.99% 0
2016 Gary Johnson/William Weld (campaign) 4,489,233 3.29% 0[lower-alpha 2]
2020 Jo Jorgensen/Spike Cohen (campaign) TBD TBD TBD
Election on November 8, 2016
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Donald Trump 62,985,105 45.94% -0.7%
Democratic Hillary Clinton 65,853,625 48.03% -3.3%
Libertarian Gary Johnson 4,489,233 3.27% +2.3%
Green Jill Stein 1,457,222 1.06% +0.7%
Others Others 2,313,258 1.68% +1.0%
Turnout 134,754,939 100%
Republican gain from Democratic Swing

House of Representatives results

Year Popular votes Percentage Number of seats
1972 2,028 0.00% 0
1974 3,099 0.01% 0
1976 71,791 0.10% 0
1978 64,310 0.12% 0
1980 568,131 0.73% 0
1982 462,767 0.72% 0
1984 275,865 0.33% 0
1986 121,076 0.20% 0
1988 445,708 0.55% 0
1990 374,500 0.60% 0
1992 848,614 0.87% 0
1994 415,944 0.59% 0
1996 651,448 0.72% 0
1998 880,024 1.32% 0
2000 1,610,292 1.63% 0
2002 1,030,171 1.38% 0
2004 1,040,465 0.92% 0
2006 657,435 0.81% 0
2008 1,083,096 0.88% 0
2010 1,002,511 1.16% 0
2012 1,350,712 1.10% 0
2014 954,077 1.21% 0
2016 1,660,923 1.28% 0
2018 758,492 0.67% 0 (1)

Senate results

Year Popular votes Percentage Number of seats
1972 N/A 0.00% 0
1974 N/A 0.00% 0
1976 78,588 0.13% 0
1978 25,071 0.09% 0
1980 401,077 0.67% 0
1982 314,955 0.61% 0
1984 160,798 0.35% 0
1986 104,338 0.21% 0
1988 268,053 0.40% 0
1990 142,003 0.41% 0
1992 986,617 1.40% 0
1994 666,183 1.16% 0
1996 362,208 0.74% 0
1998 419,452 0.78% 0
2000 1,036,684 1.33% 0
2002 724,969 1.74% 0
2004 754,861 0.86% 0
2006 612,732 1.01% 0
2008 798,154 1.23% 0
2010 755,812 1.14% 0
2012 956,745 1.02% 0
2014 870,781 1.98% 0
2016 1,788,112 1.85% 0
2018 570,045 0.70% 0


Earning ballot status

Historically, Libertarians have achieved 50-state ballot access for their presidential candidate four times: in 1980, 1992, 1996 (in 2000, L. Neil Smith was on the Arizona ballot instead of the nominee, Harry Browne)[60] and most recently in 2016.[61]

In April 2012, the Libertarian Party of Nebraska successfully lobbied for a reform in ballot access with the new law requiring parties to requalify every four years instead of two.[62] Following the 2012 election, the party gained automatic ballot status in 30 states.[63]

Following the 2016 election, the party announced that it had achieved automatic ballot status in 37 or 38 states plus the District of Columbia.[64][65]

Party supporters

In the Libertarian Party, some donors are not necessarily "members" because the party since its founding in 1972 has defined a "member" as being someone who agrees with the party's membership statement. The precise language of this statement is found in the party Bylaws.[66] As of the end of 2017, there were 138,815 Americans who were on record as having signed the membership statement.[67] A survey by David Kirby and David Boaz found a minimum of 14 percent of American voters to have libertarian-leaning views.[68][69]

There is another measure the party uses internally as well. Since its founding, the party has apportioned delegate seats to its national convention based on the number of members in each state who have paid minimum dues (with additional delegates given to state affiliates for good performance in winning more votes than normal for the party's presidential candidate). This is the most-used number by party activists. As of December 2017, the Libertarian Party reported that there were 14,445 donating members.[67]

Historically, dues were $15 throughout the 1980s and in 1991 they were increased to $25. Between February 1, 2006, and the close of the 2006 Libertarian party convention on May 31, 2006, dues were set to $0.[70] However, the change to $0 dues was controversial and was de facto reversed by the 2006 Libertarian National Convention in Portland, Oregon, at which the members re-established a basic $25 dues category (now called Sustaining membership) and further added a requirement that all National Committee officers must henceforth be at least sustaining members (which was not required prior to the convention).

Registered voters

Ballot access expert and editor of Ballot Access News Richard Winger periodically compiles and analyzes voter registration statistics as reported by state voter agencies and he reports that as of early 2020 the party ranked third in voter registration nationally with 609,234.[71]

Election victories

Libertarians have had limited success in electing candidates at the state and local level. Since the party's creation, 10 Libertarians have been elected to state legislatures and some other state legislators have switched parties after being originally elected as Republicans or Democrats. The most recent Libertarian candidate elected to a state legislature was Steve Vaillancourt to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 2000. The party elected multiple legislators in New Hampshire during the 1990s as well as in Alaska during the 1980s.[72] One of the party's Alaska state legislators, Andre Marrou was nominated for Vice President in 1988 and for President in 1992.[73]

As of 2017, there were 168 Libertarians holding elected office: 58 of them partisan offices and 110 of them non-partisan offices.[74] In addition, some party members, who were elected to public office on other party lines, explicitly retained their Libertarian Party membership and these include former Representative Ron Paul, who has repeatedly stated that he remains a life member of the Libertarian Party.

Previously, the party has had four sitting members of state legislatures. Laura Ebke served in the nonpartisan Nebraska Legislature and announced her switch from being a Republican to a Libertarian in 2016.[75] Three members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives who were elected as either Republicans or Democrats in the 2016 election announced their switch to the Libertarian Party in 2017.[76]

State Senator Mark B. Madsen of Utah announced his switch from Republican to Libertarian in 2016, but also did not seek re-election that year.[77] State Representative Max Abramson of New Hampshire switched from Republican to Libertarian before running as the party's gubernatorial candidate in 2016 instead of seeking re-election.[78] State Representative John Moore of Nevada briefly switched parties, but he was defeated for re-election in 2016.[79]

Aubrey Dunn Jr., the New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands, switched his voter registration from Republican to Libertarian in January, 2018.[80] In doing so, Dunn became the first official elected to a statewide partisan office to have Libertarian voter registration.[81]

Best results in major races

Office Percent District Year Candidate
President 11.66% Alaska 1980 Ed Clark
9.34% New Mexico 2016 Gary Johnson
6.22% North Dakota 2016
US Senate 29.16% Alaska 2016 Joe Miller
18.43% Massachusetts 2002 Michael Cloud
15.38% New Mexico 2018 Gary Johnson
US House 31.55% Kansas District 3 2012 Joel Balam
28.84% Mississippi District 2 1998 William Chipman
28.71% Washington State District 2 2018 Brian Luke
Governor 14.91% Alaska 1982 Dick Randolph
10.45% Wisconsin 2002 Ed Thompson
6.52% Virginia 2013 Robert Sarvis
Other statewide 43.13% Montana Clerk Of The Supreme Court 2012 Mike Fellows
34.17% Georgia Public Service Commission 5 2012 David Staples
33.42% Georgia Public Service Commission 2 2016 Eric Hoskins
State Senate 44.38% Nevada District Clark 2 1992 Tamara Clark
43.58% Nebraska District 32 2018 Laura Ebke
37.59% Arkansas District 10 2018 Bobbi Hicks
State Representative 49.01% Wyoming District 55 2018 Bethany Baldes
46.77% South Carolina District 26 2012 Jeremy Walters
45.27% Nevada District 28 2000 James Dan

Some Libertarian candidates for state office have performed relatively strongly in statewide races. In 2016, Joe Miller gained 29.1% of the vote in a four-way Senate race in Alaska, the best ever for a Libertarian candidate in a Senate election. In 2012, Mike Fellows, the Libertarian Party candidate in Montana for the statewide position of Clerk of the Supreme Court, received 43% of the vote as the sole opponent to Democratic candidate Ed Smith, winning 27 of the state's 56 counties. This was the best a Libertarian candidate has ever polled percentage wise for a statewide office.[citation needed] In 1982, Dick Randolph earned 15% of the vote in his race for Alaska governor.

In the 1992 election for Senator from New York, Norma Segal received 108,530 votes or 1.68% – which was greater than the spread between Republican incumbent Alphonse D'Amato (49.03%) and Democrat challenger Robert Abrams (47.78%). In two Massachusetts Senate races (2000 and 2002), Libertarian candidates Carla Howell and Michael Cloud, who did not face serious Republican contenders (in 2002 the candidate failed to make the ballot), received a party record-setting 12% and 18% respectively.[82] In Indiana's 2006 U.S. Senate race, which lacked a Democratic candidate, Steve Osborn received 13% of the vote. In 2012, Joel Balam set a record for the largest percent of the vote in a House election,[citation needed] running in Kansas's 3rd congressional district against Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder without a Democratic opponent and receiving 32% of the vote (he received 92,675 votes according to official Kansas State voting records). In 2002, Ed Thompson, the brother of former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, received 11% of the vote (third-best ever Libertarian result for Governor) running for the same office, resulting in a seat on the state elections board for the Libertarian Party. In 2008, Libertarian Party of Georgia Public Service Commission candidate John Monds became the first Libertarian in history to garner 1,076,726 votes (33%).[83]

2016 United States Senate election in Alaska
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Lisa Murkowski (incumbent) 138,149 44.4%
Libertarian Joe Miller 90,825 29.2%
Independent Margaret Stock 41,194 13.2%
Democratic Ray Metcalfe 36,200 11.6%
2002 United States Senate election in Massachusetts
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Kerry (incumbent) 1,605,976 80%
Libertarian Michael Cloud 369,807 18.4%
2018 United States Senate election in New Mexico
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Martin Heinrich (incumbent) 376,998 54.1%
Republican Mick Rich 212,813 30.5%
Libertarian Gary Johnson 107,201 15.4%

2016 election

File:Gary Johnson strength map by county, 2016.svg
Gary Johnson's performance in the 2016 election shown by county, with darker shades indicating stronger support

A Monmouth University opinion poll conducted on March 24, 2016 found Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in double digits with 11% against Donald Trump (34%) and Hillary Clinton (42%) in a three-way race[84] while a CNN poll from July 16, 2016, found Johnson with a personal best 13% of the vote.[85] To be included in any of the three main presidential debates, a candidate must be polling at least 15% in national polls.

Following Trump's win in the Indiana Republican primary, making him the presumptive Republican nominee, the Libertarian Party received a rise in attention. Between 7 pm on May 3 and 12 pm on May 4, the Libertarian Party received 99 new memberships and an increase in donors as well as a rise in Google searches of "Libertarian Party" and "Gary Johnson".[86] On May 5, Mary Matalin, a longtime Republican political strategist, made news when she switched parties to become a registered Libertarian, expressing her dislike of Trump.[87] On May 24, 2016, Matalin endorsed Missouri Libertarian candidate Austin Petersen.[88]

Several Republican elected officials publicly stated that they considered voting for the Libertarian Party ticket in 2016.[89][90] That included 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.[91] It had been a common question and concern that the Libertarian ticket will exclusively draw away votes from Donald Trump and not the Democratic ticket. In response, Libertarian 2016 nominee Gary Johnson noted that analysis of national polls shows more votes drawn from Hillary Clinton.[92]

After the conclusion of the Electoral College in 2016, the Libertarian Party received one electoral college vote from a faithless elector in Texas. However, the party's 2016 nominee Gary Johnson did not receive the vote. The single faithless vote went instead to former Republican Congressman Ron Paul, who had rejoined the Libertarian Party in 2015. He is the first Libertarian to receive an electoral vote since 1972.

Politicians leaving their parties for the Libertarians

After President (then-candidate) Donald Trump won Indiana's 2016 Republican primary, several Republican officeholders left the Party and changed their affiliation to the Libertarian Party. The first to do so was John Moore, a then-sitting Assemblyman in Nevada.[93] Following the 2016 Nebraska State Legislative Session, state Senator Laura Ebke announced her displeasure with the Republican Party and announced she was registering as a Libertarian. After that, Mark B. Madsen, a Utah State Senator, switched from the Republican Party to the Libertarian Party. From February to June 2017, three New Hampshire State Representatives (Caleb Q. Dyer, Joseph Stallcop and Brandon Phinney) left the Republican and Democratic Parties and joined the Libertarian Party. In January 2018, New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Aubrey Dunn Jr. switched his party registration from Republican to Libertarian and subsequently announced he would run as the Libertarian nominee for the Senate election in New Mexico. Dunn was the first Libertarian in a partisan statewide office and was the highest ever official from the Libertarian Party until US Representative Justin Amash switched his party registration from independent to Libertarian on April 29, 2020.[94]

Presidential ballot access

The Libertarian Party has placed a presidential candidate on the ballot in all 50 states, as well as D. C., five times. That level of ballot access has only been achieved by a third-party candidate four other times (John Anderson in 1980, Lenora Fulani in 1988, and Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996.) Although the territory of Guam has no electoral votes, it began holding presidential elections in 1980. The Libertarian Party presidential candidate appeared on the ballot in Guam in every election from 1980 through 2012. Anderson and Fulani were also on the ballot in Guam.[95]

The following is a table comparison of ballot status for the Libertarian Party presidential nominee from 1972 to 2016. In some instances the candidate appeared on the ballot as an independent.

1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016[96][97] 2020[98]
States 2 32 (and D.C.) 50 (and D.C.) 38 (and D.C.) 46 (and D.C.) 50 (and D.C.) 50 (and D.C.) 50 (and D.C.) 48 (and D.C.) 45 48 (and D.C.) 50 (and D.C.) TBD
Electoral votes 16 341 538 403 496 538 538 538 527 503 514 538
% of population (EVs) - - 100% (100%) - - 100% (100%) 100% (100%) 100% (100%) - 95% (93%) 95% (96%) 100%
Alabama Not on ballot On ballot TBD
Alaska Not on ballot On ballot
Arizona Not on ballot On ballot
Arkansas Not on ballot On ballot TBD
California Write-in On ballot
Colorado On ballot
Connecticut Not on ballot On ballot Not on ballot On ballot Not on ballot On ballot
Delaware Not on ballot On ballot
Florida Not on ballot Write-in On ballot Write-in On ballot
Georgia Not on ballot Write-in On ballot Write-in On ballot
Hawaii Not on ballot On ballot
Idaho Not on ballot On ballot
Illinois Not on ballot On ballot
Indiana Not on ballot On ballot Not on ballot On ballot
Iowa Not on ballot On ballot TBD
Kansas Not on ballot On ballot
Kentucky Not on ballot On ballot Not on ballot On ballot
Louisiana Not on ballot On ballot Not on ballot On ballot
Maine Write-in On ballot Not on ballot On ballot Write-in On ballot TBD
Maryland Not on ballot On ballot
Massachusetts Write-in On ballot Not on ballot On ballot
Michigan Not on ballot On ballot Write-in On ballot
Minnesota Not on ballot On ballot TBD
Mississippi Not on ballot On ballot
Missouri Not on ballot On ballot Not on ballot Write-in On ballot
Montana Not on ballot On ballot
Nebraska Not on ballot On ballot
Nevada Not on ballot On ballot
New Hampshire Not on ballot On ballot Write-in On ballot TBD
New Jersey Not on ballot On ballot TBD
New Mexico Not on ballot On ballot
New York Not on ballot On ballot
North Carolina Not on ballot On ballot Write-in On ballot
North Dakota Not on ballot On ballot
Ohio Not on ballot On ballot
Oklahoma Not on ballot On ballot Not on ballot On ballot
Oregon Not on ballot On ballot Not on ballot On ballot
Pennsylvania Not on ballot On ballot TBD
Rhode Island Write-in On ballot
South Carolina Not on ballot On ballot
South Dakota Not on ballot On ballot Not on ballot On ballot
Tennessee Not on ballot On ballot TBD
Texas Not on ballot Write-in On ballot Not on ballot On ballot
Utah Not on ballot On ballot
Vermont Not on ballot Write-in On ballot
Virginia Not on ballot On ballot Not on ballot On ballot TBD
Washington On ballot TBD
West Virginia Not on ballot On ballot Not on ballot On ballot Not on ballot On ballot
Wisconsin Not on ballot On ballot TBD
Wyoming Not on ballot Write-in On ballot
District of Columbia Not on ballot On ballot Not on ballot On ballot

Political positions

The Libertarian Party supports laissez-faire capitalism and the abolition of the modern welfare state. It adopts pro-civil liberties and pro-cultural liberal approaches to cultural and social issues. Paul H. Rubin, professor of law and economics at Emory University, believes that while liberal Democrats generally seek to control economic activities and conservative Republicans generally seek to control consumption activities such as sexual behavior, abortion and so on, the Libertarian Party is the largest political party in the United States that advocates few or no regulations in what he deems "social" and "economic" issues.[99]

Economic issues

The "poverty and welfare" issues page of the Libertarian Party's website says that it opposes regulation of capitalist economic institutions and advocates dismantling the entirety of the welfare state:

We should eliminate the entire social welfare system. This includes eliminating food stamps, subsidized housing, and all the rest. Individuals who are unable to fully support themselves and their families through the job market must, once again, learn to rely on supportive family, church, community, or private charity to bridge the gap.[100]

According to the party platform: "The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected" (adopted May 2008).[101]

The Libertarian Party believes government regulations in the form of minimum wage laws drive up the cost of employing additional workers.[102] That is why Libertarians favor loosening minimum wage laws so that overall unemployment rate can be reduced and low-wage workers, unskilled workers, visa immigrants and those with limited education or job experience can find employment.[103]


The party supports ending the public school system.[104] The party's official platform states that education is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality, accountability and efficiency with more diversity of school choice. Seeing the education of children as a parental responsibility, the party would give authority to parents to determine the education of their children at their expense without interference from government. This includes ending corporal punishment within public schools. Libertarians have expressed that parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children's education.[105]


The Libertarian Party supports a clean and healthy environment and sensible use of natural resources, believing that private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining such natural resources.[47] The party has also expressed that "governments, unlike private businesses, are unaccountable for such damage done to the environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection".[106] The party contends that the environment is best protected when individual rights pertaining to natural resources are clearly defined and enforced. The party also contends that free markets and property rights (implicitly without government intervention) will stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect the environment and ecosystem because environmental advocates and social pressure are the most effective means of changing public behavior.[106]

Fiscal policies

The Libertarian Party opposes all government intervention and regulation on wages, prices, rents, profits, production and interest rates and advocate the repeal of all laws banning or restricting the advertising of prices, products, or services. The party's recent platform calls for the repeal of the income tax, the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services, such as the Federal Reserve System. The party supports the passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution which they believe will significantly lower the national debt, provided that the budget is balanced preferably by cutting expenditures and not by raising taxes. Libertarians favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types. The party also wants a halt to inflationary monetary policies and legal tender laws. While the party defends the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives and other types of companies, it opposes government subsidies to business, labor, or any other special interest.[106]


The Libertarian Party favors a free market health care system without government oversight, approval, regulation, or licensing. The party states that it "recognizes the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they can afford (if any), the amount of health care they can afford, the care providers they can afford, the medicines and treatments they can use and all other aspects of their medical care, including the many end-of-life decisions that will follow". They support the repeal of all social insurance policies such as Medicare and Medicaid and favor "consumer-driven health care".[107] The Libertarian Party has been advocating for Americans' ability to purchase health insurance across state lines.

Immigration and trade agreements

The Libertarian Party consistently lobbies for the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. This is because their platform states that "political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries".[108] To promote economic freedom, they demand the unrestricted movement of humans as well as financial capital across national borders. However, the party encourages blocking immigration of those with violent backgrounds or violent intent.[109]


The Libertarian Party supports the repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment while opposing government-fostered/forced retirement and heavy interference in the bargaining process. The party supports the right of free persons to associate or not associate in labor unions and believes that employers should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union.[106]

Retirement and Social Security

The party believes that retirement planning is the responsibility of the individual, not the government. Libertarians would phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system. The Libertarians feel that the proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals, believing members of society will become more charitable and civil society will be strengthened as government reduces its activity in that realm.[106]

Social issues

The Libertarian Party supports the legalization of all victimless crimes,[110] including drugs,[111][112][113][114] pornography,[111] prostitution,[111][112][113][114] polygamy,[115] and gambling,[116] supports the removal of restrictions on homosexuality,[113] opposes any kind of censorship and supports freedom of speech,[117] and supports the right to keep and bear arms[112] while opposing Federal capital punishment.[118] The Libertarian Party's platform states: "Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships".[106]

A Libertarian banner at an abortion rights rally


The official Libertarian party platform states: "Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration".[49] Libertarians have very different opinions on the issue, just like in the general public. Some, like the group Libertarians for Life, consider abortion to be an act of aggression from the government or mother against a fetus. Others, like the group Pro-Choice Libertarians, consider denying a woman the right to choose abortion to be an act of aggression from the government against her.[119]

Crime and capital punishment

Shortly before the 2000 elections, the party released a "Libertarian Party Program on Crime" in which they criticize the failures of a recently proposed Omnibus Crime Bill, especially detailing how it expands the list of capital crimes.[118] Denouncing Federal executions, they also describe how the party would increase and safeguard the rights of the accused in legal settings as well as limit the use of excessive force by police. Instead, criminal laws would be reduced to violations of the rights of others through either force or fraud with maximum restitution given to victims of the criminals or negligent persons.[108] In 2016, the party expanded their platform to officially support the repeal of capital punishment.[120]

Freedom of speech and censorship

The Libertarian Party supports unrestricted freedom of speech and is opposed to any kind of censorship. The party describes the issue in its website: "We defend the rights of individuals to unrestricted freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right of individuals to dissent from government itself. [...] We oppose any abridgment of the freedom of speech through government censorship, regulation or control of communications media". The party claims it is the only political party in the United States "with an explicit stand against censorship of computer communications in its platform".[117]

Government reform

The Libertarian Party favors election systems that are more representative of the electorate at the federal, state and local levels. The party platform calls for an end to any tax-financed subsidies to candidates or parties and the repeal of all laws which restrict voluntary financing of election campaigns. As a minor party, it opposes laws that effectively exclude alternative candidates and parties, deny ballot access, gerrymander districts, or deny the voters their right to consider all legitimate alternatives. Libertarians also promote the use of direct democracy through the referendum and recall processes.[105]

LGBT issues

The Libertarian Party advocates repealing all laws that control or prohibit homosexuality.[121] According to the Libertarian Party's platform: "Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government's treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws".[106]

Gay activist Richard Sincere has pointed to the longstanding support of gay rights by the party, which has supported same-sex marriage since its first platform was drafted in 1972 (40 years before the Democratic Party adopted same-sex marriage into their platform in 2012). Many LGBT political candidates have run for office on the Libertarian Party ticket[122] and there have been numerous LGBT caucuses in the party, with the most active in recent years being the Outright Libertarians. With regard to non-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people, the party is more divided, with some Libertarians supporting such laws, and others opposing them on the grounds that they violate freedom of association.[123][124]

In 2009, the Libertarian Party of Washington encouraged voters to approve Washington Referendum 71 that extended LGBT relationship rights. According to the party, withholding domestic partnership rights from same-sex couples is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.[125] In September 2010, in the light of the failure to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy (which banned openly gay people from serving in the military) during the Obama administration, the Libertarian Party urged gay voters to stop supporting the Democratic Party and vote Libertarian instead.[126] The policy was repealed at the end of 2010.[127]

Pornography and prostitution

The Libertarian Party views attempts by government to control obscenity or pornography as "an abridgment of liberty of expression"[117] and opposes any government intervention to regulate it. According to former Libertarian National Committee chairman Mark Hinkle, "Federal anti-obscenity laws are unconstitutional in two ways. First, because the Constitution does not grant Congress any power to regulate or criminalize obscenity, and second, because the First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech".[128] This also means that the party supports the legalization of prostitution.[111][112][113][114] Many men and women[129][130][131][132] with backgrounds in prostitution and activists for sex workers' rights, such as Norma Jean Almodovar[129][130] and Starchild,[131][132] have run for office on the Libertarian Party ticket or are active members of the party. Norma Jean Almodovar, a former officer with the Los Angeles Police Department and former call girl who authored the book From Cop to Call Girl about her experiences, ran on the Libertarian Party ticket for California lieutenant governor in 1986 and was actively supported by the party. Mark Hinkle described her as being the most able "of any Libertarian" "to generate publicity".[129] The Massachusetts Libertarian Party was one of the few organizations to support a 1980s campaign to repeal prostitution laws.[133]

Second and Fourth Amendment rights

The Libertarian Party affirms an individual's right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms and opposes the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. The party opposes laws at any level of government requiring registration of or restricting the ownership, manufacture, or transfer or sale of firearms or ammunition.[106]

The party also affirms an individual's right to privacy through reforms that would give back rights of the Fourth Amendment of the United States of America's Bill of Rights to the citizens.[134] Often this coincides with a citizen's right against covert surveillance by the government of their privacy.[135][136]

Foreign policy issues

Libertarians generally prefer an attitude of mutual respect between all nations.[citation needed] Libertarians believe that free trade engenders positive international relationships. Libertarian candidates have promised to cut foreign aid and withdraw American troops from the Middle East and other areas throughout the world.[137]

The Libertarian Party opposed the 2011 military intervention in Libya and LP Chair Mark Hinkle in a statement described the position of the Libertarian Party: "President Obama's decision to order military attacks on Libya is only surprising to those who actually think he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. He has now ordered bombing strikes in six different countries, adding Libya to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen."[138][139]

Political status of Puerto Rico

While the Libertarian Party has not taken an official stance on the political status of Puerto Rico, it did publish an article in which Bruce Majors - the party's 2012 candidate for the District of Columbia's at-large congressional district delegate election - expressed support to "put a referendum on the ballot" and "let residents decide whether they would like to be a state" and thereby give residents of Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico greater control over their level of taxation.[140]

Internal debates

"Radicalism" vs. "pragmatism" debate

A longstanding debate within the party is one referred to by libertarians as the anarchist–minarchist debate. In 1974, anarchists and minarchists within the party agreed to officially take no position on whether or not government should exist at all and to not advocate either particular view. This agreement has become known as the Dallas Accord, having taken place at the party's convention that year in Dallas, Texas.[141]

Libertarian members often cite the departure of Ed Crane (of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank) as a key turning point in the early party history.[142] Crane (who in the 1970s had been the party's first Executive Director) and some of his allies resigned from the party in 1983 when their preferred candidates for national committee seats lost in the elections at the national convention. Others like Mary Ruwart say that despite this apparent victory of those favoring radicalism, the party has for decades been slowly moving away from those ideals.[143]

In the mid-2000s, groups such as the Libertarian Party Reform Caucus generally advocated revising the party's platform, eliminating or altering the membership statement and focusing on a politics-oriented approach aimed at presenting libertarianism to voters in what they deemed a "less threatening" manner.[144] LPRadicals emerged in response and was active at the 2008 and 2010 Libertarian National Conventions.[145][146][147] In its most recent incarnation, the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus was founded with the stated goal to "support the re-radicalization of the LP."[148]

At the 2016 Libertarian National Convention, the Radical Caucus endorsed Darryl W. Perry for President and Will Coley for Vice President, who respectively won 7% and 10% of the vote on the first ballot, both taking fourth place.[149] Though not explicitly organized as such, most self-identified pragmatists or moderates supported the nomination of Gary Johnson for President and Bill Weld for Vice President.[150] Johnson and Weld were both nominated on the second ballot with a narrow majority after having both placed just shy of the required 50% on the first ballots. After the convention, the Libertarian Pragmatist Caucus ("LPC") was founded and organized with the goal "[t]o promote realistic, pragmatic, and practical libertarian candidates and solutions."[151] LPC supported Nicholas Sarwark in his successful bid for re-election as Chair of the party's national committee at the 2018 convention in New Orleans.[152]

Platform revision

In 1999, a working group of leading Libertarian Party activists proposed to reformat and retire the platform to serve as a guide for legislative projects (its main purpose to that point) and create a series of custom platforms on current issues for different purposes, including the needs of the growing number of Libertarians in office. The proposal was incorporated in a new party-wide strategic plan and a joint platform-program committee proposed a reformatted project platform that isolated talking points on issues, principles and solutions as well as an array of projects for adaptation. This platform, along with a short Summary for talking points, was approved in 2004. Confusion arose when prior to the 2006 convention there was a push to repeal or substantially rewrite the Platform, at the center of which were groups such as the Libertarian Reform Caucus.[153] Their agenda was partially successful in that the current platform was much shortened (going from 61 to 15 planks – 11 new planks and 4 retained from the old platform) over the previous one.[154]

Members differ as to the reasons why the changes were relatively more drastic than any platform actions at previous conventions. Some delegates voted for changes so the party could appeal to a wider audience, while others simply thought the entire document needed an overhaul. It was also pointed out that the text of the existing platform was not provided to the delegates, making many reluctant to vote to retain the planks when the existing language was not provided for review.[155][unreliable source?]

Not all party members approved of the changes, some believing them to be a setback to libertarianism[156] and an abandonment of what they see as the most important purpose of the Libertarian Party.[157]

At the 2008 Libertarian National Convention, the changes went even further with the approval of an entirely revamped platform.[158] Much of the new platform recycles language from pre-millennial platforms.[159] While the planks were renamed, most address ideas found in earlier platforms and run no longer than three to four sentences.[158]

State and territorial parties

See also


  1. Only includes individuals who have registered Libertarian in the 31 jurisdictions that allow registration with the Libertarian Party. Jurisdictions include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
  2. Texas faithless elector Bill Greene cast his vote for Ron Paul, a member of the Libertarian Party.[58]


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Further reading

  • Epstein, David A. (2012). Left, Right, Out: The History of Third Parties in America. Arts and Letters Imperium Publications. ISBN 978-0-578-10654-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Boaz, David; Kirby, David (October 18, 2006). "The Libertarian Vote" (PDF). Policy Analysis. Cato Institute.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Kirby, David; Boaz, David (January 21, 2010). "The Libertarian Vote in the Age of Obama" (PDF). Cato Institute. Policy Analysis.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Previous presidential candidates campaign sites

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