The Libertarian Party National Convention ended this month with the major highlights being the record-setting reelection of incumbent Chairman Nicholas Sarwark, the outspoken and controversial (and possible presidential candidate) Arvin Vohra losing his position as Vice Chairman to New York Libertarian Alex Merced, record-breaking fundraising (surpassing even the fundraising achieved during the 2016 election), and closing the notable “back door” to changing the party’s Statement of Principles by firmly requiring 7/8 of delegates to vote in favor of even a minor change.
This lively and highly active convention, held during a year without a presidential election, managed to break the attendance record set in Orlando in 2016 when former governors Gary Johnson (R-NM) and Bill Weld (R-MA) vied for the American presidency in the hot and memorable race against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. With multiple records having been set, this political meeting-of-the-minds makes for hopeful, resolute imagery when imagining the things to come for the Libertarian Party. But for the free-market oriented 3rd party shrouded in perpetual controversy, controversy was not to be avoided in New Orleans.
In the past few weeks, conflict has arisen among the newly elected leadership as the elections for the Libertarian National Committee’s Committeemen-At-Large and the Judicial Committee (JC) were cut short. The convention came to a close before either election had been completed.
“Basically, we ran out of time to do multiple ballots for [At-Large] and [Judicial Committee] so a motion was passed to accept the top vote getters as elected even if they only received a plurality,” explained new LNC Vice Chairman Alex Merced. Merced hinted that the debate over the legitimacy of this outcome is primarily over whether this motion applies to both elections, and whether this issue can be avoided in the future.
Chairman Nicholas Sarwark had suggested the motion to accept the top five At-Large candidates to avoid requiring the LNC itself to appoint the remaining members, as a second ballot would fail to be completed within the limited duration of the convention. The motion, already complicated and guaranteed to be controversial, did not include the Judicial Committee election and the meeting adjourned before this could be addressed.
Only two of the candidates for At-Large positions received the required majority vote and none of the Judicial Committee candidates received a majority; a situation which necessitates a second ballot.
Not being the first time this situation has occurred, the debate has caused many prominent Party members to express their dissent.
This takes us to yet another scandalous moment for the Libertarian Party in 2018.
“What is the problem with the LP? People more upset about dildos than the fact that our internal elections were jacked up and unduly influenced by the LNC,” stated newly elected LNC Secretary Caryn Ann Harlos via social media, citing backlash against an unusual protest. She is referencing a situation in which at least two members of the “Audacious Caucus,” a loosely connected group of radical Party members who use outlandish and vulgar displays to promote their positions, brandished a sex toy at the convention. Audacious Caucus member and Texas House candidate Clayton Hunt, one of the aforementioned gentlemen, took multiple photos with former Vice Presidential candidate Bill Weld.
Current Justice Committee member Alicia Dearn stated “The fact is, someone with less than 50% of the vote, which may actually be only 20% of the delegation as it is (40% of delegates is quorum), has been rejected. That’s why we do multiple rounds. To push someone across the line with less goes against the express intent of the bylaws.”
Newly elected Committeeman-At-Large Joe Bishop-Henchman proposed a motion to reaffirm the decision to appoint those receiving the most votes (to allow discussion to progress) that is co-sponsored by several on the committee and will likely produce an impending e-mail ballot. The current Justice Committee leadership intends to stay on until new members are elected or appointed and immediately resign.
Typically, in this circumstance, 10% of the delegates would be able to appeal the decision to the Judicial Committee, but because no new committee was elected (and is, in fact, in the exact same situation as the Libertarian National Committee), this condition is wedged in ambiguity.
“Under the bylaws, the current [Judicial Committee] is disbanded at the adjournment of the meeting,” stated Dearn, continuing “The new JC is elected when people make a majority on the ballot with a quorum of the delegation.”
At the 2016 convention, only three Judicial Committee candidates received a majority. They could appoint the remaining four vacancies, as it permitted and required in the bylaws, but since no candidate received a majority, there would be no Judicial Committee until 2022 unless a solution is found. Solutions being suggested by LNC members to prevent future controversy include extending the number of days spent in convention, changing the agenda to hold crucial elections first, changing the accepted voting method to an electronic medium, and utilizing ranked-choice or approval voting.
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