How Gary Johnson’s Vote Percentages Will Affect Libertarian Party Ballot Access, State By State

There has been a lot of weight placed in Libertarian expectations and hopes for the results for Gary Johnson next Tuesday in terms of getting 5 percent nationally, which will make the Party's next presidential candidate eligible for a category of federal election funds.

While saying things both concise and accurate about ballot access laws in America, which vary state by state in this here federal union, is difficult, you have often heard, including from Gary Johnson himself, that getting that 5 percent will help the Party with ballot access as well.

Technically, the national result, whatever it is, in and of itself has no effect at all on ballot access anywhere but Georgia. (There, a 20 percent result nationally wins petition-free access.)

Every other state's ballot access laws, if vote percents affect them at all, are dictated only by the percentages gained in that state.

That said, under most imaginable circumstances a national 5 percent will mean that the Party also did historically well in lots of individual states also.

What follows, derived from this state-by-state chart from the invaluable Ballot Access News edited by Richard Winger, is a list of what the Libertarian Party will get in terms of automatic, petition-free ballot access if certain vote percentages in that state are hit. A huge proportion of the Libertarian Party's time and effort goes to petitioning for access, so these accomplishments are a big deal for small parties.

It's important to note that any such earned automatic ballot access is not eternal, and in many cases applies only to the next election, 2018, not even to the next presidential election. Below I specify which states get that access for just 2018 or for both 2018 and 2020.

Again, all these vote percentages are in the states in question, not national. In almost all cases, it is not just the presidential ticket hitting this percentage that wins the prize, but any office the entire state is voting for. Thus, the Party can re-win the access in 2018 for 2020 with any office voted on statewide, even though there is not a presidential race in 2018.

Now, the percentages and what they get the Party, and where:

0.5 percent gets the Libertarian Party full ballot access without need to spend time and money on petitioning for 2018 in Michigan and New Mexico.

1 percent gets the Libertarian Party full ballot access without need to spend time and money on petitioning for 2018 in Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

It would earn such access in both 2018 and 2020 in Oregon.

It would earn such access only for the president slot in 2020 in Connecticut.

2 percent gets the Libertarian Party full ballot access without need to spend time and money on petitioning for 2018 in Iowa.

It would earn such access in both 2018 and 2020 in Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, and Utah.

2.5 percent gets the Libertarian Party full ballot access without need to spend time and money on petitioning for 2018 in Oklahoma and Washington D.C.

3 percent gets the Libertarian Party full ballot access without need to spend time and money on petitioning for 2018 in Arkansas, Idaho, and Massachusetts.

It would earn such access in both 2018 and 2020 in Ohio.

It would earn such access only for the president slot in 2020 in Alaska.

5 percent gets the Libertarian Party full ballot access without need to spend time and money on petitioning for 2018 in North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.

It would earn such access in both 2018 and 2020 in Arizona, Louisiana, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and Washington state.

Some states have even higher hurdles to jump for that state's vote totals for president (or other offices voted on statewide) to earn automatic ballot access, or other special cases. (Election law is hard.)

And a group of states give Party's no special ballot access benefits no matter how well the presidential candidate, or any candidate, does. Those states are: California, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Five percent nationally would be an amazing thing for the Johnson campaign and the Libertarian Party. But what really matters is what happens state by state.