600,000 Libertarians in America?

In a September 10 The Soho Forum debate, United States Libertarian Party Chairman Nicholas Sarwark declared the number of libertarians in America is “roughly 600,000” because that many people are registered as affiliated with the Libertarian Party in America. Sarwark then used this declaration of the number of libertarians in America as the basis for concluding that the party’s 2016 presidential ticket received several times the number of votes as there are libertarians in America.

Declaring that the registered Libertarians in America are synonymous with the libertarians in America is absurd.

A June 28 post at the Libertarian Party’s website makes this claim: “Thirty states plus the District of Columbia register their voters by party affiliation.” That would mean that people living in two-fifths of states do not have the option of registering as affiliated with the Libertarian Party. So, under Sarwark’s calculation, while there are hundreds of thousands of libertarians in states that allow people to register as Libertarian, there are a total of zero libertarians in the many other states that do not allow such registration.

Believing libertarians in America are exclusively composed of all the people registered Libertarian would even mean believing that in December the number of libertarians in Maine dropped from several thousand to none in one day, all because of an action by one politician. As reported by Richard Winger at Ballot Access News, “[o]n December 14, the Maine Secretary of State converted all 5,500 registered Libertarians to registered independents.”

Also, where people can register as Libertarian, plenty of libertarians will register independent. Other libertarians, for reasons including wanting to have the capability to vote in a major party’s primary, will register as Republican or Democrat. Plenty other libertarians will not even register to vote.

And not every person who registers Libertarian is a libertarian. People register Libertarian for many reasons other than that they are libertarians. Reasons include to make a joke, to send a message of dissatisfaction with the Republican and Democratic parties, or as a step toward seeking to utilize as a candidate the party’s ballot access. Some people even register Libertarian as a step in seeking to infiltrate and sabotage the Libertarian Party.

Further, plenty of people who register Libertarian view the party as not being devoted to supporting libertarianism. These registered Libertarians understand “Libertarian” as just the party’s name, not a true representation the party and its candidates’ philosophy.

Reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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