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17 March 2012

Montana’s Libertarian Party has earned a Senate primary

There may be a Libertarian primary in Montana — two Libertarians, Jerry McConnell and Dan Cox, filed for the U.S. Senate — and state and local election administrators already are kvetching about the cost, and considering a dangerous solution.

Writing for the Missoulian State Bureau, Charles Johnson reported that elected officials are looking for ways to deny the Libertarian Party a primary election:

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch is researching the law and said she will decide by early next week. Counties must send their primary election ballots to the printers by Thursday.

Having a Libertarian primary could cost counties a combined total of $350,000 to $390,000 to pay for printing of extra ballots and related expenses, McCulloch said.

That’s just over 61 cents per registered voter, evidently a whopping sum these days.

So McCulloch is looking for an alternative to the primary, such as putting both Libertarians on the ballot for the November general election. Her goal? Saving money.

And reports Johnson, she’s not alone in that thought:

Paulette DeHart, Lewis and Clark County treasurer and clerk and recorder, figures it would cost the county $30,000.

“It would be nice if the law allowed those candidates to go on to the general just to save the taxpayers the expense,” she said.

Whoa. I can find nothing in the letter or spirit of Montana’s statutes that empowers elections administrators to limit costs by refusing to hold primary elections for third parties. What DeHart thinks is nice is actually an especially odious denial of equal protection under the law.

It’s time for McCulloch, et al, to face the facts. We hold primary elections to place one candidate per party on the general election ballot. There are two candidates for the Libertarian nomination for the U.S. Senate. That requires a Libertarian primary.

Stop kvetching and start looking for ways to accord the Libertarians their rights, which are the same rights that are held by Democrats and Republicans.

My solution (which might not be legal)? Put the Libertarian matchup on both the Democratic and Republican ballots, and program the election counting computers accordingly.