HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Alabama Libertarians are hoping to claim victory in this year’s midterm elections, but with the strength of a two-party system… is that even possible?
News 19 reached out to several Libertarian candidates in Alabama who cited obstacles like straight-ticket voting, ballot access laws, and ingrained political beliefs as difficulties any third-party faces.
Patrick Wallace, a Libertarian candidate for Alabama Board of Education and at-large member of the Libertarian Party of Alabama, said the party has full ballot access for the first time in 20 years with a full slate of more than 60 candidates running for office in Alabama. Many of those are right here in North Alabama.
“Ballot access requirements in Alabama are incredibly strict,” Wallace told News 19. “In order for a third-party to have ballot access across the state… they have to go out and obtain signatures.”
Wallace said the party was required to collect nearly 50,000 signatures, but wound up with over 70,000. He said voters seemed receptive to the idea of another option – especially when they hadn’t been exposed to Libertarian ideas.
But what exactly do Libertarians believe in?
According to lpalabama.org, the Libertarian Party believes in allowing people to pursue their own interests, ending America’s role as “the policeman of the world,” ending the War on Drugs, creating an easier path to citizenship, championing civil liberties and privacy, and supporting a free market, small businesses, and entrepreneurship.
“People on both sides of the aisle are getting disenfranchised with the division and forced separation between the [two major] parties,” Wallace stated. “They’re starting to look at things on a more case-by-case basis as opposed to left and right. That’s where the Libertarian Party comes in.”
After last month’s runoff election, Alabama Libertarians said their party offers a “glimmer of hope” for the 85% of voters who chose not to participate in that contest.
At that time, they offered a chance to meet John Sophocleus, the 2022 Libertarian nominee for U.S. Senate.
Sophocleus, an economics teacher at Auburn University, began getting involved with Alabama Libertarians in the early 1990s when he agreed to be a faculty advisor to the campus Libertarians.
Just one decade later, Sophocleus was leading the party’s ticket for Governor of Alabama.
Sophocleus told News 19 he planned to run for U.S. Congress in the third congressional district because he considers himself a “much better federal candidate than state candidate.” However, he agreed to run for governor instead.
According to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office, Sophocleus won 23,272 votes in that hotly-contested race 20 years ago. That number was higher than the disparity between the two leading candidates, Democratic incumbent Don Siegelman and Republican congressman, and eventually Alabama Governor, Bob Riley.
“We beat the margin of victory because there were a lot of folks who were tired, and were kind of ripe for wanting to vote for something different,” Sophocleus said.
In a 2002 editorial by the New York Times, John J. Miller stated, “The only reason the governor’s race in Alabama was so close this year as to be disputed beyond election night was that the Libertarian candidate, John Sophocleus, attracted 23,000 votes.”
Sophocleus says he has a core message for voters looking for another option this fall.
“The core message is that there’s a very well-defined role for government,” Sophocleus explained. “The government defines, enforces, defends, and allows the voluntary peaceful transfer of property. If it goes outside that role, they’re outside their authority.”
Sophocleus isn’t alone on the ballot this year. In November, he’ll face Republican Katie Britt, the former head of the Alabama Business Council and one-time aide to Sen. Richard Shelby, and Democrat Will Boyd, a pastor and former chair of the Lauderdale County Democrats.
He says straight-ticket voting and ballot access could stall his victory.
“The hoops that a non-duopoly party has to go through to get on the ballot is just horrific,” he explained.
In addition to collecting signatures, if a third-party candidate in any statewide race gets more than 20% of the vote, that party has automatic ballot access for the next election.
“Winning for this cycle, in my opinion for the Libertarians, is for a statewide candidate to get 20% or more to get ballot access,” Sophocleus concluded. “If you’re talking about an outright win, I think in a world that has straight-ticket voting, it’s going to be really hard.”
In addition to Sophocleus, Alabama Libertarians have candidates for all statewide offices, including governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.