On June 2, the Michigan Libertarian Party held its state convention and nominated candidates for presidential elector. Party representatives will hand-deliver the nomination documents to the Secretary of State on Monday, June 4. The party’s documents certify that the presidential elector candidates are pledged to Gary Johnson who lives in New Mexico. But the party’s documents also say that if the Secretary of State sticks to her position of refusing to allow that, and if no court intervenes, then in that case the party’s presidential elector candidates are pledged to Gary E. Johnson of Austin, Texas.
Gary Johnson, the national Libertarian Party presidential nominee, was on the ballot in the February 2012 Republican presidential primary ballot in Michigan. The Secretary of State is interpreting Michigan law to mean that, therefore, the Libertarian Party is forbidden to nominate Johnson.
Gary E. Johnson of Austin, Texas, is a long-time active Libertarian Party leader in Texas. He attended the recent national convention in Las Vegas and has said he consents to being the party’s nominee for president, in Michigan only, if necessary. However, if the Secretary of State doesn’t relent, first there will be a lawsuit. The Secretary of State’s position is very weak. The law hasn’t changed since before 1980, and in 1980 the former Secretary of State, Richard Austin, interpreted the state’s “sore loser” law not to apply to presidential primaries. Therefore, he printed John B. Anderson’s name on the November 1980 ballot in Michigan even though Anderson had run in the 1980 Republican presidential primary. The Secretary of State disavows this precedent on the grounds that in 1980, Michigan didn’t have procedures for independent presidential candidates, something that is irrelevant, and also not true. Michigan did have procedures in 1980 for independent presidential candidates; they were court-imposed, not statutory, but they still existed.
In all history, no minor party has ever had its presidential nominee kept off any state’s general election ballot on the grounds that the nominee had run in a major party presidential primary. Minor and new parties that have nominated presidential nominees who had run that year in a major party primary include the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party of 1912, the Farmer-Labor and Socialist Parties in 1924, the National Economic Recovery Party of 1988, and the Populist Party of 1988.