KANSAS CITY, Missouri, September 20, 2017 – The committee that develops bylaws and rules for the Libertarian Party’s national convention over the weekend adopted changes to the process for nominating candidates for Vice President of the United States.
Under the current and rather unique system used by the Libertarian Party, the nation’s third largest party, the convention first nominates a presidential candidate and then moves on to separately nominate a vice presidential candidate.
Candidates for the presidential nomination often did not even meet the person who would become their running mate until the convention.
The adopted change would have the party move to nominate the two offices together as a slate. Each candidate for the presidential nomination will be paired up with their desired running mate for presentation to the convention. A single vote would be held to determine which slate of candidates is nominated.
The 6-1 decision by the Bylaws and Rules Committee, with two abstentions, now rests in the hands of the 2018 Libertarian National Convention, to be held over July 4 weekend in New Orleans. The proposal needs to clear a two-thirds vote to be adopted.
Libertarian Party has learned their lesson from recent Vice Presidential candidate history
During debate on the proposal, several historical examples were discussed. Many found persuasive the observation that the moment after the conclusion of the presidential nomination is a time of peak attention and media coverage.
It is a moment usually broadcast live on national TV, and the normal expectation would be for the candidate to accept the nomination and take their victory lap with a speech to rally the troops and encourage party unity.
Instead, under the current process, presidential candidates are forced to spend that moment in the spotlight beseeching convention delegates to approve their desired vice-presidential nominee.
Across 11 presidential nominating conventions in the party’s history, only once have the delegates denied the nominee’s requested running mate, though in other instances it has been a close call.
Many on the bylaws committee also found persuasive the argument that the two offices are jointly elected on a ticket in the general election, and so must be able to work with each other. The presidential nominee must go before the voters, and honestly tell them they trust their vice presidential nominee to take over the presidency on a moment’s notice if tragedy should happen.
Moving in the running mate direction
At the same time, in order to accommodate the unexpected, it is also possible for the convention to split the question by a simple majority, reverting back to the old system of nominating for vice president separately.
This could conceivably occur if, for example, two presidential candidates both failed to clear the 50 percent threshold on the first ballot, and both agreed on the convention floor to drop their own running mates and form a unity ticket.
The party had already been trending in the direction of having presidential candidates select their running mates, as is the practice in the Republican and Democratic Parties.
In 2016, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson came to the convention with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld as his proposed running mate.
At the same time, third-place finisher John McAfee and fourth-place candidate Darryl Perry also came to the convention with their own desired running mates for vice president already selected.
No more ‘shotgun marriages’ for President and Vice President
Supporters of the proposal believe that presidential candidates will have a greater incentive to carefully consider and vet their prospective running mates.
There would be no more “shotgun marriages” between candidates who didn’t approve of each other, nor would the vice presidential candidate be nominated as an afterthought.
In 2004, the process resulting in a vice-presidential nominee who made repeated claims of having been endorsed by Mahatma Gandhi (who died in 1948.) It would also avoid the scenario where a presidential candidate ignores their running mate and simply campaigns as if they didn’t have one.
Other changes for the Libertarian Party
Other changes considered by the committee include term limits for national committee members. That proposal was rejected.
A separate proposal clarifying the party’s rule relating to so-called “fusion” candidates who are jointly nominated by another party was accepted.
Correction: a previous version of this article mis-stated which year a presidential candidate’s requested running mate was rejected. The article has been amended to avoid this error.