Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach recently re-interpreted Kansas election law section 25-302b, the law that determines how a party remains on the ballot. That law, passed in 1984, says, “Any recognized political party whose nominee for any office for which the officer is elected from the state as a whole fails to receive at least 1% of the total vote cast for any such office in this state at any general election, or which fails to nominate persons for at least one such office, shall cease to be a recognized political party.”
The law was written with input from the Kansas Libertarian Party, which wrote the law so that in years when no statewide office is on the ballot except President, the vote test would not apply. Note the phrase “any office for which the officer is elected from the state as a whole.” The intent of the law was to exclude President, because President is not elected from the state as a whole; President is elected by the entire nation.
In 2000, a year in which no statewide office was on the ballot except President, the Kansas Secretary did not disqualify either the Libertarian Party or the Reform Party, even though neither of them received as much as 1% of the presidential vote. But that precedent has now been reversed by the current Secretary of State, who removed the Reform Party from the ballot earlier this year because it did not poll as much as 1% for President. It only polled .43% for its nominee, Chuck Baldwin. The Secretary of State did not ask for an Attorney General’s Opinion before he removed the party; he did not issue a formal opinion stating that the old precedent was being reversed. He simply wrote a letter to the Reform Party, telling the party that it is disqualified. He also removed Americans Elect from the ballot, but that was not surprising since Americans Elect had asked to be removed.
This development should be of concern to the Libertarian Party, even though the Libertarian Party did poll over 1% for President in 2012 (it polled 1.76% for Gary Johnson). The Libertarian Party did not poll as much as 1% in Kansas for President in 1984, or 1992, or 1996, or 2000, or 2004, or 2008. In future presidential years it may again have trouble polling 1% for President.