On November 5, the Libertarian Party nominee for Virginia Governor, Robert Sarvis, polled 6.6% of the vote. This is the best showing for a third party for Governor in a southern state since 1970, when Alabama’s National Democratic Party polled 14.68% for John Logan Cashin. The Alabama National Democratic Party was a party supported mostly by African Americans; in 1970 the Democratic nominee was George Wallace and there was no Republican nominee.
In general, southern states are less supportive of minor parties than any other region.
Virginia requires a 10% vote for any statewide office for party status, so Sarvis’ vote did not give the Libertarian Party qualified status. However, an equivalent showing in each of the other 49 states would mean that such a party would be ballot-qualified in 40 states. This calculation assumes that a party that is able to get 6.6% of the gubernatorial vote would also be able to match the requirements in a handful of states that don’t use vote results to determine party status. For example, Delaware requires registration membership of one-tenth of 1% of the total, and this calculation includes Delaware.
The only state that has a higher vote test than Virginia for party status is Alabama, which is at 20%. Two other states have 10% vote tests: Oklahoma and New Jersey. Pennsylvania requires registration membership of 15%. All other states require 5% or less, and the median of the 50 states is 2%.
The Washington Post has exit results for the Virginia gubernatorial race here. Notably, Sarvis polled 15% of voters between the age of 18 and 29, 6% of the voters between ages 30-64, and 5% of the voters age 65 and over. The Sarvis showing is the third highest for any Libertarian gubernatorial nominee in the party’s history; the only better showings were made by Dick Randolph in Alaska in 1982, and Ed Thompson in Wisconsin in 2002. Thanks to Jim Peron for the link to the exit results. UPDATE: the New York Times also has the exit poll results, at this link, and they are easier to read than those in the Washington Post.