Department of Justice: Affirming Libertarian ballot access ‘waste of precious state resources’


DOVER — A standoff between the Department of Elections and Libertarian Party of Delaware has come to a head.

In April, the party filed a complaint in Superior Court demanding that the elections commissioner recognize their ballot access. The Department of Justice fired back last week calling their request “a needless waste of precious state resources.”

But, the Libertarian Party of Delaware has no intention of backing down until its legitimacy is recognized, party leadership says.

Since late last year, the party has been struggling to cement the state’s recognition of its ballot access.

Confusion initially arose when a splinter group (Libertarian Party of Delaware Inc.) broke off and formed a rival committee that sought to “hijack” the long-recognized Libertarian Party of Delaware’s ballot access, said the party’s secretary Will McVay.

Will McVay

This paper reported back in February that the state’s election commissioner Elaine Manlove didn’t know which party should get the ballot access belonging to Delaware’s more than 1,600 registered Libertarians.

“I don’t know who gets to claim them at this point,” she said at the time.

Befuddled with the scenario, the Libertarian Party of Delaware claims it’s both been putting candidates on state ballots and sending delegations to the National Libertarian Party’s conventions for many years. Mr. McVay said Ms. Manlove told his party leadership at the Feb. 12 Board of Elections meeting that their party was the one who would maintain ballot access, but has failed to provide it in writing.

“She knows who we are — everyone with the commissioner’s office knows who we are,” said Mr. McVay. “They’re well aware of who the real Libertarian party is. Why they’re not willing to make a ruling on it in writing in a timely fashion is, honestly, beyond me.”

The national Libertarian Party has also urged the commissioner to address the issue promptly. In February, a statement from the executive director of the Libertarian National Committee, Wes Benedict, both recognized the Libertarian Party of Delaware as their only state affiliate and disavowed the claim made by the Libertarian Party of Delaware Inc. The statement reads:

“The Libertarian Party cannot have more than one statewide affiliate in any state, nor can it have more than one county-level affiliate in any county. The LNC has therefore requested that the Commissioner of Elections take prompt action to resolve this matter in accordance with Delaware law.”

The party held their convention on March 24 and nominated Nadine Frost as their candidate for the state’s U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. Mr. McVay said they submitted Ms. Frost’s certificate of nomination to the elections department shortly afterward and heard no reply. After two weeks of waiting, they decided to file a complaint in Delaware’s Superior Court on April 6 seeking an issuance of a writ of mandamus to compel Ms. Manlove to recognize Ms. Frost’s candidacy. A writ of mandamus is an order from a court to a government official to properly fulfill their duties or correct an abuse of discretion.

Shortly afterward, Ms. Frost’s name was added to the Department of Elections’ website as a candidate in the election. However, party leadership wasn’t prepared to settle their claim until they had some formal document acknowledging their party’s legitimacy.

“We can’t afford to go through this every election, we’re a small party,” said Mr. McVay. “If we have something in writing from the commissioner, we’d at least have something to hang our hats on if our party is ever challenged again.”

According to Mr. McVay, the request for written confirmation drew a strongly worded letter from Deputy Attorney General Robert Willard. In the letter, Mr. Willard claims that because Ms. Frost was added to the list of ballot-qualified candidates on the Department of Elections website, the party’s complaint should immediately be dismissed as “moot.” He also characterized the desire for written confirmation as improperly seeking to leverage the case “to achieve a tactical advantage in a dispute between rival factions of the Libertarian Party of Delaware.” Mr. Willard also threatened to seek “relief” if the complaint wasn’t dropped.

The letter reads:

“Your refusal to dismiss your complaint is not appropriate under any conceivable legal standard and will result in the needless waste of precious state resources. We again request that your complaint be dismissed without further delay.

“To the extent the state is required to respond to your complaint, we reserve the right to seek counsel fees and any other appropriate relief.”

Taken aback by the letter, Mr. McVay said resolving the party’s complaint should have been a simple matter.

“They’re well aware that they could settle this easily,” he said. “Especially since we asked them nicely to do that without a lawsuit back in mid-February. It should be a statement of obvious fact that requires no resources whatsoever.”

Refusing to drop their complaint, the Libertarian Party of Delaware has filed an amended complaint to more explicitly recognize their legitimacy “in writing.”

Ms. Manlove didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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