Libertarian lawsuit against Department of Elections dismissed

DOVER — A complaint filed by the Libertarian Party of Delaware against the Department of Elections concerning their recognition of the party’s ballot access was dismissed, according to an opinion filed in the state’s Superior Court on Tuesday.

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.

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 failed to provide it in writing.

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 to stave off any future challenges. Filing a motion to dismiss the complaint, the Department of Justice fired back in May, calling their request “a needless waste of precious state resources” and claimed the complaint was “not appropriate under any conceivable legal standard.”

The opinion issued Tuesday by Judge Noel Eason Primos notes that the court did not find that the Department of Elections “arbitrarily failed or refused to perform any duty” and that the petitioners didn’t demonstrate a “clear right” to their requested relief.

Ms. Manlove declined to comment on the outcome.

Though not what they’d hoped for, the Libertarian Party of Delaware feels vindicated in that its chosen candidates currently have uncontested ballot access.

“We did lose the case, overall, but our candidates have all now been accepted by the commissioner and the opinion does state that no other organization is entitled to call themselves the ‘Libertarian’ party, so we’re calling that a win,” said Mr. McVay. “We achieved what we set out to achieve when this case started, even if it didn’t go exactly as planned.”

Nadine Frost

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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