Libertarian Party Rising in McLean County

 Mclean County Libertarian Party members march in the Bloomington Christmas Parade on December 4, 2017" (Credit: McLean County Libertarian Party)

Mclean County Libertarian Party members march in the Bloomington Christmas Parade on December 4, 2017" (Credit: McLean County Libertarian Party)

The 2016 presidential election yielded surprising results in McLean County. While the county went to current President Donald Trump with a 1.4% win over Clinton, 6.1% of the vote went to Libertarian Candidate, Gary Johnson. Libertarian votes in McLean County were the second highest in the state, with nearby Tazewell, Livingston, Dewitt and Piatt counties also voting between 5-6% for Johnson. The Libertarian candidate received 3.8% of the state vote.

This outcome is significant, especially given Johnson’s 2012 results. The Libertarian candidate received less than 1% of the popular vote in the US general election in 2012. Third party candidates received just over 2% of the vote in McLean County.

In order for a party to be considered “established” and included in the primary elections, a candidate from that party must receive more than 5% of the vote in a prior election. Johnson’s 2016 results suggest that the Libertarian party is established, at least in McLean County.

Libertarian Party Overview

According to its website, the Libertarian vision is to “champion fundamental American values: a free-market economy and the abundance and prosperity it brings, civil liberties and personal freedom, and a foreign policy of non-intervention, peace, and free trade.” Some of the core values of the Libertarian Party include:

  • Maximum freedom with minimum government
  • Giving individuals ownership over their own lives
  • Freedom to choose as long as that choice harms no others
  • Common-sense approach to problem-solving
  • A dramatic reduction in taxes
  • Personalized education, healthcare and retirement planning
  • New energy sources and clean environment solutions
  • Bringing American troops home
  • Honesty and fairness
  • Respect for the US Constitution

McLean County Libertarian Party Goals

In an interview with AdaptBN, Bennett Morris, Mclean COunty Libertarian Party Chair, laid out Party’s local agenda.

“Issues that we would address in McLean County government would be cutting the pay for elected officials, lowering property taxes, ending the McLean County Liquor Control Commission, establishing a citizen review board for the McLean County Sheriff's Office, dissolving the Bloomington Election Commission, and moving the County Board meetings from 9:00am on Tuesdays to a more reasonable time.”

Another concern for McLean County Libertarians is ballot access. In an interview with WGLT, Chris Howick, 2018 Illinois House candidate and Bloomington resident, raised concerns over his requirement to garner 2,500 signatures whereas his Republican and Democrat opponents only need 500 to appear on the ballot.

Although the Party is considered “established” in the county and signature requirements are less strenuous for local candidates compared to state candidates, improving ballot access for third party candidates remains a top priority. Some gains have been made in this area with a September 2017 appellate court victory slashing the “full slate requirement,” which required a third party to have a candidate for every open position in order to be included in the ballot.

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McLean County Libertarian Party Chair Bennett Morris

Libertarians Shaking up McLean County Elections in 2018

McLean County currently has 10 Libertarian Candidates running for local seats. These candidates will appear on the March 20th, 2018, primary ballot where 11 of 13 county seats are contested.

Morris described how this election cycle will be different from what Mclean County voters have experienced before:

“Because this is the first time that the Libertarian Party has been considered an established party in McLean County, this is also the first time people can choose a Libertarian primary ballot. While we do not have any contested primary races in our first go-around, we encourage people to ask for a Libertarian primary ballot to send a message to the two old parties. That message is that the old parties no longer represent Illinois voters, and that competitive, multi-partisan elections are important in our ability to hold elected officials accountable.”

The first elected Libertarian in McLean County was Charles Silas who currently serves on the Normal Library Board of Trustees.

The McLean County Libertarian Board currently consists of four people (Chair Bennett Morris, Vice Chair Chris Howick, Treasurer Lex Green, and Secretary Henry Wissmiller). This board will serve until 2019.

What’s Next?

Ahead of the March 20th Primary, The Libertarian Party of Illinois Annual Convention will take place on Friday, March 2nd and Saturday, March 3rd, 2018, at the Parke Regency Hotel, 1413 Leslie Drive in Bloomington. There will be speakers, workshops and entertainment. Advance signup is required. The Libertarian Party of McLean County will also march in Normal’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The McLean County Libertarian Party meets on the second Wednesday of each month at Lucky Garden in Normal. Meetings start at 6:00 pm and the public is welcome.