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MN Libertarians fall short of 5 percent, but gain disillusioned millennials

Third-party votes ultimately didn't have a bearing on the result in Minnesota, unlike in other races around the country, but Tuesday night was still a success for Libertarians.
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Third-party votes ultimately didn't have a bearing on the result in Minnesota, unlike in other races around the country, but Tuesday night was still a success for Libertarians.

National candidate Gary Johnson needed 5 percent of the vote for the Libertarians to qualify for major party status in Minnesota, and while he fell just short of that amount, his 4 percent of the vote was still a considerable increase on 2012. It was also more than the 3 percent Johnson achieved in the national vote Tuesday.

In 2012, Johnson only managed to get 1.2 percent, just over 35,000 votes, in Minnesota but this time almost 113,000 voted for him. Meanwhile fellow third party candidate Jill Stein (Green) almost tripled her vote, and upstart, Utah-based independent Evan McMullin getting more than 53,000.

As Twin Cities Libertarians met at Merlin's Rest in south Minneapolis on election night, Johnson/Weld state campaign director Cara Schulz and Libertarian Party Minnesota Chair Chris Dock told GoMN the party made gains in several groups.

This included millennials, who they say have grown disillusioned with the campaigning, the party system and the underwhelming major candidates.

"I see voters coming from all different ways. We have former Democrats and Republicans who feel their party itself has diverged from what they thought it was 20 years ago," Dock said. "And then there are going to be others who are sick of the candidates."

"We've seen a general upswing in interest in third-parties among millennials and students, who are really passionate about it in a way they are not about the Democrats and Republicans."

The 'common sense candidate'

Schulz, who won election to the Burnsville City Council on Tuesday night, says that many voters were attracted by Johnson himself, who comes across as more sensible and less compromised than Trump and Clinton.

"Many people are telling me they are looking for a common sense candidate, and they see that option in Gary Johnson. Although many portray him as fringe, they come to realize that's exactly what they were looking for."

The 5 percent goal is a significant one as gaining major party status eliminates the time-consuming need to gather signatures to get onto ballots, the Pioneer Press reports, allowing the party to focus on campaigning and building a constituency.

The fight for legitimacy has been gaining momentum, with the Libertarians joining other fringe parties including the Greens earlier this year to call for their candidates to be allowed to appear in the Election Debates along with Clinton and Trump.

Although before the results were revealed, Dock said that 5 percent is the "minimum" the party was aiming for, he thinks the growing momentum in the Libertarian movement will serve as a launchpad for major party legitimacy in future years.

Schulz says, "I think there's an overall movement toward being more Libertarian in a lot of issues. When you have two candidates who are reviled by the majority of the population, what you have is people willing to look to other options, and this gives us an opportunity."

Out of interest, if you want to check out Johnson's policies, you can do so here. Same goes for Jill Stein here. And Evan McMullin here.

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