By Sheena Dooley | Iowa Watchdog
DES MOINES — Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson will be on Iowa’s ballot in November, after a state panel ruling dismissed questions two Iowans raised about his candidacy.
Gloria Mazza and Dean Montgomery, both from the Des Moines metro, contested his candidacy Friday, alleging Johnson was never nominated at a convention or caucus, and his list of delegates was nothing more than a petition. At least 11 people who signed the list of delegates said they were not aware they were attending a caucus. Officials with the Libertarian Party held their caucus Aug. 15 at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.
Jay Kramer, a campaign worker for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, signed the complaint as a witness.
The panel consisting of Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller and Warren Jenkins, chief deputy to Republican State Auditor David Vaudt, unanimously favored Johnson in its ruling, saying Iowa’s law defining caucuses was too vague. Past panels assembled by the three officials’ offices found that laws governing nomination procedures should be “liberally construed” to the benefit of voters, the ruling said.
Iowa law allows a non-party political organization to nominate a candidate through “any convention or caucus of eligible electors representing a political organization.” It requires a minimum of 250 eligible voters representing at least 25 counties attend the convention or caucus. Nearly 450 signed the attendance list for the Libertarian caucus, and it met the requirement to have representatives from 25 counties, according to the ruling.
“It is reasonable to assume that a number of the signatures on the list of delegates were at the fairgrounds in response to the party’s outreach. Even if the panel were to strike the (11) signatures from the roll, there would remain well more than the necessary 250 delegates to qualify the certificate of nomination,” the ruling said.
Johnson’s victory could detract voters from Romney and Democratic President Barack Obama in this swing state.
Similar efforts to keep Johnson off the ballot appeared in other states, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to Johnson campaign workers.
“Iowa has a long tradition of fairness when it comes to ballot access,” Johnson spokesman Hoe Hunter said in an email. “We commend state officials for putting party politics aside and doing the right thing.”
It’s not the first time state officials faced criticism for playing partisan politics to affect November voting.
Schultz’s office recently came under fire and now faces a lawsuit after it quietly adopted emergency rules allowing it to comb voter lists and remove anyone unqualified to cast a ballot. They also let people make voter fraud allegations without giving a sworn statement attesting to the truth of their allegations. The changes largely affect minority and low-income voters, who tend to favor Democrats.
Schultz also initially denied a petition signed by supporters to put Johnson on the ballot, as had been past practice. He, instead, required libertarians to hold a convention, which they did at the state fair.
Chad Olsen, spokesman for Schultz, did not return calls seeking comment.
“Iowans deserve real choices in November, and Gov. Johnson is pleased and grateful that they will have an opportunity to cast their votes without having those choices limited as a result of partisan games,” Hunter said.
Contact Sheena Dooley at firstname.lastname@example.org.