Constitution Party books spot on Missouri ballot

Monday, November 10, 2008 | 1:15 p.m. CST; updated 1:57 p.m. CST, Monday, November 10, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — None of its candidates won, but the Constitution Party is celebrating success in Missouri.

Constitution Party treasurer candidate Rodney Farthing got 2.4 percent of the vote in last week's election. That's a large enough proportion to ensure the party a spot on Missouri's 2010 and 2012 ballots.

Under Missouri law, a new political party must receive at least 2 percent of the vote in at least one statewide race to become "an established political party" and guarantee a statewide ballot slot in the next two general elections.

Otherwise, political parties must gather at least 10,000 petition signatures of registered voters to qualify their slate of candidates. The Constitution Party went through the petition process this year.

"We knew that we weren't going to win any seats," said Donna Ivanovich of Arnold, the Missouri Constitution Party chairwoman. "The goal was to gain our 2 percent so that we would buy some more time basically to educate the people about the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and get them used to our name and field more candidates in the next election."

Ivanovich attributed the party's success to God.

The Constitution Party's accomplishment may have come at the expense of the Libertarian Party, Missouri's most established party after the Democrats and Republicans.

The Libertarian Party failed to reach the 2-percent threshold for any of its statewide candidates in the Nov. 4 election — a first since it appeared on Missouri's ballot in 1992, said Libertarian Party Executive Director Greg Tlapek of Cape Girardeau.

Under Missouri law, a political party loses its reserved ballot spot if it fails to get at least 2 percent or to put forth a statewide candidate in two consecutive elections. That means 2010 will be a make-or-break year for Libertarians.

Tlapek said he wasn't sure what went wrong for Libertarians this year. But he noted two possibilities.

"I think that the presidential campaign kind of got people whipped up into a frenzy and feeling very partisan and unwilling to consider other options for fear of the party they didn't like winning," Tlapek said.

Also, the Libertarian and Constitution parties appeared to split the third-party vote in races where they both had candidates. More than 2 percent of the total vote went to third-party candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state, but the Libertarian and Constitution party candidates got less than 2 percent each.

In the treasurer's race, the Libertarian Party did not field a candidate, leaving the Constitution Party candidate to receive all votes that weren't for Republican or Democratic candidates.

Now that it has won ballot status, the Constitution Party's goal is to build a broader organization, specifically, to establish local party leaders in each of Missouri's 114 counties and the city of St. Louis by the 2010 election, Ivanovich said.

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