In politics or any blood sport its rare to hear a team proudly chant, "Were No. 3! Were No. 3!"
But thats what we heard from Libertarians in the purple state of Florida.
We spotted a claim about the numbers and growth of libertarians in an announcement about a Libertarian event in Broward County:
"The Libertarian Party is the third-largest organized political party in the United States and has seen tremendous growth over the last two years as many Democrats and Republicans have become disenchanted with their respective parties." (The article was written by Karl Dickey who serves on the Libertarian Party of Floridas executive committee and represents Broward, Palm Beach and Hendry counties.) We found a similar claim on the Libertarian Party of Broward website that the party is "the third-largest political party in the U.S."
We wanted to explore the numbers and the power of the Libertarian Party. Is it the third-largest party in the country?
Weve looked at the numbers of Libertarians in the past. But as Sen. Rand Paul a Kentucky Republican with a libertarian outlook makes headlines as a potential 2016 presidential contender, it seemed like a good time to revisit the numbers.
Libertarian activists and political scientists we contacted suggested the same source: Richard Winger, a Libertarian in California and editor of a monthly newsletter, Ballot Access News, which includes data on party registration that Winger researches.
His December issue showed there were 325,807 registered Libertarians nationwide. (About half the states tally Libertarians, Wingers data shows.)
The number of registered Libertarians was higher than other national third parties including the Green, Constitution or Reform parties.
But with Democrats registration at 43.5 million and Republicans at 41.3 million according to Wingers data, that puts any third-place finisher trailing way behind.
Also, the number of Libertarians was substantially lower than two catch-all categories which Winger calls "indp. misc" at 26.8 million and "other" at 2.9 million.
The miscellaneous category includes states that have a miscellaneous category, as well as voters who write in answers (such as "birthday party") on their registration. Wingers "other" includes a combination of actual parties.
Since those catch-all categories were large, we picked a couple of states to look in more detail at third-party registrations.
In California, there were 477,129 registered with the American Independent Party. In New York, there were 430,072 registered with the Independence Party as of November 2012.
But Winger said those groups in California and New York arent "nationally organized parties. Those are one-state parties." Thats why when Winger talks about Libertarians voter registration he includes the phrase "nationally organized" something the Libertarians in Broward omitted.
Were not suggesting that those state parties in California or New York are powerful players nationwide or even in their own states. Some New York voters wrongly think they are registering as independents, according to the New York Daily News.
Markham Robinson, a leader with the American Independent Party, told PolitiFact in an interview that he did a survey of AIP voters and of the 200 who responded, one-third didnt realize they had registered with a party.