Libertarian Party of California Membership History

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Records of "dues-paying membership" and the related category of "central committee membership" have not been maintained and reported consistently through the LPC's history. For some periods, only fragmentary information is currently available, though it is possible that further research will turn up more information.

Ways of Counting "Members"

State Dues-Paying Members

There has been some sort of dues-paying membership since the beginning of the LPC. The very earliest reports of the number of "Libertarians" in California would actually be referring to national membership, since the LPC was not formally organized until 1983. But since that time, except for the years that the LPC participated in the Unified Membership Program, state and national membership have been separate, and the counts of members of these two types have often been significantly different.

All Financial Contributors

Sometimes everybody who "paid dues" or contributed an equivalent amount of money to the LPC was included in counts of "members", whether they satisfied any other requirement for formal membership or not. Sometimes more specific definitions were reported along with the number (e.g., "total contributors"), sometimes not. But most of the time the "membership" counted this way was only slightly higher than the count that was (or would have been) reported on the basis of a more formal definition of "member", so such counts are roughly comparable to the others.

Central Committee Members

Since the unification of the Libertarian Party of California and the California Libertarian Council in the early 1980s, the term "central committee member" has been used to refer to people who either (1) pay dues, sign the certification regarding initiation of force, and are not registered with another party or (2) qualify for this category through election under the state election law. This is not exactly the same thing as the term '"dues-paying member" would suggest, since people who qualify by election wouldn't necessarily also pay dues. However the number of people who qualified only in this way was always a very small fraction of the total. A further complication is that for most of the LPC's history it was not practical to track the actual voter registration status of people who paid dues, so the reported counts of central committee members might well have included some people who were not strictly qualified (because they were registered with another party, but the person maintaining the LPC's database did not know that). But the number of such cases has also always been a very small fraction of the total. So as a practical matter, the counts of "central committee members" and (state-level) "dues-paying members" have tracked each other closely enough that they can be considered the same for the purpose of comparison with other kinds of counts, or with each other over time.

Registered Libertarians

Voters who state an affiliation with the Libertarian Party on their voter registration form have at certain times in the LPC's history been refered to as "members". For statistics concerning that category, see Libertarian Party of California Voter Registration.

History of Membership Counts

CA Membership-Graph 2021-05.png

Sections of this graph where counts were available as part of a periodic series that appear to be comparable over time are shown as a curved line. A blue line represents central committee membership. For periods when a larger number of contributors who did not all qualify as voting members was also available, a second line is shown in green.

  • Counts from late 1990 through late 1992 were reported contemporaneously in the newsletter California Libertarian News.
  • Counts from 1997 through 2003 are from tables posted contemporaneously on the LPC web site.[1] The jump from about 2300 to about 4500 at the beginning of this period represents the effect of joining UMP.
  • Counts from 2013 through 2016 are estimates generated from a 2019 copy of the membership database, taking into account transactional data still available in the database at that time, but may not be exactly the same as would have been reported at the time if membership reports had actually been run during those years.
  • Counts since mid-2017 are from monthly reports distributed by the LPC Secretary.

Other data points, shown as small gray squares, are numbers taken from a variety of types of other reports, and in general the specific definition of membership that was used is not known.

History of Dues Levels

  • 1980s - $15/year for basic voting membership
  • 1989 - $25/year default, $15/year minimum, $500 life membership
  • 2007 - California Freedom news clip of dues returned to counts in California
  • current - $25/year for basic voting membership, $1000 life membership

In addition, various "premium" levels have been offered from time to time, but these had no effect on a person's voting status or the reports of the number of members.

Relationship to National Membership

Except during the UMP period (approx 1997-2003), dues-paying national and state memberships have been separate. A person could be a national member and not a state member, or vice versa. There was always, of course, considerable overlap. But at times the number of national members was larger, and at other times the number of state members was larger.

CA national-membership-graph 2021-06-06.png

Note: The exact way that the national party determines who is a dues-paying member for various purpose has varied over the years, and currently there are at least two counts regularly published. This graph is based on the traditional count of individuals who have signmed the membership certification and are "current" on their dues (including life members). A different rule, used for purposes like allocation of national delegates, usually gives a slightly lower number, but the two measures roughly track over time.