Junior Mark Flanagan and sophomore Ben Linskey think a lot more people at Notre Dame would vote Libertarian if they knew what libertarianism was.
"I think there's a lot of people who either choose to be Republicans or Democrats because they don't understand what libertarianism is about," Flanagan said. "As of now, when I say I'm a libertarian or talk to people about libertarianism, their first question is, 'What is that?' And then I have to explain it to them."
Flanagan and Linskey could be biased in their thinking, since they are the co-presidents of the Notre Dame chapter of the College Libertarians. But when they invited Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr to campus on Friday, a substantial number of students showed up to hear him speak, filling most of the lower level of Washington Hall.
Flanagan said it seemed as though people were engaged during the speech and liked what Barr had to say.
Flanagan and Linskey estimated that 50 to 100 Notre Dame students would vote Libertarian in the Nov. 4 presidential election.
But Linskey said a lot of people who identify themselves as Republican or Democrat would be surprised at the disparity between their beliefs and what the candidates they support actually believe.
Upon closer reflection, he said, some of these people might find the Libertarian Party most closely represents their views.
"In this election," Flanagan said, "people would be more willing to vote Libertarian than in prior elections because of the failure of this administration, and because of the lack of choice with the major two candidates."
But in the American political system, the choice is usually just thatbetween two candidates. Barr is not even on the ballot in every state.
But saying you will not vote for a candidate who probably won't win is a circular argument, Flanagan said.
"If you never vote for someone, then of course they are not going to win," he said. "So it has to start somewhere."
A group of people has to start voting for the third party candidate, so that other people will join them, he said.
"That's why this election is important, to show that there is a substantial percentage that do want something different, and that they do need to listen to this," Flanagan said.
Flanagan said the College Libertarians club has about 10 to 15 active members this year.
Leading up to the presidential election, the club plans to participate in three public debates with the College Democrats and Republicans. They said they also plan to hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution and promote awareness about civil rights. Using the money allocated to the club from the university, Linskey said the club is planning to purchase various Bob Barr and Libertarian Party merchandise.