Libertarian Party convention could shake up presidential election

Updated

The Libertarian Party’s nominating convention started Friday in Orlando, Florida where they will pick their candidates for president and vice president just as they have every four years for the past 45 years. But this year is different.

The two major party candidates are the most unpopular than any nominees in recent history. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s unfavorability ratings rest at historic highs among voters, and 47 percent of respondents say that they’d consider a third-party candidate in the latest NBC News/WSJ poll.

RELATED: Libertarians see an opening in 2016 frustrations

With voters potentially looking for a third option and the Libertarian Party gaining widespread access on state ballots for November, the Libertarian Party could be in a coveted position heading into the general election.

Here’s everything you need to know heading into the Libertarian Party convention.

How do they pick their nominee?

Presidential candidates must win a majority of the seated delegates to win the nomination. In the first round of voting, any candidate that doesn’t win 5 percent is dropped. In subsequent rounds of voting, the lowest performing candidate is dropped until someone wins a majority.

MTP Daily, 5/27/16, 5:15 PM ET

Libertarians Meet to Pick Nominee

In an environment ripe for a third party candidate, the Libertarian Party convention opens in Orlando, Florida, with 18 candidates vying for the presidential nomination. The favorite, former Governor Gary Johnson (R-NM), joins Chuck Todd.

But before actual balloting takes place, each delegate is given one token and each candidate must obtain 30 tokens to qualify for presidential balloting. Any candidate that obtains 10 percent of tokens is allowed to participate in the debate Saturday night.

Could a dark house Mitt Romney or Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse come in at the last minute?

Yes. They just have to become a member of the party, pay $25 and collect at least 30 tokens from delegates - or 10% to be included in the debate.

Will it happen?

Unclear but the party chair, Nick Sarwark, said most of the rumblings about a major party infiltration have died down.

How many delegates are there?

As many as 900 to 950 delegates of the 1047 are expected to attend. This is likely to be the largest convention since the party’s first convention 45 years ago. So a candidate would have to obtain close to 500 delegates to win.

How are delegates chosen?

The delegates were elected at state conventions and each state is allocated their number of delegates based on an algorithm taking into account number of paying members of the party and states’ percent of lib vote in the 2012 presidential.

How many presidential candidates are there?

It is a highly competitive year. As of now, 15 candidates are running, but only six are competitive.

Who are the leading contenders?

Here they are in order of favorability:

Gary Johnson - Former governor of New Mexico and 2012 Libertarian Party nominee who won the most votes of any LP candidate ever, notching 1.2 million. He asked former Mass. Gov. William Weld to run to be his Vice Presidential nominee, increasing his electability in the general election.

Austin Peterson - Lives in Missouri and used to work for both Fox Business and small-government advocacy group FreedomWorks who now runs a media consulting firm. He supports “Ellis Island” immigration: disease check and security check. His entitlement reform is to allow young people to opt out of social security.

John McAfee - The outspoken cyber security entrepreneur and one-time “person of interest” for a murder in Belize holds a platform that includes a strong cyber defense and ending American-led wars.

Kevin McCormick - Works in the technology sector in Arizona and decided to run in “disgust, anger and embarrassment” over the Republican Party’s flock of primary candidates.

Darryl Perry - An author and libertarian radio host in New Hampshire, Perry is running “to give as many people as possible the chance to vote for an actual libertarian in November 2016!”

Marc Allen Feldman - a physician in Ohio who is running on an issue of campaign finance corruption. He wants Kanye West to be his running mate.

Why are they the favorites?

The above mentioned candidates have been aggressively campaigning by attending state conventions, holding conference calls for delegates, sending emails, postal mail and conducting traditional retail politicking of delegates.

Gary Johnson, for instance, held conference calls for delegates every night this week. And McAfee has written delegates personal notes.

How are the favorites determined? I’ve seen no polls.

While the party relies on straw polls to determine who is favored, they commissioned one professional poll where Johnson won 60 percent support. But Sarwark cautions that the unpredictable can happen at a convention because of the process and that sometimes the favored candidate doesn’t win because of numerous rounds of balloting where alliances are made and second or third choices can prevail.

When will voting take place?

Sunday morning. Saturday will be the nominating speeches and a presidential debate among candidates who get 10 percent of tokens.

How is the vice presidential nominee chosen?

The same way as the presidential nominee. The presidential winner can address the delegates for five minutes to make their preference known. But presidential candidates can jump in the VP race as well.

What about William Weld, Johnson’s intended VP?

Some in the Libertarian Party are skeptical of new converts. While Weld might help Johnson in a general election, it might hurt him in winning the party’s nomination.

What about the general election debates?

The threshold to be a participant in the presidential commission debates this fall is 15% in five major polls. The candidates must also be eligible to be on the ballot in enough states to obtain enough electoral votes to win the presidency.

The Libertarian Party is likely the only third party candidate who could be on the ballot in all 50 states.

Trump v. Clinton v. Johnson?

Two polls show him pulling 10 percent against Trump and Clinton.

When asked about choosing a candidate because of electability or to make waves in a general, Sarwark, the party chair, said: “It’s always a balancing act between who sounds the best speaker of the message and who appears to have the most libertarian credentials versus who will have he biggest platform to deliver that message. It’s a constant tension in the party.” 

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com.

Libertarian Party convention could shake up presidential election

Updated