More voters have opted for third party candidates and write-in votes over the past four election cycles. Despite this increase, third parties still struggle to be a viable option for American voters in the two-party system. The last third-party candidate to win any electoral votes was George Wallace in 1986, winning five southern states on the platform, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.
In 2016, unlike most third party candidates the mainstream media covered Libertarian candidate Gary Johnsons campaign. The Green Party and Libertarian Presidential candidates in 2020 have not permeated the minds of American voters as widely. As of September 2020, 40% of American voters identify themselves as independents, leaving 29% for Republicans and 30% for Democrats.
Although the size of third parties could indicate their lack of significance, Sean Goff and Daniel J. Lee argue the importance of third parties and their value for American democracy in their journal, Prospects for Third Party Success in a Polarized Era. In a polarizing time in Americas political history, third parties and journeying away from the two-party system could be the solution to the hyper-divisive politics of recent years. Either way, Goff and Lee assert that third parties have historically played an important role in instigating change in the major parties.
One of the most challenging aspects of running third party is in fact getting on the ballot at all. The requirements are different in every state but usually entail getting a specific number of signatures. In the state of Georgia, 36,180 signatures were required (1% of voters eligible to vote in the last election) to run for one Senate seat, while the other was only available to qualified parties. The number of signatures varied for the U.S. House of Representatives seats, but if unaffiliated parties were allowed to run, the signature requirement was 5% of registered voters in the district in the last election.
Ease of ballot access ranges from state to state, with Georgia being notorious for its difficulty for minor parties. Arizona, for instance, requires all candidates to petition. Affiliated candidates (Democartic, Republican, and Libertarian) must garner signatures from 0.5% of qualified voters, and unaffiliated candidates need signatures from 3% of qualified voters.
John Fortuin, a Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, said that the most difficult part of getting on the ballot is obtaining enough signatures, and COVID-19 has not helped.
Covid has had a major impact and unlike other states that have fairer requirements for qualifications for third parties and independents, Georgia did not allow electronic signature collection and did not significantly reduce the signature collection requirement, Fortuin said.
The lack of accommodation for minor parties in the upcoming election resulted in a lawsuit by the Green Party of Georgia.
Jimmy Cooper, Green Party candidate for Georgias 8th congressional district for the U.S. House of Representatives and Hugh Esco, secretary for the Georgia Green Party, acted as litigants in this process.
The state of Georgia did not offer a good response to the pandemic. Because of the pandemic we werent able to launch an effective ballot access campaign, Cooper said.
Petitioning for signatures often requires knocking door to door and attending large events, both of which have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, Georgia was still in a state of emergency and in lock down. The Secretary of States office offered a 30% reduction in signatures needed, not a reasonable response in Coopers eyes.
It is extremely hard, and in my opinion irresponsible, to try and collect signatures during a pandemic, he said. The guidelines are already prohibitive.
The number [of signatures] are only there to keep us off the ballot, Jimmy Cooper said.
Esco shared a similar sentiment. According to him, the motivation behind the restrictive 1943 ballot access laws was less than pure. The original motivation for this 5% statue which was adopted in 1943 was to keep communists and republicans off the ballot, Esco said.
He detailed a history in which the surrounding racial tension and communism during World War II cultivated a desire to restrict access to the ballot.
Esco details the connections between increase in Black military service and ballot restriction above.
An article for the Seattle Law Review in 2010 by Oliver Hall titled Death by a Thousand Signatures: The Rise of Restrictive Ballot Access Laws and the Decline of Electoral Competition in the United States details similar ideas. It cites the red scare after World War I as a primary motivation for restricting ballot access. It says in fact, that the first elections in the United States did not require ballot access laws at all.
Third parties challenging the legality of such restrictions is not new either. Williams v. Rhodes was the first minor party challenge to a modern ballot access law, according to Hall. In 2016 the Green Party was successful in getting the state of Georgia to reduce the number of signatures for presidential candidates from 54,000 to 7,500.
The case in question, Green Party of GA v. Kemp, also cites similar motivations in the historical restriction of ballot access. The case reads that plaintiffs assert that this requirement [5% signature rule] was adopted as a means of prohibiting Republicans, Communists, and Black people from accessing the Georgia ballot. The defendant contested this assertion. The Supreme Court has also upheld the 5% ballot access laws.
Despite past success and the extenuating circumstances of the pandemic, the judge of the court case this year upheld the procedures the Secretary of State set out, a 30% reduction of signatures.
Fortuin is running in the special election race against incumbent Kelly Loeffler. He claims that the special elections are the closest Georgia law comes to a fair shot for third parties and independents. The other enormous obstacle to fair elections in Georgia and for true voter choice is the absence of ranked choice voting in this state, said Fortuin.
Ranked choice voting is an electoral system in which voters would have the opportunity to rank candidates by their preference, according to Ballotpedia. In this system, if a candidate wins a majority of the first preference votes, they are declared the winner. If, however, they do not, the candidate with the fewest amount of first preference votes is eliminated, and the results are calculated with the second preference votes taken into account.
This would allow, at least hypothetically, the possibility for third-party and independent candidates to become more of a threat to the major parties. Fortuin illustrated this using the 2016 election. Some voters may have ranked Hillary Clinton first, Bernie Sanders second, and a Green or Libertarian Party as their third option, while leaving Donald Trump blank. It is possible, if not likely, that voters on either side of the spectrum wouldve preferred a third-party candidate to the opposing major party candidate. The current winner-takes-all system doesnt account for voter preference.
There have been folks that claim they are progressive democrats or libertarian minded folks who claim you must vote with the two major parties, however you never hear the same persons who are trying to force and guilt trip citizens into voting for the major parties advocate for ranked choice voting, Fortuin said. In his view, this is inherently dishonest if they do not mention ranked choice voting as a way to solve the so-called spoiler problem.
Cooper agreed that a ranked choice voting system would aid third parties as it wouldnt give voters the idea that their only choices were either the Democratic or Republican parties.
Democrats like to pretend that they own our vote, that somehow were beholden to them, said Hugh Esco.
Fortuin claims that voting systems now in Georgia are un-auditable on purpose. Ive dedicated decades of my life fighting against corrupt democrats [and republicans] and their steadfast support of computerized voting systems that are not dependent on a paper ballot that can be audited, he said.
Ballot access requirements in terms of percentage of signatures needed to run in a race need to be reduced 100-fold, said Fortuin. He would like to see Georgias requirements for signatures brought down to as low as 63, as opposed to the 6,000 he had to collect. Many countries have no requirements for petitioning to get on the ballot. We really do need to look at best practices abroad as well as domestically to model our democracy on, he said.
Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia (UGA), specializing in southern politics, legislative politics and elections, was not convinced that third parties will make much of a dent in November this year. All the evidence says theres a very small share of the electorate thats not committed to Biden or Trump, Bullock said.
There could be something to the idea of a ranked voting system, however. Bullock said that he can see movement in the direction of that kind of system in Georgia. I could imagine in the next few years there would be some discussion in the general assembly. I think the context in which this will be pushed is for primary elections but not necessarily general elections, he said. Among some reasons, this system in the primaries would eliminate the need for run-off elections, which struggle from low voter turnout, Bullock claimed. I would not be surprised to see Georgia adopt that for primaries, whether they extend that to general, Im not so sure, Bullock said.
One thing Bullock is sure of is that its very difficult to get on the ballot in Georgia as a third-party candidate.
Unless a person is fairly delusional, they dont anticipate that a third-party candidate is likely to win,said Charles Bullock.
Many third-party votes, according to him, are protest votes, throw away votes, or votes hoping that in the future the party will have more influence.
Another option, Bullock said, is to not vote at all. He said hes heard this specifically from progressives, who say Biden isnt liberal enough. Some of those folks are beginning to rethink that as a result of the vacancy on the Supreme Court, he said, in reference to the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Regardless of if third-party votes continue the trend of increasing this November, there seems to be movement in the direction of a different voting system. Distrust in the two party system and major party candidates could push American voters to a ranked choice voting system and into the welcoming arms of minor parties.
Meg Hansen is a senior majoring in religion and journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
Here is the original post:
- Were the Capitol Rioters Really Libertarians? - Foundation for Economic Education - January 29th, 2021
- A Florida Senator Wants to Exclude People With Felony Convictions from the State's Minimum Wage Increase - The Appeal - January 29th, 2021
- A new Chatham Elections Board member was sworn in last week. This week, she resigned. - Savannah Morning News - January 29th, 2021
- The political beliefs of the Class of 2024 by race, gender and other factors - Duke Chronicle - January 29th, 2021
- Livorno, the Rebel City Where Italy's Communist Party Was Born - Jacobin magazine - January 29th, 2021
- HB79 Allowing Minor Party Members To Vote In Primaries Passes Government, Elections And Indian Affairs Committee - Los Alamos Daily Post - January 29th, 2021
- Mostly libertarian demonstration gathered outside of closed, guarded Texas Capitol Sunday - WJTV - January 23rd, 2021
- Groups across Texas head to Texas Capitol for "mostly libertarian" demonstration - ArkLaTexHomepage - January 23rd, 2021
- Wikipedia 20th anniversary | The libertarian internet dinosaur has become the worlds largest encyclopedia - Inspired Traveler - January 17th, 2021
- Marshawn Wolley: Like the tea party, Trumpism will die - Indianapolis Business Journal - January 17th, 2021
- How the right claimed liberty and made it a toxic word - New Statesman - January 17th, 2021
- What is a libertarian? | Libertarianism.org - January 9th, 2021
- 5 things the Libertarian Party stands for | TheHill - January 9th, 2021
- We all bear the responsibility to come together - Williston Daily Herald - January 9th, 2021
- The Libertarian Alternative | Cato @ Liberty - Cato Institute - January 7th, 2021
- Libertarian and Green parties cry foul over ballot change - Niagara Gazette - January 7th, 2021
- Libertarian, Green parties file injunction in lawsuit aimed at state efforts to quell third parties - The Daily News Online - January 7th, 2021
- Yellow Gadsden flag, prominent in Capitol takeover, carries a long and shifting history - The Conversation US - January 7th, 2021
- 17,000 Onondaga County voters have a decision to make: Should I enroll in another party? - syracuse.com - January 7th, 2021
- Sue Lani Madsen: End this madness of brother against brother - The Spokesman-Review - January 7th, 2021
- What everyone needs to know about 2020 | OUPblog - OUPblog - January 7th, 2021
- Boris Johnson's lockdown rebels have gone quiet. But it won't be for long - The Guardian - January 7th, 2021
- Letter: Libertarian Party has the answers - Times Herald-Record - December 6th, 2020
- Libertarian Ron Paul: Legalize Bitcoin and Abolish the IRS - Decrypt - December 6th, 2020
- Why conservatives in the US today are really libertarians - Business Insider - Business Insider - December 6th, 2020
- Be Cool Like Kennedy! Donate to Reason, and Help Us Spread #HotFreedom - Reason - December 6th, 2020
- The Libertarian Argument Is the Best Argument Against Immunity Passports. But is it good enough? - Practical Ethics - December 6th, 2020
- From Libertarians To Nationalists, Millennials Are Shaping The New Right - The Federalist - December 6th, 2020
- Pinecone: The fringe political party saving the youth from political nihilism in Georgia - New Eastern Europe - December 6th, 2020
- 'We're Gonna Need a Bigger Website' - Reason - December 6th, 2020
- The Libertarian, Progressive, and Conservative Constitutions | Cato @ Liberty - Cato Institute - November 29th, 2020
- A record 3 million Hoosiers voted in the 2020 election - IndyStar - November 29th, 2020
- Final thoughts on the election - The Republic - November 29th, 2020
- Cobb County and the 2020 General Election: Part 1 - Cobb County Courier - November 29th, 2020
- Charles Koch and Brian Hooks: Believe in People - Reason - November 29th, 2020
- By the Numbers: Local communities were Biden country in Nov. 3 election - Reporter Newspapers - November 29th, 2020
- Opinion: Please don't let me bleed to death in the street - easternnewmexiconews.com - November 29th, 2020
- The Libertarian Moment That Never Comes - The New Republic - November 7th, 2020
- Meet Marshall Burt, Who's About To Become the Libertarian Party's Only Sitting State Legislator - Reason - November 7th, 2020
- Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate puts a wedge in a race that is too close to call - WCNC.com - November 7th, 2020
- Newly Launched Chicago Thinker Aims to Promote Conservative and Libertarian Views on Campus - The Chicago Maroon - November 7th, 2020
- Maybe Jo Jorgensen Finishing With 1% Would Actually Be Pretty Good? - Reason - November 7th, 2020
- Libertarian candidates share conversation and coffee - The Wellsboro Gazette - November 7th, 2020
- Cotton win good news, say parties of two rivals - Arkansas Online - November 7th, 2020
- Libertarian Free Will and the Kalam, Revisited | Jonathan MS Pearce - Patheos - August 17th, 2020
- Floating Cities and Sea-Level Rise - an unsinkable idea - Anthropoce - August 17th, 2020
- When Joe Biden Tried To Paint Clarence Thomas as a Crazy Libertarian - Reason - July 31st, 2020
- Libertarian Assembly candidate calls for line item veto to rein in spending, elimination of property taxes and more to get rid of 'tyranny' and bloat... - July 31st, 2020
- OPINION EXCHANGE | The last days of the tech emperors? - Minneapolis Star Tribune - July 31st, 2020
- Buchanan and Anarchism | Mises Wire - The Shepherd of the Hills Gazette - July 31st, 2020
- Trump Wanted To 'Throw Massie Out of Republican Party!' but the Libertarian-Leaning Congressman Just Won His Primary Anyway - Reason - June 24th, 2020
- Google's warning against the Federalist is why libertarians will lose fight over Big Tech - Washington Examiner - June 24th, 2020
- Texas-based conservative group funding 'green' PAC in MT - KTVH - June 24th, 2020
- Non-mask wearing fools - The Real Nurse Jackie - McKnight's Long Term Care News - June 24th, 2020
- Morelle with big lead over Wilt but absentee votes still to be tallied - WXXI News - June 24th, 2020
- Lockdown easing analysis: Boris Johnson's libertarian instincts returned... and he went further than anyone really expected - Evening Standard - June 24th, 2020
- How a fringe sect from the 1980s influenced No 10's attitude to racism - The Guardian - June 24th, 2020
- Radley Balko on George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the Libertarian Case for Criminal Justice Reform - Reason - June 17th, 2020
- While pro-marijuana parties thrive, other minor parties struggle - Southernminn.com - June 17th, 2020
- Letters: 'It is suggested that Boris's Libertarian beliefs were the reasons for delayed Lockdown' - The Northern Echo - June 17th, 2020
- OPINION EXCHANGE | At the center of that Supreme Court ruling were people - Minneapolis Star Tribune - June 17th, 2020
- The other Jo, wants your 2020 vote, if youre fed up with the two-party system or if youre not - WIZM NEWS - June 17th, 2020
- 'Where Are Libertarians on Police Reform?' Right Where We've Always Been. - Reason - June 13th, 2020
- Protests: Meet the Romney-Gary Johnson-Bloomberg voter embracing Black Lives Matter - Vox.com - June 13th, 2020
- What the Pandemic Revealed - Niskanen Center - June 13th, 2020
- Santa Cruz Shooting Suspect Preached Libertarian Ideals, Was Pushed Over the Edge By Police Actions Against Protesters, Friends Say - SFist - June 13th, 2020
- Libertarian Think Tank Praises Pelosis Call to Remove Confederate Statues from Capitol: Slavery is The Least Libertarian Thing Imaginable - Mediaite - June 13th, 2020
- How Not To Build a Transpartisan Coalition for Police Reform - Reason - June 13th, 2020
- Primary Election ballots are in the mail | YourHub - The Know - June 13th, 2020
- Scared for their jobs, Iowa Republicans are gaming the democratic process - The Gazette - June 13th, 2020
- 61 Quick Facts and Observations on Socialism, Jesus, and Wealth | Jon Miltimore - Foundation for Economic Education - June 13th, 2020
- Nelson lead up to 23 votes over Tarkanian - The Record-Courier - June 13th, 2020
- Amash decides against Libertarian campaign for president | TheHill - The Hill - May 19th, 2020
- Libertarian Group Sues Ohio Again On Behalf Of Closed Gyms - WOSU - May 14th, 2020
- The Libertarian Party Critique of Justin Amash - Reason - May 14th, 2020
- Third Parties Unlikely to Wreak Havoc in 2020 Election - New York Magazine - May 14th, 2020
- Modest meat reforms would help Americans stay fed during the pandemic - The Maine Wire - May 14th, 2020
- Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections | TheHill - The Hill - May 14th, 2020
- Drop off or in person, 8 p.m. is deadline to cast your vote in the primary election - North Platte Telegraph - May 14th, 2020
- Another ludicrous Thought of the Day from the BBC: The Bishop of Manchester assures us that we have libertarian free will - stopthefud - May 14th, 2020