Why Third Parties Don’t Win Elections

political reformWe hear it again and again in the news: voters are unhappy with Democrats and Republicans, approval of both major parties is in the dumps and there’s a general dislike for the status quo. So this year, more than any other, I want to give voters the low-down on why the status quo is going to stay the same. Sadly, whether you like it or not. It’s a problem that we’ve only recently become aware of with some regularity thanks to the decentralization of the Internet: the system is rigged this way.

You see, the truth is that even as more and more independent candidates are being fielded for office each year, the number of them actually being elected has remained relatively flat (that’s not to say it never happens, but that it’s just so rare that it’s relatively unnoticeable). I’ve decided it’s in everyone’s political best interests to identify and break down these walls that have been erected by both incumbents and an apathetic media for third parties in this country. Here’s my rough take on what these are (in order of apparent priority):

  • Restrictive ballot access laws
    If a major party candidate can keep rivals off the ballot, they can then ignore those voter’s concerns without fear of losing (especially if their major party rival does the same). Ignoring contrarian viewpoints has traditionally been a cornerstone of repressive government. Fair and equal ballot access reform should be a priority for all third parties and anyone interested in true political reform. Third parties largely need to move on from this issue if their only contention is that they aren’t recognized as a party, but their candidates have the same signature requirements as major parties.

  • Lackluster media coverage
    Traditionally, third party candidates have to sell their ideas much harder than their major party rivals because media organizations typically don’t find anything newsworthy about them (unless they are beating the voter disaffection drum and pretending to care). Sadly, this directly translates into lost votes since an uninformed voter will not vote for a candidate they have heard little or nothing about. Whether this is intentional slighting on the part of some media outlets or just laziness in covering politics is debatable. The most-covered independent campaigns are typically ones that field either a star/celebrity candidate (Kinky Friedman anyone?) or use novel approaches (read: publicity stunts) to force their way into the public eye.

  • Fundraising and volunteers
    This deserves to go after the media coverage, because while a campaign is usually small when it’s starting, the coverage of the campaign is what drives informed voters to begin financially supporting and volunteering for a campaign. Once the media coverage is triggered, a campaign can typically sustain it’s momentum through increased news generation, campaign events and fundraisers.

  • Inclusive polling
    Many pollsters will often lump all third parties into “other” categories or not include them at all. Unfortunately, without the aforementioned media coverage, when they are included they often fall into the 2% margins which can harm campaigns even more than not being included. One way that third parties can attack this issue is by openly criticizing the pollsters who are not inclusive and paying for their own polls to publicize themselves further. Another method is to sue state-funded university pollsters and take the case to a federal level.

  • Debating major candidates
    The bar has been set excruciatingly high for third parties, with organizations like the League of Women’s voters demanding 10-15% polling. This will never happen until the conditions above are met. Presidential candidates Michael Badnarik (L) and David Cobb (G) were arrested while trying to serve papers to cease the debates in 2004, but in reality it was little more than a variation of the publicity stunt angle, which paid off poorly for them to actually be in the debate, though it did help their publicity substantially (at least on the Internet).

  • Election day (voting methods)
    This is the last hurdle for third parties, and is often the most difficult. While many argue for a reform to Condorcet or IRV (Instant Runoff Voting), the reality is that those are both methods that are meant to short-circuit all the problems above. While logically we should be able to vote for candidates in order of ranked preference, it shouldn’t matter unless the race is a three-way extremely tight one. Personally, I would like to see this stay the last priority for third parties, since it’s not bound to change the outcome if their candidates remain unknown because of the walls stated before.

I won’t bore you with a lot of speculation on how these can all be miraculously fixed overnight, because the truth is we’re probably looking at a tough decade of electoral reform in fifty different wars for us to even have just a slim super-minority of candidates in federal office. I don’t look at our battles from an ideological presentation standpoint, because I truly don’t think that what’s been holding third parties back (Libertarian especially) is bad reception of the platform, or the pledge, or whatever.

I’m sure some people are always going to look at third parties and sniff their noses at one or two issues, leaving reformers and purists to duke it out amongst each other because they think that’s why they keep losing races. But in reality, it’s not.

Update: Richard Winger of Ballot Access News sez:

The article is unfair to the League of Women Voters. In about half the states, the League has sponsored televised debates for Governor and US Senator and invited everyone on the November ballot. The 15% rule is from the Commission on Presidential Debates, not the League of Women Voters.

I have to disagree on factual grounds here. I’m not sure which states Winger has info on where the LWV invites every valid candidate, but back in 2004 in California they told U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray to talk to the hand even after sponsoring his own poll through Rasmussen that got him 8% (the 3% MOE put him over their 10% entry barrier). Recently here in Ohio, gubernatorial candidate Bill Peirce recently got dissed because he needs to poll… drumroll please… 15%.

Update: Richard Winger writes back:

I only know about statewide offices. In 1994, Leagues invited at least some of the third party candidates for Governor and US Senator into their debates, in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota (those were gubernatorial debates); Delaware, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, Wyoming (those were US Senate debates), and US House-at-large, Montana and Vermont. When a state had two offices, I didn’t list the state twice.

It seems LWV requirements vary state by state. Plainly speaking, they should just invite everyone who’s on the ballot, otherwise it’s another unnecessary hurdle. They’ve actually raised their requirements in the past when pressured by Ds & Rs, so don’t act surprised if a third party sues them over their non-profit status requiring them to be non-partisan one day soon… and wins.

Update: Richard Shepard sent a link to his recent article on third parties at Tacoma, Washington’s paper — The News Tribune. There’s an interesting statistic he cites from Pew Research:

We have ample evidence the two-party system is not meeting Americans’ needs. Polls reveal a steady decline in voter participation, a lack of trust in government, and a desire for alternatives.

A Pew Research Center report, “In Search of Ideologues in America,” identifies four political philosophies of government. Roughly 33 percent of the public falls into the well-known “liberal” or “conservative” philosophical camps. Another 25 percent agrees with the lesser-known “libertarian” or “populist” philosophies even though they do not self-identify that way.

It seems out of the three biggest parties/ideologies, we’re all in the polling minority. Sobering, but it gives ammo to the argument that we need more choice on the ballot and that the media should be covering more than the two majors.

posted by vforvandyke
  • http://www.reformthelp.org Carl

    Election methods are the biggest reason third parties are not taken seriously. I think we should push approval voting; it’s much simpler than either IRV or Condorcet.

    Restrictive ballot access laws in nearly every state are not a real problem for a third party big enough to have a realistic shot at winning. In fact, having some restrictions HELPS the credibility of those third parties that get past this barrier. In North Carolina LP candidates and the LP in general got their money’s worth and more in credibility in return for the high expense of ballot access. Equivalent statewide media buys would not have been as valueable.

  • IanC

    With candidate awareness ballot access laws are easier to overcome. A Democrat (today) would have an easier time surpassing an equally stringent ballot restriction compared to a Libertarian or a Green or a Constitutional.

    Media validation of the Libertarian Party is essential, and nigh-unto nonexistant.

    I have my opinions as to why this is, and I cannot stress enough that I speak from observation — *FAR* too many individuals treat their candidacies as nothing more than a soap-box from which to promote their ideologies rather than attempt to be elected. While the two *NEED NOT BE EXCLUSIVE* — if one acts with such total disregard for the latter possibility that such statements as “By not voting for us the public is doing us a favor” then that one is acting against the viability of *ALL* LP candidates.

    It needs to stop.

  • IanC

    And for the record; I regret Loretta Nall’s failure to reach ballot status and wish her all the best in luck as a write-in.

    And I am rooting for Mr. Badnarik

  • IanC

    Ach — got cut off! I plan to vote for Barry Hess & Ernest Hancock as well.

  • Michael H. Wilson

    How many of our candidates begin planning 18 months ahead of the election? From what I have seen too many seem to think that getting started just before the election will give them enough time. How many plan to walk their district be it a race for city council or state legislature?
    Running is by no means easy. I’ve done it and know it isn’t. But it is time we got serious and put the paper candidates away in the lockbox.
    I have to give Vermont credit for taking the time to raise seed money for their candidates. That is excellent.
    M.H.W. in Vancouver, WA

  • http://www.libertyforsale.com Timothy West

    Ihave my opinions as to why this is, and I cannot stress enough that I speak from observation ”” *FAR* too many individuals treat their candidacies as nothing more than a soap-box from which to promote their ideologies rather than attempt to be elected. While the two *NEED NOT BE EXCLUSIVE* ”” if one acts with such total disregard for the latter possibility that such statements as “By not voting for us the public is doing us a favor” then that one is acting against the viability of *ALL* LP candidates.

    It needs to stop.

    Ian – this is probably the founding reason I started writing about the LP 2 years ago. The party was not about politics, and it should have been. Since 1983, it’s been about converting others into libertarians, which is important work that needs to be done.

    BUT NOT BY THE POLITICAL PARTY. The political party has to do politics, in all it’s roughness and crudeness and compromise and dealmaking and vote getting….

  • http://www.team8z.com Charles Como

    Is we could introduce second chance voting, the polarization of the country would go away and we would end up with a thrd party candidate we would all like.

    You write your firsts choice, then your second choince then the person you would not like to win.. the extreme candidates would cancel each other out and the one person that appeals to both sides would win.

    It is explained here: http://www.genarts.com/karl/second-choice-voting.html

  • http://warcriminals.freeservers.com Sol

    Perot scared the cr*p out of our Demopublican-Republicrat rulers and they learned their lesson well which is why even though more American voters than ever are registered with third parties (mostly Independent), third party candidates have had as little success as ever.

    The more voters become disillusioned with the Demopublican-Republicrats and leave those parties, the more our rulers try to put up barriers for third parties.

  • Robert White

    The biggest problem for third-party parties is the take-um-from-the-top mentality. A third-party president would be a disaster since that person would never be able to get anything done, nor stop anything.

    To effectively _create_ a third party, that party needs to win _local_ elections, then state elections, _then_ federal posts.

    Trying to put a libertarian (e.g.) into the white house is a joke if there aren’t a bunch of libertarians in congress, repeat as necessary right down to the shcool board in your town.

  • JPS

    Perhaps if there was a viable, MODERATE third party, they might get decent voting results. Seems to me like most third party candidates are too radical.

  • Ken A

    The ballot system is the heart of the problem. If you’re voting strategically, voting for a third candidate is irrational, and the math to prove it is pretty simple. In a first-past-the-post system, voting for a third party that will not win gives a boost to the viable candidate (of the top two) that you like less.

    Anything more than a two-party system is unstable under plurality rule, and can’t be maintained. The only option to have a viable system with more than two parties is to change the voting method. Anything else will simply result in one of the major parties ceasing to exist if a third party gains prominence, leading us straight back to…now.

  • http://www.libertyforsale.com Timothy West

    I also disagree with the surmise of the post. It’s true that the other items hurts the LP terribly. But the internal culture of the LP and it’s mutally exclusive goals of putting philosophy before politics was/is the major problem.

    The culture of an organization has more to do with the products it makes more than any other reason. In our case, the product that the LP put out for many years was simply not acceptable to the consumers. It was a product that was defined and engineered right from the start to NOT appeal to the masses. When the consumers didnt buy our product, instead of improving the product, we blamed the consumer fo being too stupid to understand what we offered them.

    The culture of the LP for more years than it should have been was to reward CONVERSIONS of those not libertarian. Poeple conversion is not the right job for a political party —–>in the manner that the LP tried to do it.

    It’s water under the bridge now.

  • http://crazyforliberty.com Doug Craig

    Guys the reason we dont win is lack of prep.We also need people to help that have been through a campaign before.we need to prepare earlier then we do.We need to learn how to put off T.V. commercails.We need to learn how to call a reporter and ask for and interview.When Badnarik came to Atlanta two years ago we line up interviews for him.The press did not call us.How many candidate have never read a campaign manual.We have to get better and learn from past campaigns

  • http://www,rhymezilla.com Nook Schreier

    JPS is quite right, to an extent. Too many people join a 3rd party simply because it isn’t one of the two controlling parties. I won’t claim it’s a majority of 3rd-ers, but the vocal minority tend to be _very_ vocal: just like the noisy ones in the two major parties who are swayed by issues over and over again even though they never get what they want (gay marriage bans immediately come to mind).

    We need (I say “we” as a Libertarian, but realistically, EVERYONE) to be more aware of the people we support, and what we believe they will actually do, as opposed to what they say they will do. And we also have to be realistic in our political desires. Sure, most of us want certain freedoms that appear to have been lost or should never have been denied, but the reality is that if we try to push all of our “agendas” (and I do not mean that in a derogatory way) all at once, the backlash will overwhelm the candidates’ chances of election.

    Think “burning a candle at both ends.”

  • Karl Hungus

    The reason why third parties don’t win elections is because they usually run on horrible platforms.

  • Peasant

    The most successful “libertarian” is listed as a member of the GOP. Is Ron Paul’s route one to consider?

  • http://www.reformthelp.org Carl

    To win in this country as a third party requires meeting two nearly exclusive criteria:
    1. Mainstream enough to attract a plurality somewhere
    2. Has a support base that is indifferent to the Democratic/Republican choice.

    Usually, condition 2 is met by radicals, which results in failing to meet criterion 1. This is why third parties nearly always fail.

    However, if you triangulate a 2-D political map which has equally important axes, it is possible for a third party to become big.

    See:
    http://reformthelp.org/theory/positioning/win.php
    (previously published in LP News)

    There is a market niche screaming out to be taken. Will the LP take it? Or do we need a new party?

  • http://www.pnar.org Tom Blanton

    Thank you Mr. VanDyke for addressing some of the actual reasons third parties have little success winning elections. It probably will take ten years to deal with some of these problems – that is if we don’t waste another 10 or 20 or 30 years arguing about the LP pledge we all signed.

    I would disagree with Mr. West that the “product” the LP has put out has not been acceptable to the “consumers”. Far to few “consumers” have been exposed to the product and even less have given it serious consideration.

    I also disagree that the LP “product” was designed “NOT” to appeal to the masses. The product was not designed, it designed itself. If Mr. West meant that the LP did not promote issues that pander to voters by telling them what we thought they wanted to hear, then he is correct. If he means that people intentionally promoted issues that would repel voters, I would say this is ridiculous.

  • Ken Arnold

    I think this is exactly backwards: The are two major reasons. First, voters are concerned about “wasting” a vote — even if the 3rd party candidate wins, they will either be a tiny, ineffective voice or they’ll effectively align with one of the major parties to have an affect. And this also translates to lack of interest that’s cyclically reinforcing with the lack of publicity.

    The second is that the people who run the major parties aren’t dopes. If someone starts winning elections on a particular platform, one or both parties will co-opt the issue. Which means that major changes in the electorate are adapted to by the parties, keeping marginal parties marginal by denying them unique cutting issues.

    So the really important thing to fix is the instant runoff voting. Then people can see what the real power is of the third-party and independent ideas. Making it visible makes it more powerful.

  • Trea

    I listen to a podcast by Dan Carlin, and he has hounded on this issue for a little while now. He lives in Oregon, and he has used examples from local rules that are obviously designed to keep 3rd parties out of the running. His biggest gripe is the fact that we may never see 3rd party candidates in debates until the rules are drastically changed. And, whether or not you plan on voting on a 3rd party, a 3rd party candidate changes the debates entirely. Who can forget the effect Perot had on the debates? Of course, that is exactly what spawned the ridiculous debate rules. Sol is right, he scared the crap out of them. I’m just glad to see more people talking about this.

  • http://www.pnar.org Tom Blanton

    I have never blamed consumers for being too stupid to embrace libertarian solutions. Instead I have blamed the very reasons Mr. VanDyke lists above as to why third parties lose elections. I blame the LP for the failure to develop more effective outreach. I blame the lack of funds to compete with two of the most well funded and best managed propaganda machines in the history of mankind (the GOP and the Dems). I blame libertarians who lack the courage of their convictions and the passion to motivate others.

    Politics is about people – it is not about charts and it is not an alogrithm.

    I can guarantee you that Thomas Paine did not triangulate a 2-D political map before he wrote “Common Sense”. In the past, real change has happened because passionate people who believed in something stood up and led. They weren’t concerned about cornering a market niche, the were concerned with what was right and with creating a better world for their families, friends and neighbors.

  • http://www.ballot-access.org Richard Winger

    The article is unfair to the League of Women Voters. In about half the states, the League has sponsored televised debates for Governor and US Senator and invited everyone on the November ballot. The 15% rule is from the Commission on Presidential Debates, not the League of Women Voters.

  • Wes P

    Tom, the Revolution was not an election.

  • Wes P

    By the way, what the hell is going on in that picture at the top of the post?

  • Tim

    I do believe Carl and Doug Craig both have points. A well run grass routes campaign that has the ability(think financing) to get media spots(TV, radio commercials, etc) may get news media attention if they can find a message that resonates with the people(think the Dean campaign before it imploded). All candidates must have a message but they can’t be a nut-job either, too many third party candidates are. I agree that there is a niche screaming to be taken but everyone also must consider; Money! Both major parties have enough to squelch anyone out. If the message gets heard by the people and people can identify with the candidate and their message then they have a slight chance.

  • egoriot

    You have missed the biggest reason there will probably always be two dominant parties in the US. As any political scientist will tell you, it is that we use plurality vote. Countries with proportional representation (e.g. Netherlands, Israel) have MANY small parties. Countries with plurality vote (US, UK) have two big parties.

    That’s basically it. Nice list, though.

  • egoriot

    The effect I’m talking about is called Deverger’s law. Any decent introductory political science course should cover it.

  • Brian Lisa

    IT’S A TWO PARTY SYSTEM! The way to win is to target one of the major parties for marginalization. Do that effectively year after year and the third party disadvantages will melt!
    Victory after victory will follow!

  • Reece

    Egoriot,
    But even Duverger’s Law isn’t ironclad. In any case, it can be used to generate third parties. The common thought is that you have to have geographically concentrated majorities that have interests divergent from the two main parties. The failure of 3rd parties in the US is partially the fault of our election laws and partially the fault of the 3rd parties themselves. If Greens or Libertarians want representation, they should find a district that is most favorable to them and dump all their resources into that one district instead of spreading it all across the country in a futile attempt to win the presidency. On the flip side of that, it would be good if 3rd parties that did that–got someone elected to Congress–could get federal matching funds for the next election.

  • tony

    candidates are selected, not elected. people should really wake up to this. democrat and republican are two sides of the same coin, both working for the wealthy elite. as long as you have the voting machine company as one of the top republican contributors, that alone should say we are in serious trouble. i may be badly misinformed but from what i’ve read, almost all of the u.s presidents are traceable back to the same bloodlines. do your own research on that, i may be way off but i don’t think so. after all bush and kerry were cousins.

  • egoriot

    Reece,
    You’re right on. There have been exceptions to Duverger’s Law, and one of the main conditions under which they occur is significant geographic differences. Quebec’s separatist party is a great example of this.

    If Duverger’s Law is so obvious as to be understood context for this list, then my apologies. If not, the list has a gaping hole.

  • http://www.libertyforsale.com Timothy West

    egoriot,

    I don’t know about such things. I am basically a dumb fucking redneck from West Virginia. :D

    But even I, a bald headed truck driver lookin fat slob from Ignoramous, West Virginia, knows that all “permament systems” fail of their own weight someday. No empire lives for long, and the American Empire Bush is building will as well, faster than you think.

  • egoriot

    Timothy,

    Maybe the Republican and Democratic parties will not always be the major ones. Unless our voting system changes, though, I see no reason to expect we will ever have more than two dominant parties.

    As an example, the two major parties in the early 19th century were the Democrats and the Whigs. The Republicans gained strength over the slavery issue and eventually replaced the Whigs as the second dominant party.

  • http://www.libertyforsale.com Timothy West

    My prediction: the Republicans will follow the same fate as the Whigs within 8 years of 2008.

  • http://crazyforliberty.com Doug Craig

    Guys come how there is not a great resource where our candidates can go and get basic info. They need to know where to get yard signs,flyers,buttons and etc.How come as a group we dont produce commercials together.We could produce commercials for single subjects.Property rights,gun rights war on drugs wellyou get it. We could also make them for certain races, like gov,us senate or us house the we could ad the candidate to the first 5 seconds.We could use alist campaign managers. I could go on.

  • http://www.edthompson.com Rolf Lindgren

    “paying for their own push polls”

    I was assisting with Gray’s campaign for this poll and wrote most of the poll questions, it was not a push poll.

    The poll, among other things, measured how many people liked Gray the best (18%) and how many would vote for him ‘if the election were held today’ (8%)

    Wasted vote syndrome accounts for the difference.

    Polls can either be predictors of final results, or measurers of support.

    Gray’s support was 18%.

    Predictor polls in July are very biased because they become a self-fulfilling prophecies.

    They make it look like the level of support for third party candidates is far less than it really is.

  • http://www.edthompson.com Rolf Lindgren

    MORE ON POLLING:

    Standard polls also underreport ‘undecided’ voters.

    They typically make it look like only 10%-15% are undecided in the summer before an election, which is ridiculous.

    Example:

    Typical Reported Poll;

    Republican A >>> 45%
    Democrat B >>> 45%
    Undecided >>> 10%

    However, much of the republicrat numbers are pushed. They double or triple ask to get a response from people who initially say they are undecided.

    Real Poll Results;

    Republican A >>> 30%
    Democrat B >>> 30%
    Undecided >>> 40%

    If pollsters reported polls showing 40% undecided, then Third parties would have the perception that they have a chance to win.

  • http://www.edthompson.com Rolf Lindgren

    Regarding Richard Winger’s comment:

    I was working with Judge Gray to get him into the debates.

    The League said he needed 10%.

    However, Tom Cox of Oregon had told me at the national convention 2004, that he got into governor debates 2002 while only polling at 7% (when the League said he needed 10%).

    Tom said that the margin of error was 4% in the poll so he said he could be at 7 + 4 = 11% and he got in.

    I suspect the League, being liberal, knew that Tom was a ‘right-libertarian’ who would ‘steal’ more votes from the republican if he got exposure in the debates.

    Tom finished with 5%, the 2nd best in the nation for a Libertarina governor candidate to only Ed Thompson.

  • Jonathan Crawford

    OK, no one here is really hitting on a big source of the problem. It’s the people of our nation that are wronging the third-parties. Such an insane amount of voters are rigid and stubborn and set that they will never change their vote or even consider to change it. “No, that’s stupid, We’re right and that’s stupid,”; that’s how these people are raised, and change to so many of them is like a cancer. Granted the LP and GP and other third parties are losing out on the for-mentiond concepts in this article, but it’s the fact that so many voters have been raised to see only two parties. Try and convince a midwestern or Bible-belt Christian that there may be another view on religion and you will get shut out completly. That is because they were raised only seeing that. And that’s all that basically every generation in this and the last century have been raised seeing. Aim at the schools for reform. If we can teach political deversity at younger ages, then maybe a real reform will take hold.

  • http://www.randomactofkindness.com Jeff Trigg

    Thanks for the link. I’m not a fan of the LWV either. In 2002, the LP candidate for Governor Cal Skinner polled over 5% and the LWV invited him to their debate. Ryan and Blagojevich turned down the LWV debate for the first time in some 40 years. They went to debates where Cal was not invited.

    So in 2004 the LWV upped their requirement to 10% in a poll. There was only one poll done with all four ballot candidates and they wouldn’t accept the “within the margin” agrument. Alan Keyes even held a joint press conference with us demanding all 4 candidates be included in the debates. It was golden boy Barack Obama who refused to include the LP and independent candidate while we were all at the planning meetings. I do think the LWV would have waved the 10% requirement if anti-Democrat Obama hadn’t insisted. The debates are a big fundraiser for them so they were looking after their interests I’m sure, for what that is worth. The Rs and Ds forced them exclude us by passing on their debates.

  • http://www.randomactofkindness.com Jeff Trigg

    And on the why they don’t win theme, one strong influence was over-looked. You have to have substantial ground troops going door to door year after year. It’s old school, but it’s still the best way to get votes. Building relationships with your neighbors and community can’t be beat.

    When I was in the LP I walked my precinct three straight campaign years, and for three straight elections my precinct had more votes for the LP candidates than every other precinct in the county, increasing each election. And I didn’t walk it enough and just stuck flyers in most doors instead of going back to talk to each household. I didn’t even half-ass it in other words. Our US Senate candidate got beat by the independent in all but a few counties, and mine was one.

    “Oh yeah, I know that Libertarian guy that came by to talk about his candidate and lives around the corner. He wasn’t a wacko so his candidate must not be that bad.” Needless to say, going door to door isn’t everyone’s strong suit.

  • http://www.randomactofkindness.com Jeff Trigg

    I’ll take exception to Carl’s first comment. While I see the argument that a well-oiled campaign should be able to overcome most ballot access hurdles, that doesn’t account for the massive time and expense jumping those hurdles that could be used on actual campaigning. Not to mention challenges (in Illinois anyway) that delay knowing you are on the ballot for sure until mid-August, as the GP is experiencing right now.

    As for which state is the worst, it depends on which office you are talking about. For state legislature, Illinois is the worst for independent candidates of any election jurisdiction in the world. Statewide office Illinois isn’t that bad, but I’d say we contend with Georgia for the worst US House requirements. We have 90 days to get 5% of the last vote, they have 180 days to 5% of registered voters. On a sig per day basis, Illinois is worse. And in Illinois there is no way to petition for all partisan races in the state. That would take about 4 million sigs in 90 days.

  • http://kinkyisawesome.blogspot.com/ Kinky is Awesome

    Here’s my official list of 10 reasons Texas Republicans should vote for Kinky (I stole this list from a whiney liberal, but I fixed it to take out the whining):
    (1) Kinky has run for office in the past as a Republican,

    (2) Kinky voted for Bush/Cheney in 2004,

    (3) Kinky’s interview with Ruminator magazine confirms that he supported Bush’s Middle East foreign policy,

    (4) Kinky’s public voting records confirm he was mistaken when he said he voted for Gore in 2000,

    (5) Kinky hasn’t voted for a Democrat in any election at least from 1994 to 2004,

    (6) Kinky wants to take time during the school day for prayers in schools,

    (7) Kinky wants to post the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms,

    (8) Kinky is not obsessed with political correctness,

    (9) Kinky knows how to deal with illegal aliens from Mexico, and

    (10) Kinky’s immigration policy of hiring Mexican generals to police our border is a great idea that John McCain has endorsed.

  • Lex

    Don’t blame the media, blame the voters. Every serious candidate from every party has a decent website, and any voter who cares can go read them and decide who to vote for.

    Most people just plain don’t care, because they perceive (perhaps justly) that their votes make zero difference.

  • Lex

    It’s the system that’s broken. If we all had to (or got to) live under the government we voted for, everyone would put a lot more time and effort into the decision.

    As it stands now, we are relegated to living under the government of the ill-informed masses.

  • http://www.thirdpartywatch.com Austin Cassidy

    Third party candidates can and do win elections when they run proper campaigns. If you want to run for State Senate in Florida, for example, you’ll need between $250,000 and $400,000 to win a seat. Plus, your campaign needs to start AT LEAST 18 months before the election and you need to have an office, staff, and campaign materials handled way out in advance. Commercials for television and radio produced, etc.

    What third party candidate for any office… hell, even Presidential candidate, has actually done this?

    Then, the other “kicker” is that the candidate has to have two vital traits:

    (1) Credibility and experience, specifically in the political or business world. And being treasurer of your county’s party doesn’t cut it.

    (2) A platform that addresses the issues other candidates are talking about, isn’t so radical that people dismiss you as nut, and can be easily related in 3 to 5 quick “points” on literature and in speeches.

  • http://www.thirdpartywatch.com Austin Cassidy

    If you have money, you can hire a small staff and buy advertising. The advertising leads to supporters, donors, and volunteers.

    You need lots and lots of volunteers. The media attention will follow because your volunteers and your advertising will get their attention.

    Ballot access is often annoyingly difficult, but for the most part (there are a handful of really extreme states) if you can’t get on the ballot you didn’t really have much of a chance of winning the election anyway.

    Advertising -> Free Media and Volunteers -> Inclusion into Polls -> Inclusion into Debates -> More Free Media -> More Fundraising and Volunteers -> More Advertising -> A Good Showing on Election Day (maybe even winning!)

    Another terrible habit is the “Hi, how are ya? Can I be mayor?” situation where a guy moves to a new city and within 3 years he’s working on his second run for mayor or city council or something. Winning candidates put down roots in the community!

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  • http://vintermann.paranoidkoala.org Harald Korneliussen

    Here’s a mathemathical riddle/fable to explain voting problems: The republic of Ingenistan is a new but successful democracy, where the elections are not rigged, and people are not bullied. Now, the former dictator of Ingenistan is a candidate for president, and a journalist conducts a rigorous study of the people’s opinion of him. She finds that 65% of the population agrees with the statement “Anyone is better than the old dictator!”

    Yet, the dictator wins. How?

  • http://86theDream.blogspot.com Charles Jillian

    The Socialist Equality Party has been at the front of this fight in Illinois, where the Democratic Party arbitrarily challenges signatures so that it’s necessary for the party to get twice that which is required by law. Check it out

    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/jul2006/illi-j11.shtml

  • Michael H. Wilson

    Rolf writes: “However, Tom Cox of Oregon had told me at the national convention 2004, that he got into governor debates 2002 while only polling at 7% (when the League said he needed 10%).”

    Rolf as I recall the first debate was sponsored by the Business Journal and a Libertarian who works there went to his boss and asked that Tom be in the debate. That helped in a big way. BTW Tom got a bit less than 5% of the vote.
    He also wrote in his Voter’s Pamphlet statement that he would veto any legislation to legalize drugs. The pamphlet was mailed to some 800,000 homes in Oregon and I had people I never discuss politics with asking how a libertarian could say such a thing.
    M.H.W.

  • ben

    Diebold & ESS can be added to the list. They’re CERTAINLY the reason we don’t have fair elections.

    http://911archive.org/view.php?sec=other&id=17

  • http://www.eatme.com Derek Ickler

    If a Nat’l 3rd party concentrated all resources on one state’s local and state elections over many years where they’ve had past success, eventually they would become relevant.

    I propose that the Libertarian and Constitutional parties merge and take over a western state like AZ or TX. Also, the Green Party and Socialist-type parties could merge and take over VT or MA. These merged parties would be effective alternatives to the Rep. and Dem. parties respectively in those states.

    Once the GP or LP became a force in those states they could try and spread across the country state-by-state. I completely agree that a 3rd party presidential campaign is a total waste. I for one would love to see the Libertarian Party (and I suppose other parties to) GET A TOEHOLD on american politics in this manner.

    Feeling sorry for 3rd parties we like because the system is “rigged” is pathetic. Indeed the “duopoly” has a huge advantage but we can win the smaller battles if we are focused them.

  • http://www.edthompson.com Rolf Lindgren

    Michael,

    “He also wrote in his Voter’s Pamphlet statement that he would veto any legislation to legalize drugs. The pamphlet was mailed to some 800,000 homes in Oregon and I had people I never discuss politics with asking how a libertarian could say such a thing.”

    Many “conservative” Libertarians are afraid the “drug issue” will scare away voters.

    Point 1: In Tom Cox’s case, a lot more than 5% want drugs legalized. It’s closer to 35% according to polls.

    point 2: If you want to scare voters, tell them you want to “privatize” public schools and tell the voters you will shut down all public schools (even if public schools are created in your state constitution).

    Shutting down all public schools has an approval rating of about 5%.

  • http://www.shepardelectionlaw.com Richard Shepard

    For an article recently published in the Tacoma, Washington News Tribune on this subject, go here –> http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/othervoices/story/5926436p-5230086c.html

  • Michael H. Wilson

    Rolf writes: “In Tom Cox’s case, a lot more than 5% want drugs legalized. It’s closer to 35% according to polls.”

    And I think that if Tom had just kept his mouth shut he would have picked up a percentage or two. However, there may be another angle. Less than 10% of Oregon’s prisoners are in for drug offenses, but if you look specifically about 20% of the women are there for that crime. Although these numbers are old we tried to get him to play the sympathy vote. That being, the mom is in prison because she didn’t have anyone to roll over on. Her boyfriend got off and she went to the big house. That routine seems to be a hit with a lot of females and neither the demos or repubs want to deal with it. I am simplifying it but I think you can uderstand what I am suggesting.
    M.H.W.

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  • http://fuckinretard.com/blogn/ Sodo

    We also need to play watchdog at the polls. I once had to berate a poll worker into getting the Libertarian ballots out of the trunk of her car. She didn’t bother to bring them in because she didn’t think anyone would want one. No doubt it wasn’t the first time a poll worker made the voters’life easier by keeping the choices down to two parties.

  • http://www.vtlp.org/ Hardy Machia

    Michael writes: “How many plan to walk their district be it a race for city council or state legislature? … I have to give Vermont credit for taking the time to raise seed money for their candidates. That is excellent.”

    All of Vermont’s candidates for state house will be knocking on all of the doors in their districts. We will be doing district wide voter surveys for id’ing voters. We will be sending as many direct mail pieces as we have funds for. Your donations mean more direct mail pieces. The US Supreme Court recently threw out all of Vermont’s donation and expenditure limits, so please donate at http://www.vtlp.org/

  • http://www.vtlp.org/ Hardy Machia

    For those of you concerned about the LWV not inviting all candidates, the simple solution is get involved and join the league. FYI, they do let men join (at least in Vermont). My wife and I joined last year. My wife is now on one of their regional boards. They are currently planning on holding a partisan debate, and we are working from the inside to open up to everyone who is on the ballot in Vermont.

  • macedonia

    Sorry about my english

    The democrats and the republicans are doing the same thing to there people as to the rest of the world, they are f…ing them.

    Why???????

    The candidates dont want to lose the power. So they are geting it in the most easyest way, by throing millions of dollars on campaigns, getting on the news, charity, giving 5 to celebrities etc. If they are using those tactics ask your selfs, do you think that they care about you.

    In simple words: The more stupider the candidate, the more money he has to spent to win, and George Bush is a billionare, long live the empire