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Third Parties

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Published: Sat, 01 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Sat, 01 Oct 2016 15:26:01 -0400


Ballot Access: Another Way Dems and the GOP Screw Third Parties

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 10:37:00 -0400

"A multi-party system is normal," says Richard Winger, publisher and editor of Ballot Access News. "You only have a two party system if there's repression. It's not natural."

With both major parties offering up two of the most unpopular presidential candidates in modern history, many voters (and the media) are paying more attention to third party options such as Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

But while independent candidates are gaining in popularity, getting them on the ballot to vote for them can be a long and costly process.

"There's so many ways in which the United States is near the bottom of democracy," says Winger, an expert in election law and ballot access. "There's been unbelievable hostility in the last few months to minor parties."

This hostility has resulted in states changing their ballot access rules—sometimes at the last minute—in an effort to exclude minor parties from the ballot.

One recent example of this was Gary Johnson's fight to remain on the ballot as a presidential candidate in Ohio after the secretary of state threatened to remove his name thanks to a frequently used rule that allows placeholder candidates when fulfilling ballot access requirements (read more about the incident here.)

"Ohio law explicitly says people who use the independent candidate petition procedure put a substitution committee on the petition," states Winger. But when it came time to remove the placeholder name and add Gary Johnson's, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted "acted like he never heard of such a thing!" Winger exclaimed.

Johnson eventually qualified for the ballot as an independent candidate after his supporters turned in the necessary 5,000 petition signatures to Husted in late August.

"They act like the secretary of state did the Libertarians a big favor by letting them use this thing which has been used all along," Winger says. "It's just so maddening."

Reason TV recently sat down with Winger to discuss which states have the worst ballot access laws, why the major parties give independent candidates such a hard time when it comes to getting on the ballot, and the consequences of a two party duopoly.

"This is one the things that anchors me being a libertarian," says Winger. "Before the government got involved in printing ballots we had total freedom."

Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Alex Manning and Paul Detrick. Music by Alex Fitch.

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USA Today Reporter Blows Jill Stein’s Cover; Candidate Arrested at Debate Site

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 17:47:00 -0400

Media fact-checking of the first presidential debate started before the candidates even arrived on Monday. Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee, did not qualify for the debate (even though Monday's event undoubtedly would be improved by the inclusion of additional candidates like Stein and Gary Johnson) because she is not polling at 15 percent. Undeterred by the arbitrary rules set by the Commission on Presidential Debates, it appears that Stein intended to show up at the debate site anyway—until her cover was blown by a Eliza Collins, a reporter for USA Today. I'm pretty sure Jill Stein just boarded the media bus at the Hofstra University #Debates2016 — Eliza Collins (@elizacollins1) September 26, 2016 Stein told the newspaper in August that she was planning to crash the debate. She did the same thing four years ago, and the stunt ended with Stein handcuffed to a chair. USA Today reported that Collins' tweet "scrambled law enforcement officials" who tracked down Stein on the Hempstead, New York, campus of Hofstra University, where the debate is being held tonight. Stein's campaign says she was on her way to record an interview with MSNBC when she was "escorted off the campus." .@DrJillStein being escorted off the campus of #Hofstra: "This is what democracy looks like." #debatenight #Debates2016 — lancegould (@lancegould) September 26, 2016 The campaign is planning a protest with supporters outside the debate site tonight. "The Commission on Presidential Debates is trying to exclude myself and Gary Johnson from the debate on Monday night on the campus of Hofstra University," Stein wrote on Facebook earlier this week. "I'm going to be there anyway. The American public has a right to hear real debate about real issues affecting real people." Unfortunately for Stein, the area around Hofstra is teaming with more than 1,000 law enforcement officials and "and various checkpoints have been set up throughout the sprawling campus to avoid people without credentials from gaining access to secure areas, according to the Long Island Press. If you want to hear from candidates who aren't Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tonight, check out Reason's livestream with Johnson and his runningmate Bill Weld. Even Trump thinks they should get to debate: src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]

Gary Johnson Getting Nearly as Many LGBT Voters as Trump

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 12:40:00 -0400

(image) A new poll has Hillary Clinton dominating Donald Trump with registered gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender voters. This is not terribly surprising news. But both Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are drawing some notable numbers from the LGBT community.

NBC partnered with Survey Monkey to track likely voters for two weeks in September. In a head-to-head matchup between Clinton and Trump, Clinton won overwhelmingly, 72 percent to 20 percent. Those numbers are generally comparable to the split in the LGBT vote in previous elections.

But the poll also evaluated a four-way matchup. There, both Clinton's and Trump's numbers dropped. Clinton would beat Trump for the LGBT vote, 63 percent to 15 percent. Johnson would get 13 percent of the LGBT vote and Stein would get 8 percent. So the third-party candidates are pulling 9 percentage points worth of LGBT votes from Clinton and 5 percentage points from Trump. And given that the head-to-head matchup shows an 8 percent either undecided or declining to say, it's safe to say that there's a good number of LGBT voters unhappy with their major party choices.


By and large, though, the poll also shows that LGBT voters view Clinton much more positively than the general public. Among those polled, 59 percent view Clinton positively. Her popularity numbers when comparing the LGBT community to the general community are essentially reversed. Trump's favorability rating is even worse among LGBT voters than it is among the general public. Only 17 percent of LGBT voters view Trump favorably.

Trump's unpopularity with the LGBT community should be seen as rather striking, given that he's less openly hostile on gay issues than previous Republican candidates. But policy-wise, he's extremely unpredictable. He has taken both sides on the debate over whether North Carolina can ban transgender people from using the school or government bathrooms and other facilities of their choice. He has, as the election gone on, essentially taken every Republican position, including opposition to the legal recognition of gay marriage.

Clinton, meanwhile has promised the LGBT community anything any activist group has asked for, a host of new federal laws and regulations to protect them, and just about anything at all to get the gay vote.

But clearly a good chunk of LGBT voters are thinking beyond gay issues, which is not unusual. What is unusual is that these third-party candidates are siphoning off such large numbers. According to the poll, 70 percent of the LGBT voters who responded identify as Democrats or lean Democrat. That means Clinton is losing seven percentage points from LGBT voters within her party when Johnson and Stein are offered.

The LGBT voting community is not large. They accounted for seven percent of this total voting sample. But given how close the polls are now, that's enough to swing an election outcome.

Even Donald Trump Wants Gary Johnson in the Debates

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 10:00:00 -0400

So when it comes to the first presidential debate, only Hillary Clinton and Donald J Trump, the two most-hated candidates in recorded history, will be allowed to participate. Here are four good reasons why Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president who is a former two-term governor of New Mexico, should be allowed to participate. And here's a bone for supporters of the Green Party's candidate, Jill Stein: At least some apply to her as well. 1. 15 percent makes no sense. The Commission on Public Debates, which was created by the Republican and Democratic Parties in 1987, says participants must average 15 percent in five polls they choose. But why 15 percent? If you're going to insist on a poll-driven number, 5 percent makes far more sense. That's the number you need to hit to receive federal matching funds and it's also the level that most states insist on for a party to receive "major-party status" and thus not have to jump through a bunch of ballot-access hoops every election. FWIW, according to RealClearPolitics' latest roundup of national polls, Johnson was at 8.6 percent just after the commission turned him down, which was higher than what independent candidate Ross Perot was at in 1992 when he was invited to the debate. 2. He's on the ballot in all 50 states. Johnson is on the ballot in all 50 states, so he can theoretically win the election but more realistically, he will totally influence the outcome. In fact, a recent state-by-state poll had the guy in double digits in 42 states and at 15 percent or better in 15 of those. What the hell is going on when a figure who will be on every American's ballot isn't given a shot to make his case on the same stage as the Republican and Democrat? 3. Americans want more choices at the ballot box. According to Gallup, 60 percent of us say the Democrats and Republicans do such a poor job that a third major party is needed" to represent our views at the ballot box. Just 38 percent say the Dems and the Reps are getting the job done. And get this: A Suffolk University/USA Today poll found that 76 percent of likely voters believe "a third-party candidate who is certified on a majority of state ballots should be included." 4. Donald Trump wants third parties included (or at least he did in 2000). Here's a charming bit of video from 2000, when the debate commission announced its 15 percent rule for the first time. Donald Trump himself argued forcefully that the Reform Party candidate, Pat Buchanan, and the Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader, and others should participate in the presidential debates and the only reason they were being excluded was that Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore were scared of competition. Minnesota's then-Gov. Jesse Ventura introduces Trump by calling the exclusion of third parties "despicable" and noting that if he hadn't been allowed to debate Democrat Humbert Humphrey III and Republican Norm Coleman, he never would have become governor. Produced by Todd Krainin. Written and narrated by Nick Gillespie. Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to ReasonTV's YouTube Channel to receive notification when new material goes live.[...]

Dear Democrats: No One Owes You Their Vote

Mon, 19 Sep 2016 17:00:00 -0400

The Hillary Clinton campaign thought for sure it could count on a few key demographics: racial minorities, gay voters, young women, and to some extent young people broadly. Now that many of these groups—but especially the kids—have proven less gung-ho about her than expected, Clinton is going full-force Millennial Whisperer, throwing out free-college proposals and Pepe the Frog references with abandon as her minions in media and politics hammer home one point: a vote for a third-party presidential candidate this November is a vote for Donald Trump. The new rhetoric comes in response to several signs that millennials won't simply go good-German in a post-Bernie world. In the latest Quinnipiac national poll, just 31 percent of 18- to 34-year-old voters favored Clinton, with 29 percent for Libertarian Gary Johnson and 15 percent for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Another recent poll, this one from New York Times/CBS News, found 26 percent of 18- to 29-year-old respondents saying they would vote for Johnson and 10 percent professing support for Stein. "A month ago Democrats were amused to see Johnson leading Trump along millennials," noted Dave Weigel at The Washington Post Monday. "Now, Johnson's support is being tackled like a crisis." The anti-third-party message has been coming from Clinton herself—on Monday, she gave a speech at Temple University "laying out the stakes of November's election for millennial voters"—and from new YouTube and TV commercials put out by Clinton SuperPAC Priorities USA. It's coming from Clinton surrogates like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, speaking on Facebook and at swing-state college campuses; and from pro-establishment voices in the media, such as The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Mother Jones executive editor Clara Jeffery. On Thursday, Jeffery tweeted the results of a new poll showing high support for third-party candidates among young voters with the comment: "I have never hated millennials more." Jeffery's comment typifies a certain sort of left-leaning boomer leap-of-logic wherein the large number of Trump supporters within their own ranks aren't the issue and its the under-35 crowd's rejection of both Trump and Clinton that is truly unconscionable. Meanwhile, Krugman weighed in today on whether any sane person could vote for Gary Johnson, concluding sure—if they think it makes no difference whether Trump or Clinton gets elected and they agree with every policy position Johnson takes. The last bit is an especially strange assertion to make while simultaneously arguing for those who don't love Clinton to support her because she's better than the alternative. In Krugman's column logic, voting for Clinton while opposing much of what she stands for is righteous and normal while voting for Johnson because you support much of what he stands for is absurd unless you also agree with him 100 percent on environmental regulation, Medicare, school choice, and everything else. Riffing on Krugman, let's ask a similar question: Does it make sense for millennials or racial minorities to vote for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for president, when they really want to vote for a third-party candidate? Sure, as long as you believe a few things. First, you have to accept a system in which two increasingly similar and incoherent political parties get to dominate American politics in perpetuity and in which the quality (or lack thereof) of the candidates they put forth makes zero difference. Second, you have to believe that Donald Trump presents an unprecedented threat to American society and this election holds unique historical significance that subsequent elections will not match. And third, you have to believe that certain classes of people can and should reliably be expected to vote against their own consciences and material interests to serve the greater good as it is perceived by an elite ruling class. The problem for Clinton, I suspect, is tha[...]

‘Trump Bad’ Is Not a Good Enough Argument to Discourage Third-Party Votes, Democrats

Fri, 16 Sep 2016 13:10:00 -0400

According to The New York Times, the Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign are keenly aware that they are losing votes to third-party candidates, especially the votes of the under-35 crowd. Well, good for them for noticing! So … how are they approaching this problem? Let's see: "We'll be launching a multimillion-dollar digital campaign that talks about what's at stake and how a vote for a third-party candidate is a vote for Donald Trump, who is against everything these voters stand for," said Justin Barasky, a strategist for Priorities USA. Mrs. Clinton may also get an assist from one Democrat who has been largely quiet about the race, but can testify to the importance of resisting the third-party temptation: former Vice President Al Gore. Her staff has had conversations with aides to Mr. Gore about bringing him onto the campaign trail to emphasize the importance of supporting Mrs. Clinton if they want to make progress on combating climate change. Oh … well, this is going to fail miserably. There are indeed some elements of this election that are beginning to look an awful lot like the George W. Bush/Gore match-up that saw third-party candidates pulling off a number of votes in a close race. At least it feels that way at the moment due to the narrowing of the poll numbers separating Clinton and Trump. The strategy detailed above suggests that after all this time, the Democrats have still learned not a single thing about the behavior of third-party voters. And it suggests that, just as with Gore's loss, should Clinton fail come November, there are going to be a number of people who will blame those who refused to comply with the demand that they fall in line with the major parties. The people who don't vote for Clinton will be blamed for Clinton's loss, which, while I suppose that's logically true, is ultimately a way for party leadership from having to face the fact that they've lined up behind a deeply unpopular, unlikeable candidate with a reputation for secrecy, dishonesty, and corruption, and then wondered why their campaign calling Trump secretive, dishonest, and corrupt didn't work. Back in 2013, when some Republicans were upset that a Libertarian Party candidate was going to impact the outcome of the Virginia governor's race, I wrote a short piece about the mentality of third-party voters. This was an effort to try to get the establishment-oriented Republicans and Democrats to avoid the trap that the Clinton campaign appears to be falling into: treating third-party voters as though they're wayward partisans who are acting out and need to be brought into line. During the Republican Primary, I brought those points back to help explain the behavior of Trump's supporters, who were voting in a manner very reminiscent to those who turn to third parties. They were not interested in supporting the Republican Party's favortie candidates and did not care if their decision ultimately helped Hillary Clinton come November. They were not party loyalists. Whether their grievances were supported by reality or not, they felt betrayed by the Republican establishment. Looking over this list of third-party voter analysis, it's easy to make a case that it all still applies to this national election. Anybody trying to get third-party voters to pull the lever for Clinton or Trump (but especially Clinton), needs to absorb this mindset: We don't like your candidate. I remain mystified every single time I have to bring this up. Clinton is probably the most disliked candidate that the Democratic Party has put forward in contemporary times. Trump, of course, is also extremely disliked. The result here has been an argument over which candidate is worse and disdain and condescension directed toward those who suggest that they're equally bad or somehow both equally undeserving of our votes. But the mentality of a third-party voter rejects the debate over which of the two candidates is worse. Once t[...]

Gary Johnson Has More Daily Newspaper Endorsements than Donald Trump

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 12:00:00 -0400

Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson has racked up his second daily newspaper endorsement, two more than Donald Trump has received so far. The editorial board the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina (a Berkshire Hathaway-owned newspaper with a daily circulation of 67,000), declared its support for Johnson over the weekend. The endorsement notes: For months, we here at the Journal editorial board wrestled with this endorsement. For most of that time, we looked at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump. But as the weekly revelations ripped away any hopes we held for finding the "better angels of their nature," confirming our belief that neither is fit to be president of our still-great land of Lincoln, we began to look harder at Johnson. We refused to let the powerful party behind either Clinton or Trump push us into a bad choice simply because the parties could do no better. We join many Americans in being sick of the status quo in American politics, particularly presidential politics, that has far drifted from the bedrock ideals of our fabulous Founders. On this day, by endorsing Gary Johnson, we issue a challenge to change that status quo. The timing is accidentally interesting given the weekend scandal with Clinton's bout of walking pneumonia. It was yet another situation where the candidate and her inner circle made a situation worse by being so secretive about it. Yes, there was going to be criticism of Clinton's health and whether she is in good enough shape to be president. But by trying to hide the problem and failing, not only has the health debate grown louder, it has also folded in criticism of the Clinton's circle's constant secrecy. If it wasn't such a big deal (and it probably wasn't), why was she keeping it a secret? She was keeping it a secret because being honest about it would inspire additional criticism of her by her opponents and the media. That's a terrible reason for a candidate for president keeping things secret! All of that and the editorial board's justifications for the endorsement matter because in 2012 the newspaper endorsed President Barack Obama's re-election. Clinton's campaign platform is a promise to carry on everything Obama has done or pushed for. The Journal turning away from Clinton says as much about perceptions of her credibility as a candidate as the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia turning away from Donald Trump to endorse Johnson after decades of exclusively nominating the Republican nominee. It's still very early in the nomination season. There's only been seven daily newspaper nominations so far, five for Clinton and two for Johnson. There are no daily endorsements for Trump yet, but I would imagine that his extremely combative—threatening, even—posture with the press plays a larger role than any of his stated positions. The Journal notes that one of the reasons they're nominating Johnson so early is that they support the push to have Johnson included in the debates. Matt Welch has been keeping track of the polling results that would led to Johnson's inclusion in the debates. Right now, it's not looking so well. While I'm very doubtful that newspaper endorsements themselves are going to lead to much, it's nevertheless important to note when media outlets that have been typical endorsers of whatever the establishment parties hand them start turning away. But it's not unheard of and it's too soon to say whether this year represents an important new trend. Editor & Publisher keeps track of newspaper endorsement trends. In that pivotal 2000 presidential election, when Ralph Nader was on the ballot and getting a lot of attention, 21 newspapers endorsed third-party candidates rather than Al Gore or George W. Bush. In 1980, when independent John Anderson was running as an alternative to Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and Ed Clark and David Koch headed the Lib[...]

Where Gary Johnson and Jill Stein Are Strongest

Tue, 06 Sep 2016 11:00:00 -0400

At last we have a national presidential poll that includes a state-by-state breakdown of support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green nominee Jill Stein. It was published by The Washington Post this morning, and it offers a useful glimpse at where the two minor-party candidates are strongest. Needless to say, this is just one poll. It has its oddities—it shows Texas as a toss-up between Trump and Clinton—and it obviously isn't as strong a guide as an average of several surveys. It also leaves out D.C., due to a small sample size in the district. But it's a much bigger banquet of data than what we had before. What does it show? Gary Johnson's strongest state, unsurprisingly, is New Mexico, where he served as governor from 1995 to 2003. At 25 percent, he is within striking distance of Donald Trump, who is presently polling at 29. (Hillary Clinton still enjoys a comfortable lead in the state, with 37 percent of voters supporting her.) Johnson's second strongest state, also unsurprisingly, is Utah, where the Post poll shows him getting 23 percent. Utah has the least libertarian reputation of the Mountain West states, but Trump is unpopular with its heavily Mormon population, so the situation there is kind of weird this year. (Trump is still likely to carry the state, but not by the enormous margins recently enjoyed by GOP nominees.) Here again, Johnson is within striking distance of second place: Clinton currently has 27 percent. Note, though, that the Post survey leaves out independent candidate Evan McMullin, a Mormon conservative whose campaign is going nowhere nationally but may eat into Johnson's support in Utah. And just to amp up the uncertainty, Utah is also the one state in the Post poll where the number of undecided voters is in the double digits. (It's at 11 percent.) Johnson's third-best states are Alaska (which has a history of awarding alternative candidates strong showings), Idaho, and South Dakota, all of which give him 19 percent. Other places where Johnson gets 15 percent or more include Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island (!), Washington, and Wyoming. He's in double digits in 41 42 of the 50 states; his weakest support is in Mississippi, where he's getting just 4 percent. In an ordinary election, 4 percent would be an unusually high total for the Libertarian even in a more ideologically sympatico state. But this is, as you may have gathered, not an ordinary election. Stein is behind Johnson in virtually every state. (Hawaii is a toss-up.) But she's still polling pretty well for a minor-party candidate. The one state giving her double digits is Vermont, where her total stands at 10 percent. Second place is nearby Maine, where she's receiving 8 percent; she's getting 7 percent in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho (!), Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington. It is traditional when reporting such results to note that minor parties tend to poll better earlier in the campaign than on Election Day: Many dissatisfied voters will flirt with alternative candidates before deciding in the end to hold their noses and vote for whichever major-party nominee frightens them the least. And that may well happen this time as well, though usually the effect would have started to kick in by now. But in a way that makes these numbers all the more valuable. Support for third-party and independent candidates can serve as a map-by-proxy of where our binary political system is doing the poorest job of representing the full spectrum of political opinion, information that is not just interesting in itself but is particularly important at a time when we may be going through a party realignment. If there's a substantial number of people who feel seriously tempted to vote for one of those additional options but can't bring themselves to break out of the red-blue box in November, a Se[...]

Why Not Vote Third Party? We Asked California Voters.

Fri, 02 Sep 2016 12:46:00 -0400

In an election year in which the two mainstream candidates are disliked at never-before-seen levels, might there be an opportunity for third party candidates?

Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party are seeing more interest in their parties' nominees than ever before, and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson is polling close to double-digits, higher than any other third party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992.

We hit the streets of Los Angeles and the campus of UCLA to ask voters whether they'd consider voting third party this year and to administer the test, an online quiz that shows you which candidate is your ideological match based on your answers to a series of questions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many people's matches weren't consistent with the candidate for whom they planned to vote.

In this solidly blue state, most voters we talked to plan to cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton, with varying levels of enthusiasm. But while a few committed Clinton partisans seemed unlikely to budge, we found that many folks identified as independents, a trend consistent with data that points to fewer and fewer Americans affiliating with the major parties.

And these self-described independents were more willing to at least hear out the third party candidates. In fact, a recent Quinnipiac poll found that 62 percent of Americans want Gary Johnson on the debate stage, despite the fact that the Commission on Presidential Debates sets the polling cutoff at 15 percent.

So what would it take for these independent-minded voters to pull the lever for someone other than Clinton or Trump? Watch the video above to find out.

Approximately 6 minutes.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller and Justin Monticello. Hosted by Monticello. Shot by Weissmueller. Additional graphics by Josh Swain. Music by Audionautix.

Scroll down for downloadable versions. Subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel for daily content like this.

Alaska's Love Affair with Third Parties

Tue, 16 Aug 2016 14:40:00 -0400

Alaska keeps turning up on lists of states where the Libertarian ticket hopes to do well, but presidential polls in that state have been scarce this year, so it's hard to tell exactly how much support Gary Johnson is getting there. FiveThirtyEight's current election projection has him taking either 9.9 or 12.7 percent of the Alaskan vote, depending on which of its models you use. But the site has only one survey from the state to work with, that poll was conducted way back in January, and Johnson wasn't in it. So we're basically looking at some mathematically sophisticated guesswork. But if historical precedent means anything, there's good reason to think Johnson can get a decent-sized share of the vote in Alaska—and the Green Party's Jill Stein could do relatively well there too. It's clear that a nontrivial number of Alaskans are at least willing to look at minor-party candidates. In the last half-century, few states have been as friendly to alternative presidential contenders as Alaska. On a national level, six of the last 12 elections have seen at least one independent or minor-party candidate get more than 1 percent of the vote. In Alaska, by contrast, at least one candidate has cleared that bar in every single one of those elections, and all but one of those candidates did better in Alaska than they did in the country at large. In 7 out of those 12 Alaskan presidential contests, an alternative candidate managed to top 5 percent. This willingness to step outside the duopoly crosses ideological lines: Third-option candidates of both the left and the right have performed well in the 49th state, as have several nominees of the neither-left-nor-right Libertarian Party. Here's a quick review: 1968: In Alaska's third national election, George Wallace of the American Independent Party captures 12.07 percent of the state's vote, a little less than the 13.53 percent he wins nationally. 1972: John Schmitz of the American Party—the successor to the group that nominated Wallace—gets 7.25 percent in Alaska. Nationally he gets just 1.42 percent. 1976: Roger MacBride of the Libertarian Party picks up 5.49 percent of the Alaskan ballots. Nationally he gets only 0.21 percent. 1980: In Alaska, Ed Clark of the Libertarian Party gets 11.66 percent and independent John Anderson gets 7.04 percent. Nationally, their totals are 1.06 and 6.61 percent, respectively. 1984: David Bergland of the Libertarian Party receives 3.07 percent of the Alaskan vote. His nationwide total is 0.25 percent. 1988: Ron Paul of the Libertarian Party receives 2.74 percent in Alaska and 0.47 percent nationally. 1992: Independent candidate Ross Perot gets 28.43 percent in Alaska—less than two percentage points behind Bill Clinton. Nationally Perot lands at 18.91. 1996: Alaskan voters give 10.9 percent of their ballots to Perot, now running under the Reform Party banner, and 3.14 percent to Ralph Nader, running as a Green. Nationally, Perot gets 8.4 percent and Nader gets 0.71. 2000: This time Alaska awards 10.07 percent to Nader and another 1.82 percent to the Reform Party's Pat Buchanan. Nationally, Nader is at 2.74 percent and Buchanan is at 0.43. 2004: Nader, listed on the state's ballot as the candidate of the Populist Party, gets 1.62 percent in Alaska and 0.38 nationwide. 2008: Nader's independent campaign gets 1.16 percent in Alaska and 0.56 across the U.S. 2012: Libertarian Gary Johnson gets 2.46 percent in Alaska and 0.99 nationally. Along the way, Alaskans elected several third-party state legislators and a third-party governor. So this is clearly a place where people are more likely to look past the Red and Blue options, particularly but not only in years when an alternative candidate is doing well in the rest of the country. And if that ardor has cooled a bit in the last few cycles, 2016 may be a return[...]

"Voting Your Heart, Swinging an Election?": Nick Gillespie Talks Gary Johnson on KCRW

Wed, 10 Aug 2016 17:33:00 -0400

Earlier today, I was on one the best radio programs in the country—Warren Olney's To The Point on KCRW—talking about the role of third-party candidates in the 2016 election.

It's a lively and informative conversation. And it gets downright hilarious at the end when one of the guests, a former Bernie Sanders supporter who is now all in for Hillary Clinton, accuses libertarians and Gary Johnson supporters of being racists: "I think what we're seeing in the quote 'rise' of Gary Johnson," argues Melissa Byrne, "is mostly white men who lean toward being fairly racist are looking for a safe place and they're finding that in Gary Johnson." Because, well, you know that nothing is more racist that calling for criminal justice reform, an end to the drug war, opening up the borders to immigrants, and a stop to indiscriminate bombing of developing nations.

Here's the write-up for the show. Listen by clicking on the image or going here.

(image) For millions of voters, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton present an agonizing choice between the lesser of two evils. Libertarian Gary Johnson offers an alternative for fiscal conservatives who won't vote for Trump but can't stand Hillary. The Green Party's Jill Stein speaks to disappointed and angry supporters of Bernie Sanders. But third-party candidates always pose a moral quandary: can they be anything but spoilers? Do they take votes away from the least of the perceived "evils" and help to elect the worst? We look at this year's competition for the Republicans and the Democrats.

Brian Ertz, environmental attorney (@ertzbe)
Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (@josheidelson)
Melissa Byrne, Bernie Sanders campaign (@mcbyrne)
Patrick Murray, Monmouth Polling Institute (@PollsterPatrick)
Nick Gillespie, and Reason TV (@nickgillespie)

No, Ralph Nader Did Not Hand the 2000 Presidential Election to George W. Bush

Wed, 03 Aug 2016 08:45:00 -0400

You may have heard that you're either a "ridiculous" Bernie Bro or some other form of privileged white dude unless you accept the prevailing theory among Hillary Clinton supporters that a vote for Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump, just the way a vote for Ralph Nader was a vote for George W. Bush in 2000. There's no shortage of lamentations to be found on the interwebs from once-idealistic young liberals who have never forgiven themselves for voting their consciences at the turn of the millennium, and who won't forgive you if you choose to make the same mistake. There are a number of problems with that line of thought (the most obvious being that it assumes the votes of left-leaning voters are owed to the Democratic Party because every presidential election is the most important ever), but more importantly, it's simply not based in fact. It is true that approximately 95,000 Florida ballots were cast for Nader in 2000, and assuming every single one of those votes went instead to then-Vice President Al Gore (which is an incorrect assumption, but we'll get to that later), Gore would have been easily able to supplant the 537 vote differential in the Sunshine State that gave Bush the presidency. What that oft-cited factoid leaves out are the inconvenient truths laid out by Jim Hightower in Salon way back when, including the fact that only about 24,000 registered Democrats voted for Nader in Florida, whereas about 308,000 Democrats voted for (wait for it...) Bush! Further, approximately 191,000 self-identified "liberals" voted for Bush, as opposed to the fewer than 34,000 who went with Nader. The conventional thinking goes like this: Nader voters lean left and Gore is to the left of Bush, therefore votes for Nader would have gone to Gore. But leftist academic Tim Wise pushed back on this summation in 2000, writing that "Exit polls in Florida, conducted by MSNBC show that Nader drew almost equally between Gore, Bush, and 'None of the above,' meaning his presence there may have been a total wash." In 2006, Michael C. Herron and Jeffrey B. Lewis authored a UCLA study on the effect of third party voting on the 2000 election. Among their findings: Only approximately 60% of Nader voters would have supported Al Gore in a Nader-less election. This percentage is much closer to 50% than it is to 100%. One might have conjectured, that is, that Nader voters were solid Democrats who in 2000 supported a candidate politically left of the actual Democratic candidate. This conjecture, we have shown, is wrong: Nader voters, what participating in non-presidential contests that were part of the 2000 general election, often voted for Republican candidates. Correspondingly, [Reform Party candidate Pat] Buchanan voters voted for down-ballot Democratic candidates. Thus, the notion that a left-leaning (right-leaning) third party presidential candidate by necessity steals votes from Democratic (Republican) candidates does not hold. So why hasn't there been 16 years of hand-wringing over the thirteen percent of voting Florida Democrats going turncoat for the Republican nominee? What about the traditionally Democratic-voting bases of white women and seniors who both went for Bush, or lower-income voters, who mostly tilted for Gore but nearly forty percent of whom voted for Bush? Why is Ralph Nader the boogeyman of the left and not Al Gore himself who (despite being a VP in a popular administration which had the dumb-luck of presiding over a booming economy) was unable to win his home state of Tennessee, a state with enough electoral votes to send him to the White House even without Florida? Simple. Nader must be vilified because of the popular notion that the two major partie[...]

CNN Poll: 13% of Sanders Supporters Are Backing Jill Stein, 10% Want Gary Johnson

Tue, 02 Aug 2016 11:03:00 -0400

(image) Way down in the crosstabs of CNN's latest presidential poll, we learn how voters who preferred Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton say they're most likely to vote in November. A clear majority, 69 percent, favor Clinton. Jill Stein of the Green Party is in second place, with 13 percent. Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party is third, at 10 percent. Donald Trump brings up the rear, with just three percent of the total—the same as "other." That's quite a contrast with how things looked back in June, when Sanders had not yet endorsed his rival and the conventions were still in the future. Back then a Bloomberg poll of Bernie backers had 55 percent supporting Clinton, 22 percent endorsing Trump, and 18 percent leaning toward Johnson.

Now, there are a number of ways that these two surveys are not an apples-to-apples comparison, starting with the fact that the Bloomberg pollsters didn't ask about Jill Stein. Also, those CNN results have an 8 percent margin of error. Still: The difference between 22 and 3 is pretty huge (*).

But the most interesting thing for me isn't that Clinton's numbers went up and Trump's went down. Most of us expected that to happen. The interesting thing is that the size of the segment saying they'll vote third-party has stayed pretty stable. When the Bloomberg results came out, I pointed out that Johnson's 18 percent was probably inflated somewhat by people who wanted a third option but were more likely to go for Jill Stein. Her platform, after all, is a lot closer to Sanders' than Johnson's is. Add her to the mix, and the third-party total goes up a bit while Johnson's total goes down a bit; if a June poll had included both of the major-minor candidates, I would not be surprised if it had produced the same results. The number of Sanders/Trump voters may be small, but the share of Sanders voters who feel alienated from both of the big parties' nominees doesn't seem to be small at all.

(* Or "yuuuuuuge," if you're into jokes that have gotten kinda tired.)

Design Your Own American Party System!

Tue, 26 Jul 2016 16:56:00 -0400

(image) This morning Bernie Sanders urged his followers not to vote for the Green Party's presidential nominee. Speaking at a breakfast event in Philadelphia, the Vermont senator expressed respect for the Greens but argued that this election was a binary choice, The Washington Post reports.

"If we were in Europe right now, in Germany or elsewhere," Sanders said, "the idea of coalition politics of different parties coming together—you've got a left party, you've got a center-left party, coming together against the center-right party—that's not unusual. That happens every day. We don't have that."

What would this election look like if we did have a parliamentary system? It's an interesting thought experiment, because it's easy to imagine this as a five- or six-way race. You could have Bernie Sanders leading the Democratic Socialists and Hillary Clinton the New Democrats—the left and center-left parties that Sanders mentioned. The Libertarians would have Gary Johnson (or perhaps someone like Rand Paul, since he wouldn't have as strong an incentive to present himself as a Republican). Donald Trump would have the old Perot and Buchanan voters, maybe in an America First Party. And the pre-Trump GOP would have a standard-bearer too, a Jeb Bush or a Ted Cruz. Or maybe the Bush Republicans and the Cruz Republicans would be separate operations. The upshot, in any event, is to imagine what it would be like if our political factions were more modular: Instead of struggling for influence and forming alliances within a party, they could compete for votes as parties themselves and then try to form a governing coalition after the election.

My point isn't to make the case for or against such a system. It's to imagine how those factions would align and disalign if they had that kind of flexibility. How well would each of those parties do, and what governing coalition might some of them form? Would the left and center-left align, as Sanders imagined, or would the New Democrats prefer to form a Bloombergian coalition with the Bush Republicans? Would the Bush Republicans outpoll the America Firsters, or would they be also-rans? Who would the Libertarians form a coalition with—or would they just refuse to join up with anyone else? And where do we put Jim Webb? Create your own scenario and post it in the comments.

Post-RNC, Gary Johnson Sees Big Spike in Online Interest

Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:05:00 -0400

(image) Today's latest CNN/ORC poll release shows Donald Trump getting a post-convention bounce and taking the lead from Hillary Clinton. This is the case whether or not Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson (getting 9 percent) and Green candidate Jill Stein (3 percent) are included.

Interestingly, despite the warnings from speakers at the Republican National Convention that voting for anybody other than Trump is a vote for Hillary Clinton, Trump's lead actually widens when the third-party candidates are considered. They're three points apart in a head-to-head match-up. They're five points apart in a four-way race. (This probably means we'll hear the same dire warnings all this week that not voting for Hillary Clinton will help Trump win.)

While Johnson still isn't getting high enough poll numbers yet to make the presidential debates (he needs to hit 15 percent), he saw signs of a different sort of convention bounce. It appears that over the course of the RNC, Google interest in searches for him spiked to the point that there's now more people looking for info about Johnson than there ever was prior to the 2012 election. The same holds true for Stein, though to a much lesser degree. Note the far right of the chart below. Interest in Johnson is in blue. Interest in Stein is in red.


Just to explain the graph a little bit more: Google Trends don't provide flat numbers of searches. The graph essentially serves to compare interest using a 0-100 scale over time. Where the chart hits 100 indicates the greatest number of searches. From this comparison, we can see an 18 percentage point increase in Johnson's searches here in July (and it's not over yet!) when compared to November 2012, when he had his last spike.

That's good news for both candidates when it comes to building name recognition. That more people are searching for information about them means more people have obviously learned that they exist. The bad news is that their search interest still absolutely pales against those for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (On the other hand, think of the kind of news stories people find when they search for Trump or Clinton.)

Toward the end of last week Johnson showed up among the top 200 trending searches on Google. He currently is not, but we'll see how the week goes. His numbers from last week showed search interest increasing slowly as the week went on.