Monday, March 29, 2010

Why support a third party? Reasons and barriers...

This article by Great Browne, member of the Northampton Green Party, goes into great detail about the barriers that third parties face in the United States, specifically in her area of Pennsylvania.

But what is most important to realize is that the barriers aren't stopping third parties from participating, they are stopping YOU, the voter, from participating, from having more choices at the ballot box, and from having representation that works for you.

These two paragraphs sum up the article quite well:

It's no wonder. Election laws like those in Pennsylvania make it difficult for independent candidates to get on the ballot. Once on, a strong third-party candidate must endure undemocratic accusations of being a ''spoiler'' in a winner-take-all system. This sense of entitlement by the two major parties breeds complacency and undeserved long-term incumbency. Reforms -- such as ranked voting (used in the Academy Awards) and open primaries (in Washington state and on the ballot this year in California) -- would allow third parties to garner the votes that represent the true popularity of their positions.

For example, the Green Party has always rejected the war efforts of the U.S. military, believing that our incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, represent imperialistic intentions rather than promotion of democracy. Greens unequivocally support universal single-payer health care and denounce the profit modality of the new health care bill. Greens in Pennsylvania support true clean energy, not ''clean coal'' or the chemical-and-water injecting extraction promoted by the state for our fossil gas deposits in deep shale beds. We believe that protecting our water table and our forest lands trumps temporary economic gain."
 "Complacency and undeserved long-term incumbency" nearty summarizes the problem. When the same two parties exchange power every election cycle, should we really be so surprised that change does not come, or when it does, it comes by the terms of the special interests that fund the two major parties?

The Green Party is striving to change that. All across the country, regular citizens are deciding they have had enough of their votes being held hostage, and their voices being drowned out by special interest.

Daryl Northrop


  1. Greta Browne made one mistake in her otherwise great article. The ballot measure in California for top-two primaries would be very bad news for third parties and independents (it's misleading to call it an "open primary"). As ballot access expert Richard Winger has noted, the top-two system made 2008 the first year in over a century that no third party or independent candidates appeared on Washington state's general election ballot. Instant runoff voting accomplishes all the good things that top-two is supposed to, without limiting voter choice like top-two does.

    Check out for the compelling case against CA's Proposition 14.

  2. Dave - thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment! I am a big proponent of IRV, and look forward to learning more from the web link you listed.

    Take care,


  3. Daryl: I don't see how Greens could ever win with instant runoff voting. If a Green candidate and a Democrat were the two left over, the Republicans would either make the Democrat the second choice or leave that section of the ballot blank. If a Republican and a Green were the first two choices, more Democrats would vote for the Republican than the Green (except in a small number of very liberal enclaves). IRV seems to rig the system against third parties that will have to win their first majority victories with pluralities of the vote.

    Personally, I think proportional representation is much better than IRV.

  4. Libhom - In actuality, the minority of voters that put the green candidate first would see their votes transfer to the democratic candidate they put second. IRV insures that your vote never supports a candidate you personally do not. has more information. It works like this, you rank the candidates by preference (say green #1 and Dem #2 for instance)- if none of the first preference candidates gets a majority of the vote, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated (the green in this example) if your 2nd choice was a dem, your vote would transfer to the democrat. The ballots are then recounted, and whoever has a majority vote wins. You could never support a republican via IRV unless you deliberately put them as your second choice (assuming your first choice was a green).

    Proportional representation would be great, but it would take an amendment to the US constitution, which is extremely difficult. IRV increases voter turnout, solves the "spoiler issue" and helps 3rd party candidates get elected.

    Thanks for commenting!