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Hart: Candidates other than main parties

BY GUEST COLUMN | OCTOBER 17, 2012 6:30 AM

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I want to take this opportunity to address some of the comments given by  UI and UNI faculty members, which seemed not well-thought-out, and I believe are a disservice to students of political science.

About votes cast for third-party presidential candidates, Christine Tolbert stated, “Everyone knows they’re throwing their votes away.” 

In fact, the same can be said for votes cast for major party candidates in any non-battleground state, especially where even a slight increase in votes and awareness may provide a winning boost to “down ticket” candidates (i.e., candidates seeking election to local and state oppositions).

It is also not throwing away your vote when running a federal-level candidate is required, or a certain percentage of the vote for a particular candidate wins your party various benefits: a ballot line, official or minor party status, tax checkoff funds, or the ability to officially register party members.

These benefits have a decisive effect on a party’s candidates to run successfully for local and state level candidates. Unfortunately, those benefits are usually gained via top-ticket races, usually president or governor.

These parties typically exist in states where ballot access is reasonably achievable and the political culture supports public acceptance of independent and third-party candidates. Typically, offices held are at the county, city, township, and school-board levels.

As examples of the party I’m most familiar with, a number of cities, towns, and counties in California have a majority Green membership, a number of school boards in Maine include members of the Maine Green Independent Party, and at the municipal level in the District  of Columbia (well, there is no federal level there), the D.C. Statehood Green Party is the second party (after the Democrats; Republicans come in third).  
Libertarian candidates have also been elected to various offices around the country, and parties in Vermont, West Virginia, and South Carolina routinely have candidates elected to local offices.

Iowa seems to be one of the few places left where people can still get away with repeating the now-long-debunked meme that Ralph Nader threw the 2000 election to George W. Bush by 500 votes.  

Some fact-checking reveals that far more than 500 registered Democrats voted for Bush than their own candidate; but far more critical, statisticians with the National Election Data Archives managed to obtained enough 2000 ballots in not-recounted Florida precincts to demonstrate that, had the precinct recounts been allowed to continue, the election would have gone the other way.  (Yes, you read that right, and yes, you should all be out in the streets shouting about it.)

What is still needed in Iowa is a policy for mandatory post-election random audits — i.e., “post-election random audits of a manageable number of precincts”— a measure generally shown to be a preventive against overly glitchy electronic voting equipment.  

In a close race, especially, the Green Party’s Jill Stein has said she would do so. Will either major party candidate step up to that plate?

Holly Hart
Iowa City resident


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