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Mon, Nov. 18

Editorial: Third party choices fall by wayside for multiple reasons

The fate of the free world will be decided in 43 days. Voters will go to voting centers Nov. 8, or will have already turned in early ballots, across the country to give their choice for President of the United States.

Some complain the choices are the “lesser of two evils.”

And, that is what third parties say Republicans and Democrats want. The theory is candidates on the ballot from other parties, such as the Libertarian or Green, take votes away from one of the two major parties.

“Republicans and the Democrats are constantly working on ways to ... suppress other parties so that people are faced with a choice of lesser of two evils,” said Michael Kielsky, chairman of the Arizona Libertarian Party. “The Democrats think the Greens undermine them; the Republicans think the Libertarians undermine them.”

Problem is third parties must demonstrate a following. Meaning, they have to enjoy at least minor success in elections to qualify for future ballots.

That was the crux of a ruling this past week, in which a federal appeals court upheld Arizona’s process for recognizing political parties, rejecting claims by the Arizona Green Party that the petition deadline for new parties posed an unconstitutional burden.

Seems any party that gets at least 5 percent of the vote in the prior election is automatically qualified. So are those that have a certain number of people registered with the party. The Green Party met neither burden for the 2014 election.

The only other option is for the party to collect petitions signed by at least 1.33 percent of the total votes cast for governor at the last general election, a figure that translated out to 23,401 signatures. But the law requires they be turned in 180 days before the primary, a deadline that fell on Feb. 27 this year.

That was their complaint, stating the deadline formerly was in May. But the court stated party officials gave no evidence of hardship.

The Green Party lost its status in 2013 after failing to meet the voter threshold in the 2010 elections, Cronkite News Service reported. Rather than petition the state, the party sued, arguing that the 180-day deadline was an excessive burden under the First and 14th amendments.

“Without any evidence regarding the practical consequences of the (deadline), we find ourselves in the position of Lady Justice: blindfolded and stuck holding empty scales,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote in the opinion for a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

That’s sad – that the decision, or the rules – will keep another choice away from voters; however, that’s why we have rules – isn’t it?

The claim that Republicans and Democrats shun third parties does not surprise me, considering conversations we heard about through leaked emails from within the Democratic Party this year. If it happens at that level, it’s easy to figure there’s concern against the Green Party’s 2016 candidate, Jill Stein, or Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Though, I do have to say, Stein and Johnson are on the ballot - and don't stand a chance. (Stein is on the ballot with Johnson, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, thanks to a Green Party petition drive, a party official clarified Monday.)

As an aside, I have to say I agree with the word on the street and on radio talk shows that early voting – except for a good reason like military service – has run its course of usefulness.

Evidence this: the Presidential Preference Primary effect of people voting on early ballots only to see their candidate drop out in the meantime. That led to the thousands of early ballots turned in “late” on Primary Election Day.

I’d rather see elections held over two days, with one of those being a Saturday when not so many registered voters are working.

Folks, our system has its logic, but it could use a heavy dose of reform.

- Tim Wiederaenders, city editor

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