U.S. third-party candidate fights for party's survival, urging election reform
NEW YORK, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- Harry R. Burger, who is running for Congress under less-known Green Party in New York's 2nd congressional district, recently carried several yard signs for himself and his party's presidential candidates and placed them around an early voting site at Babylon Town Hall Annex on Long Island of New York State.
In a dark green jacket, Burger lamented somebody stole his yard signs which were placed there a few days ago.
November 3, 2020
BALLOT ACCESS THREATENED
"If our candidate for president doesn't get at least 2 percent of the vote in New York State, the party disappears," said Burger on Saturday.
He referred to the threat from the much higher threshold for third parties to stay on the ballot due to change of election law in New York State early this year.
"It used to be if your candidate for governor gets 50,000 votes, you're on the ballot for four years and you have ballot access. Now, the minimum is 130,000 or 2 percent of the votes, whichever is greater and you need for governor and president (elections). They're trying to destroy all third parties," said Burger.
A document named as 2020 Election Law Update recently released by the Office of Council with New York State Board of Elections confirms the change.
The threshold for statewide independent nominating petitions was raised to 45,000 signatures of registered voters or 1 percent of the total number of votes, up from 15,000 signatures, according to the 2020 Election Law Update.
"In terms of the presidential race, the hope is to get to at least 5 percent (of votes) nationally, because then we get federal matching funds for the next presidential year. In New York, we get at least 2 percent. Or the Green Party is gone completely," said Burger.
Apart from eye-catching races between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, the United States has a number of so-called third parties like the Working Families Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, Constitution Party, Conservative Party and others.
The Green Party and the Libertarian Party also filed a joint lawsuit against the new election rules in New York State in a federal court at the end of July, according to a release by the Libertarian Party.
The minority parties also face ballot access problems in other states due to difficulties to obtain enough petition signatures and even legal challenges.
For the 2020 presidential election, the Green Party's candidates appear on ballots in 30 states with legal challenges in at least three other states, according to the website of the party.
"Right now, politicians only reflect a small number of Americans. Independent and unaffiliated voters rarely have candidates in office that reflect their interest. Green party and other third party voters struggle to even get a candidate on the ballot," said FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that advocates electoral reforms in the United States.
ALTERNATIVE VOTING KICKS IN
The New York State should have a ranked choice voting or instant-runoff voting system rather than plurality voting in general elections so that the Democrats and the Greens could have an alliance with the vote not to be split, according to Burger.
In terms of federal election, Maine State in the northeast of the United States becomes the first state to use ranked choice voting this year, which allows voters to pick candidates in order of preference in races with at least three contenders and makes tabulation rounds possible so as to select the winner with more than 50 percent of votes.
"The Democrats should give us ranked choice voting so that nobody can spoil the vote and then we can have as many parties as you want and you still don't wind up with anybody winning with less than 51 percent because whoever is on the bottom gets eliminated. And then all those votes, their second choice gets counted and added in until somebody gets 51 percent," Burger told Xinhua.
As the Democrats control the Senate, the assembly, and the governor's chair in New York State, they could have made changes to the election law. "They chose to try to destroy third parties instead of welcoming us and working with us and being more democratic. It's rather ironic that the Democratic Party is being anti-democratic here," said Burger.
However, New York City is set to join nearly 20 municipalities in the United States in adopting ranked choice voting in its all city primary and special elections starting from early 2021.
"Instead, they want there only be two choices on the ballot, and they want to run negative ads against each other ... But when you have ranked choice voting and you're trying to compete for a second choice, then that encourages more positive campaigning for the candidate to say this is what I wanna do for you, this is why I'm the best choice rather than why this guy is a monster," said Burger.
A survey of 3,758 adult voters in the United States by The Hill and market research company HarrisX in September showed that 60 percent of respondents believe the United States needs a viable third political party so as to have an effective political system.