Saturday, November 29, 2008

Few Voters Registering Third Party

Few Take Advantage of Green, Libertarian Registration

Less than one Iowa voter in every 2,000 has taken advantage of a change in state law that allows people to register with two third parties.

The Greens and Libertarians fought hard in court for the change, which established a petition procedure for parties to earn a place on the voter registration form without winning the two percent of the top of the ticket vote required for full party status. An out of court settlement, later enacted into law, kicked in on Jan. 1, and the first registered Green was "elated" at the chance to express his preference.

But through Nov. 26 only 1357 voters--0.05 percent--have registered with one of the third party "political organizations." 937 are Libertarians and 420 are Greens.

The Greens had full party status in Iowa for two years, after Ralph Nader won 2.2 percent of the state's vote in the 2000 presidential election. At the end of the two year run, Iowa had 2,480 registered Greens. That's only one of every 700 voters, but it's six times more than they have now.

Holly Hart of the Iowa Greens says there has been "slower but steady growth" in Green registration during 2008 than there was in 2001 and 2002. "Since there has been far less general interest in high-profile third party candidates in the past two cycles, and more aggressive recruiting by the Dems, I am not surprised that the growth rate is slower than before," she said.

Libertarians also seemed on the verge of a breakthrough in 2008. Ron Paul was seeking the Republican nomination, true. But his network of email contacts and online contributors would have been a priceless tool for Libertarian nominee Bob Barr. Paul endorsed Constitution nominee Chuck Baldwin instead, and . Barr scored the half a percent range that's been typical for Libertarian nominees for the last 20 years.

"For every registered member you have, you get three or four votes for your top of the ticket candidate," said Kevin Litten of the Iowa Libertarian Party. "My goal is to make that number grow, and I don't know how yet."

Further down the Iowa ballot, the Greens and Libertarians stayed out of Iowa's 2008 U.S. Senate race. Both parties ran candidates against Tom Harkin in 2002 and Chuck Grassley in 2004. The Greens only ran in one congressional district, and the Libertarians ran in none.

"The big difference is the level of awareness of the option. Nader made a big splash and a lot of people were excited about his candidacy, which led to a lot of people making the effort to register Green," said 2nd District Green congressional candidate Wendy Barth. "Last year a quiet little modification was made to the state law, and only a few people went out of their way to take advantage of it."

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