Editorials: Are third-party candidates spoilers? What voting data reveal | Daniel P. Franklin/The Conversation

Green Party candidate Jill Stein does not see herself as a spoiler in the 2016 presidential race. Her voters, Stein claims, would not have come to the polls had she not been in the race. But what if Stein were wrong and she didn’t bring new voters to the polls? The number of votes Stein got in Michigan and Wisconsin exceeded the gap between Clinton and Trump in those states. If you assume that Stein voters were more liberal than conservative and therefore more likely to support Clinton than Trump, Stein could have been a spoiler in those two states. Of course, winning Michigan and Wisconsin would not have given Clinton the presidency. But the question of whether third-party candidates expand the electorate has important implications in last year’s election – and in presidential elections in general. We are scholars of politics and the presidency, but you don’t need to be an expert to know that a shift or addition of just a few thousand votes in one or two key states can determine the outcome of a presidential election. In other words, a handful of voters in the right place at the right time can truly change the course of American history. And so, we decided to test the notion that third-party candidates increase turnout in presidential elections.

National: Top conservatives gather to plot third-party run against Trump | Politico

Three influential leaders of the conservative movement have summoned other top conservatives for a closed-door meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C., to talk about how to stop Donald Trump and, should he become the Republican nominee, how to run a third-party “true conservative” challenger in the fall. The organizers of the meeting include Bill Wichterman, who was President George W. Bush’s liaison to the conservative movement; Bob Fischer, a South Dakota businessman and longtime conservative convener; and Erick Erickson, the outspoken Trump opponent and conservative activist who founded RedState.com. “Please join other conservative leaders to strategize how to defeat Donald Trump for the Republican nomination,” the three wrote in an invitation obtained by POLITICO that recently went out to conservative leaders, “and if he is the Republican nominee for president, to offer a true conservative candidate in the general election.”

Editorials: America should make room for third-party candidates | Peter Ackerman and Larry Diamond/The Washington Post

The prospect of a White House run by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has reignited a critical debate about whether it’s possible for an independent to be elected president of the United States. Consider this paradox: Two of the leading 2016 presidential candidates — Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — have no history of loyalty to either major party. Yet both decided to run in the party primaries — Trump as a Republican, Sanders as a Democrat — while pledging to support their the party’s winner should they not win the nomination. That these two very different candidates came to similar conclusions helps illustrate why there is so much dissatisfaction with our nation’s political system. As billionaires, people such as Trump and Bloomberg can self-fund an independent campaign, but without adequate liquid resources, all other qualified candidates have no way to mount a serious bid for the U.S. presidency outside the two major parties. This is the product of collusion between operatives from the Democratic and Republican parties who, through the design of hidden rules, jealously guard their duopoly.

Arizona: Senate gives initial approval to elections bill | Associated Press

The Senate gave initial approval to a bill on Tuesday that increases the number of signatures third-party candidates need to run for office. The proposal by J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, is one in a series of piecemeal legislation similar to a sweeping Arizona election law that the Legislature abandoned last year after opponents took steps to repeal it. House Bill 2608 allows candidates to gather signatures from their own party, independents and parties not represented on a ballot. It also expands the signature requirements to include a minimum number of these so-called “qualified voters.”

Ohio: Are Libertarians becoming a third key player in Ohio’s statewide elections? Party again filed a full slate of candidates | Cleveland Plain Dealer

Elections in Ohio are traditionally two-party affairs, with the alternative parties putting up candidates for a smattering of races. But has Ohio moved toward having three regular participants in its statewide contests? Two political scientists told Northeast Ohio Media Group this week that the the Libertarian Party of Ohio might become a credible third party because of divisions among Republicans. Libertarians this week filed a full slate of candidates for the partisan statewide contests that are up for election in November. Charlie Earl, a former Republican state representative, and Sherry Clark topped that ticket as candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. The party also put up candidates for auditor of state, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer.

Connecticut: Third party is back on ballot in Windham | The Norwich Bulletin

The Bottom Line is back on the ballot. Superior Court Judge John D. Boland approved a stipulation negotiated between The Bottom Line party, Town Clerk Patricia Spruance and the State Attorney General’s office that allows the third party’s eight candidates to be placed back on the ballot.
“The nightmare is over,” said Mark Doyle, chairman of The Bottom Line. The party, which formed about six years ago, had its nominees removed from the ballot on Oct. 21 by order of the secretary of the state, even though Town Clerk Patricia Spruance went to bat for them. At issue is a 2011 regulation requiring third party candidates to sign the nomination form. The Bottom Line candidates all signed their campaign finance form and until she was ordered to remove them from the ballot, Spruance believed the law had been satisfied.

Connecticut: Merrill praises decisions by two judges impacting third party candidates | Easton Courier

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill today issued the following statements praising decisions by two separate judges resolving the legal cases of third party candidates for municipal office in the towns of Easton in one case and East Hampton in the other. Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis today rejected a lawsuit filed by petitioning candidates under the Easton Coalition party designation seeking to be placed on the ballot for the Nov. 5, municipal election. The Easton Coalition candidates sued Secretary Merrill after their nominating petitions to get on the ballot were rejected by her office.  Secretary Merrill’s office rejected the petitions by Easton Coalition candidates because they lacked an accompanying letter of endorsement from the party, required by law to be filed with the secretary of the state by Sept. 4 of this year. “Although it is disappointing for voters in Easton that the Easton Coalition candidates won’t be on the ballot this fall, Judge Bellis made the right decision,” Secretary Merrill stated.  “It is a good reminder that all of us who serve the public are bound to uphold the law.  The Easton Coalition failed to file a legally required document with my office by the Sept. 4 deadline, so by law, I had to reject their petitions.

Pennsylvania: Greens, independents, plan new push for Pennsylvania ballot access | Philadelphia Weekly

Another legislative season will soon begin in Pennsylvania, and the state Green Party is still attempting to pressure a vote on a bill that would allow third-party candidates for state office easier access to the ballot. Their latest tactic: an online petition to pressure Harrisburg into a vote. Then, say supporters, there’s more to come. The petition asks supporters to sign in support of Senate Bill 195, introduced by Senator Mike Folmer (R-Berks) as mirror legislation to SB 21, which he introduced last session. Folmer’s bill would lower the standard as to what constitutes a third party and therefore does not require independent candidates to jump through hoops to get on the ballot, as is currently the case. The petition “demands” the bill move out of committee—it’s currently sitting in the State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster)—to a hearing and then a vote in the full Senate. As we’ve documented before, these days, that basic legislative process is a lot to ask for any bill that doesn’t have the blessing of establishment Republicans.

Connecticut: Republicans Call Move To Abolish Independent Party ‘Power Grab’ | CT News Junkie

Senate Republican leader John McKinney called draft legislation that would bar the Independent Party of Connecticut from keeping its name a “disgusting, arrogant power grab,” by the Democratic majority. The working draft of the omnibus campaign finance bill would bar the use of the word “independent” in political party names. It’s a change that would force the Independent Party of Connecticut—which cross-endorsed several Republicans in legislative and Congressional races— to change its name. Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, said the only reason the Democratic majority included that change in the bill is because the Independent Party of Connecticut received more votes than the Working Families Party, a third party that traditionally cross-endorses Democrats.

National: Campaign lawyers gear up for nail-biter election | Deutsche Welle

The dead heat in the presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney brings back memories of the controversial 2000 election. But unlike 12 years ago, this time everyone is prepared to engage in legal battle. If the history of the 2000 presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore is any indication of this year’s election, we could be heading toward a political cliffhanger. That’s because at this point – a week before election day on November 6 – the race between Obama and Romney might even be closer than that of 2000 between Bush and Gore. According to Real Clear Politics’ national average, a sort of aggregated poll of most national surveys, Romney currently leads Obama by less than one percent point – a virtual tie. Back in 2000, at the same time, most national polls had Bush in front by several points.

Vermont: Early Voting System Questioned | VPR News

Vermont’s early voting system is designed to boost turnout by making voting more convenient, but questions are being raised about whether it’s too easy for third party groups to misuse the system. Under state law, an individual voter can request an early ballot by calling, writing or emailing their local town clerk within 45 days of an election. They can also go the clerk’s office and vote in person. The law also allows family members, health care providers and any third party person to request a ballot for a specific voter. Gail and Francis Speno live in Brattleboro and are strong supporters of Attorney General Bill Sorrell.  Gail says she was surprised to get a call from her Town clerk telling her that a worker from T.J. Donovan’s campaign had put in an early ballot request for the Spenos.”She thought it was unusual that our names would be on there being requested by somebody other than ourselves,” said Speno. “So she called to confirm that did we or did we not want her to mail the ballots and my husband and our were very surprised to see our names on that list and we told her that absolutely under no circumstances should she do that.”

California: Minor parties facing extinction under new voting system | San Jose Mercury News

They’ve been a colorful part of California’s political landscape for decades — Greens, Libertarians, American Independents and members of the Peace and Freedom Party. But after Tuesday’s election, most of them will be all but invisible — and perhaps on their way to extinction. In past years, minor parties held their own primary elections to choose nominees who would go on to compete with Democratic and Republican nominees in general elections. But that’s no longer the case under California’s new “top two” primary system, in which all voters choose from among all candidates of all parties — and only the two candidates who get the most votes advance to November, regardless of party. Because minor party candidates rarely finish in the top two, and it’s now harder for their candidates to get on the primary ballot in the first place, the parties will have little or no presence on the general-election ballot. And in politics, invisibility means oblivion. “It could spell the end of the Peace and Freedom Party,” said party chairman C.T. Weber, 71, of Sacramento. “It’s a shame that democracy is being undermined by this, but that’s the reality if we’re not able to overturn the law.”

National: Americans Elect, promoting third-party candidates, faces internal rebellion | North County Times

Americans Elect – the innovative effort to jolt the political system with a third-party presidential candidate – is facing a democratic uprising of its own. A hastily organized contingent of Americans Elect activists is agitating to reverse the group’s decision last week to pull the plug on its nomination process after failing to generate sufficient interest in its candidates. Complaining that the group’s leadership hasn’t listened to the membership, the insurgents are pushing for Americans Elect to forge ahead. They don’t want the $35 million the group raised to get on the ballot in 29 states, including California, to go to waste. Involved in the effort is a Bay Area activist and filmmaker who ran for the Americans Elect nomination and came in third place, after former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. Michealene Risley, a resident of Woodside in San Mateo County, said she was shocked when she heard – via press release – that Americans Elect was shutting down the nomination process. “People feel really used and manipulated,” said Risley, who ran on a platform of campaign finance reform.

Voting Blogs: Americans Elect Shows Voters May Be Ready For A Third Party Candidate, But Not A Third Party | TPM

“None of the above” will now be the only real option for voters frustrated with the tired choice between two parties now that Americans Elect, the well-funded nonpartisan organization that sought to nominate a legitimate third-party candidate for president in 2012, has folded. (Only Nevada has an actual “none of the above” option on the ballot.) It seems that the inability to create a movement in this vein was less about the sentiment — polls show Americans are aren’t fans of either party specifically or the political process generally — but it was lacking a key ingredient: leadership. “You can’t fill a political vacuum with a concept,” Lee Miringoff, assistant professor of political science and director the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, told TPM. “The context is there, and the climate is right, but you need someone you can look at, a person, a candidate. Politics has become much more about personal qualities of individuals.”

Editorials: The Third Party Fantasy | NYTimes.com

“Third parties are like bees,” the intellectual historian Richard Hofstadter wrote in 1955. “Once they have stung, they die.” It’s an aphorism that aptly describes the anti-slavery and anti-immigrant parties of the mid-nineteenth century, the Populists and Progressives who ushered out the Gilded Age, as well as more recent third-party standard bearers, from George Wallace to Ross Perot. All of these movements and figures influenced American politics dramatically, before fading away and leaving the basic two-party duopoly intact. Of late, though, our potential third parties have been skipping the stinging part and going straight to the dying. This was true of Unity ’08, the much-ballyhooed attempt by former Democratic and Republican politicos to put up an independent alternative to Barack Obama and John McCain. Despite enjoying a wave of free publicity and boasting Sam Waterston of “Law & Order” as their spokesman, the Unityers never even came close to conjuring up a plausible candidate or platform, and their movement fizzled out amid attempts to entice an unwilling Michael Bloomberg into the lists.

Editorials: Americans Elect meets reality: third-party effort may be viable — just not now | Doyle McManus/latimes.com

What happens if you start a political party and nobody comes? Six months ago, a newfangled third party burst onto the scene, full of hope and promise. It was called Americans Elect, and it sought to give voters a choice many said they were looking for: “centrist” candidates who could break the partisan gridlock paralyzing Washington. In its founders’ heads danced visions of middle-of-the-road candidates who could transform American politics: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Colin Powell, Michael Bloomberg, Jon Huntsman Jr. Wealthy donors invested millions in a fancy website for an Internet primary, signed up 420,000 would-be “delegates” and got on the ballot in 29 states. Newspaper columnists, including me, pondered what effect it might have on the election. Then the grand idea collided with reality.

National: Americans Elect scraps virtual caucus for lack of early candidate support | The Post and Courier

A group clearing the path for an independent White House bid canceled the first phase of its search for a bipartisan ticket Tuesday because declared and draft candidates aren’t mustering enough preliminary support. Americans Elect scrapped a virtual caucus that had been planned for next week. Another round of voting set for May 15 also is in jeopardy; a third is to be held on May 22. Candidates must meet a certain threshold of support to be eligible for the caucuses.

Editorials: Americans Elect could prove a disastrous spoiler | latimes.com

Are political centrists in America without a political home? Do we need a third-party presidential candidate to represent those socially progressive, fiscally austere voters who find our two parties too extreme? There’s no disputing that the Republican Party continues to move rightward at warp speed. Virtually every GOP elected official who’s been in office for more than a couple of years has had to repudiate previously mainstream Republican positions (such as creating a health insurance system with an individual mandate, an idea cooked up by a right-wing think tank) to keep today’s more rabid Republican activists from challenging them in party primaries or caucuses. Such longtime conservative stalwarts as Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Richard Lugar of Indiana could lose their party’s renomination this spring from just such challenges. In this year’s GOP presidential primaries, each of the four candidates has attacked the others only from the right. Logic suggests that every GOP candidate cannot be to the right of every other GOP candidate, but if that’s what this year’s Republican base demands — and it is — then logic be damned: Everyone is running to the right.