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Third parties hope to change voters’ mindsets

By Nicholas Vercilla, Point Park News Service:

Over the past several months, Jim Barr worked day and night for five to six days a week to get presidential candidate Darrell Castle on the Pennsylvania ballot for the election.

Third-party candidate Darrell Castle. Photo credit: castle2016.com
Third-party candidate Darrell Castle. Photo credit: castle2016.com

All the while, he knew that Castle literally had no mathematical chance of winning the election.

“We work hard and we put our time and energy into it because we believe in it,” Barr said.

Barr is an executive community member of the Constitution Party of Pennsylvania and is also currently running for the State House of the 20th Legislative District.

He is someone who is campaigning and voting for a third-party candidate that he considers being a “good alternative” to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Other than Castle, Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein are the most popular third party candidates. Johnson, Stein, and Castle represent the third, fourth, and fifth biggest political parties in the United States, respectively.

Robert Piemme, who is the vice-chairman of the Green Party of Allegheny County, said that he is not only voting for Stein due to sharing her ideals, but added that it is important to create a multi-party system in the country.

“We all agree that a multi-party system is healthier for America,” Piemme said. “It seems to produce better results.”

Barr reiterated that point and also said that the “two-party system” that we have in the nation currently is deceiving voters and not protecting our liberties.

“We have a two-party system, and it is destroying America, with the debt (and) the wars,” Barr said.

Supporters of third parties try to advertise for their candidate. However, due to either a lack of funds or lack of media attention, they find other creative ways to spread awareness.

Third-party candidate Jill Stein. Photo credit: jill2016.com
Third-party candidate Jill Stein. Photo credit: jill2016.com

For example, Marci Henzi, the secretary/treasurer of the Green Party of Allegheny County, said that member Keith Maki, a Ph.D student at Carnegie Mellon University, founded a campaign called the “Pittsburgh Peace Lights,” which is an off-shoot of a group in Milwaukee called the “Overpass Light Brigade.” In this campaign, Maki places LED lights in and around Allegheny County, most notably in bypasses over major highways.

“The LED light brigades are really the best one to get the word out,” Henzi said.

Maki says that the signs are legal to use as long as they don’t permanently affix anything to a public structure or block a roadway. .

“We choose locations where the messages will be seen by a good number of people, such as night-time farmer’s markets and highway overpasses. But sometimes it’s difficult to know when there will be a lot of traffic after dark,” Maki said.

Henzi also said that over the summer,Marty Fruendt, chairman of the outreach committee, went from home to home of supporters of former Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders to try and recruit them to Stein.

Fruendt, a former supporter of Sanders who switched to the Green Party a week after the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, went to 20 homes in his neighborhood area. He said that the response he received was good, and the people he talked to were neither Clinton nor Trump supporters.

“I gave out literature for the Greens and encouraged them to come to events,” Fruendt said. “I didn’t have to ‘convert’ them.”

Henzi said that these forms of advertising, as well as grassroots donations from members, are what needs to be done for small campaigns to succeed. She said that currently the group had around $400 in its budget for campaigning and advertising.

“We really don’t have a lot of money to advertise,” Henzi said. “We really don’t get mainstream media attention.”

However, there are other major problems that plague third-party candidates. Historically, third-party candidates do not poll well in elections.

Third-party candidate Gary Johnson. Photo credit: johnsonweld.com
Third-party candidate Gary Johnson. Photo credit: johnsonweld.com

According to New York Magazine, Johnson is polling nationally around 5.5% of the vote. Stein is at an even lower 2.2% nationally, according to realclearpolitics.com. Castle, who is only on the ballot in 24 states, cannot mathematically win the Electoral College vote even if he won all of his states.

According to Point Park University political science professor Nathan Firestone, a major reason why third-party candidates don’t poll well is simply because American voters are too reluctant to vote for anything other than the two major political parties.

“If you vote for a third party… the argument is made that you’re really voting for the candidate that you like the least because you are depriving a candidate that you could live with of a chance of your vote,” he  said.

Firestone also said that the state legislatures, which are controlled by Republicans or Democrats, stack the voting process against third parties.

Both Barr and Piemme agreed with that statement because they said their candidates in Pennsylvania in the past needed more signatures and needed to pay a filing fine as well. Barr said that the registration system in Pennsylvania needs to change to make it more free and equal as it was originally intended.

Firestone believes that if third-parties do the legwork to raise money as well as find “unusually attractive candidates,” then the perception of third-parties will change and can poll well in elections.

As for the third-party supporters, they said that no matter what, they will continue to support who they believe in and what is best for the nation as a whole.

“We believe our work is going to benefit America and we put our time, our effort, and talent into that effort,” Barr said.

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