New York’s Libertarian Party needs help this election and is turning to an unlikely source: Democratic voters.
After new state rules increased the number of votes that a third party needs to maintain their automatic ballot line in future elections, the Libertarian Party in New York is scrambling to convince would-be Biden voters to jump ship and vote for their candidate instead to help them meet the threshold and ensure the future of the party in New York politics.
The party is trying to appeal to voters’ support of small “d” democracy. A vote for Libertarian presidential candidate Dr. Jo Jorgensen is a vote for a healthy democracy in New York State because it helps secure a diversity of options on the ballot, they said. And since New York State is a shoe-in for presidential candidate Joe Biden because the state’s electoral votes always go to the Democratic candidate, voting on the Libertarian ballot line won’t affect the outcome of the presidential election, they said. Instead of being a symbolic action, their vote will have a real effect on the future of New York politics.
“They should know that their vote will actually matter and count, far more than it ordinarily would voting for anyone in New York State on a presidential line,” said Ilya Schwartzburg, chair of the Manhattan Libertarian Party, who wrote an op-ed laying out the Libertarian Party’s case. ”We don’t need the endorsement of anyone but we do need help to get over the unfair hurdles and obstacles that are being put in front of us.”
According to the new rules, third parties needs whichever is higher, 130,000 votes or 2% of the total vote count, every two years during the presidential and gubernatorial elections to guarantee an automatic spot on the ballot in the next election.
Critics of the change say that the threshold is unreasonably high and unattainable and will result in suppressing third party participation in state politics. The rule change is also widely thought to be retaliation by the Cuomo administration against another third party, the Working Families Party, for their endorsement of his opponent in the 2018 gubernatorial elections.
The Working Families Party is making a similar plea to would-be Democratic voters but with more success since their presidential candidate is Biden as well. Progressive elected officials such as U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams have come out in support of their cause and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who waited in a long line on Tuesday to vote early, voted for Biden on the Working Families Party line.
It’s important for the Libertarian Party to maintain ballot access because it fills a gap in New York politics and provides more options for voters, Michael Arcati, chair of the Queens Libertarian Party.
“I think there’s a silent majority of independent voters who understand there’s nuance when it comes to politics, that there’s a lot of middle ground to be found when it comes to even the hottest topics such as gun control, and woman’s right to choose –– not everything has to be far left or far right position,” Arcati said. “I see the Libertarian Party as being the arbiters of that common ground.”
But without an automatic ballot line, the party will essentially cease to exist. It will be a party on paper, he said, but running their own candidates in elections will be nearly impossible.
“Without ballot access, you really don’t have any political sway,” said Arcati.
Even if he isn’t able to convince someone to vote for Jorgensen, he still tries to convince them to vote for a third party candidate to make sure that voters have options.
“Don’t vote on a Democrat, Republican line for president,” he said. “You’re wasting people’s right to choose at the ballot.”
The Libertarian Party’s case is a tough sell to voters, said David Birdsell, Dean of the Baruch College Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. Voters are too focused on making sure that their preferred candidate wins, especially in the current highly polarized political climate.
“It’s not necessarily the case that there are large constituencies who simply want to maintain the viability of third parties that are not nationally viable,” he said. “Trying to think about what the next vehicle is is not top of mind for too many voters right now.”
But a Biden win and a Democratic Senate could lead to the demise of the Republican party, he said, and the role of third parties in U.S. politics could change.
“There may be room for another party and it may be shaped to some extent by Libertarian ideas if not Libertarians themselves,” Birdsell said.
Schwartzburg, the chair of the Manhattan Libertarian Party, said he knows that the current political climate is not in their favor.
“It’s a partisan time and everyone’s focus is on having their candidate win,” he said.
But they are going to keep trying.
“I would make a modest request of non-Libertarians that, this one time, they could vote for Dr. Jo Jorgensen, the presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party,” Schwartzburg said.