The Case for Strategic Third Party Voting in the New York Gubernatorial Race (Updated)

In every election, among those who cast their ballots for the candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties, there are no doubt a large percentage who do so against their better judgment and even against their own will.  These voters go by many names.  Sometimes they are called defensive voters, who cast their ballots for the candidate of one major party so as to defend against the election of the candidate from the other.  Others are lesser-of-two-evils voters, who assert that casting a ballot for a third party candidate is "throwing one's vote away." Some are strategic voters, who would rather support an independent or third party candidate but are plagued by the same worries as the defensive voter or the lesser-evilist, and so on.

Though I am, of course, a proponent of third party and independent politics in and for itself, in New York's gubernatorial race, a strong case can also be made for what we might call strategic third party voting.  There are likely very few people who have any doubt what the outcome of this contest will be.  Democrat Andrew Cuomo leads his nearest rival, Republican Carl Paladino, by twenty to forty percentage points, according to recent polls. As we approach election day, Democrats have little to worry about and Republicans little to hope for.  In other words, the dynamics that motivate defensive voting in favor of the major party candidates are simply not in play in this race.

As I wrote last week, if you support Democrats because you still believe the myth that they stand for the interests of the middle and working class, that they provide a viable opposition to Republicans, that they stand for social values and justice, there is no question that you should vote for Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins.  On the other hand, if you support Republicans because you still believe the myth that they are opponents of big government, that they stand for individual rights and liberties, and that they provide a viable opposition to the Democrats, there is no question that you should cast your ballot for Libertarian Party candidate Warren Redlich.  Given the state of Democratic-Republican party politics, only the most intellectually dishonest progressives, liberals, conservatives and libertarians could argue with these basic points.  However, ideological and philosophical reasoning aside, there is also a strategic reason to support the Green and Libertarian candidates for governor.

If the Green and Libertarian party gubernatorial candidates receive more than 50,000 votes, the Green and Libertarian parties are assured ballot access on all New York ballots for the next four years.  Without an assured ballot line going forward, Green and Libertarian candidates for any office would have to engage in a daunting petitioning effort, potentially having to gather thousands of signatures, just to ensure that they appear on the ballot.  However, if the Green and Libertarian parties are assured a ballot line, the ballot access hurdle is substantially lower, requiring petitions with dozens rather than thousands of signatures.

Many people who are sympathetic to the third party and independent critique of the two-party state and duopoly system of government often argue that alternatives to the Democratic and Republican parties must be built from the bottom up, beginning at the local level, and they are thus hesitant to support third party candidates for higher offices.  However, in New York as in many other states, the Democratic and Republican parties have structured ballot access law such that the optimal political strategy for any third party is to wage difficult campaigns for higher offices they are unlikely to win, in the hopes of assuring ballot access and thus facilitating the efforts of later candidates for lower offices. 

According to the certified ballot of the New York State Board of Elections, this year there are upwards of forty different races in which a Democrat or Republican is running for office unopposed!  In dozens of other contests, voters will be faced with a choice between a Democrat and a Republican, which, as we all know, is often effectively equivalent to having no choice at all.  Unlike the Working Families Party or the Conservative Party, the Green and Libertarian parties are highly likely to run their own candidates for office rather than simply rubber stamp those offered up by the Democrats and Republicans. 

A vote for the Green or Libertarian candidate for governor of New York is a vote in support of political choice and competition.  If you are a progressive or liberal who would like to see more liberal and progressive challengers to the reigning two-party state over the course of the next four years, you should cast your ballot for Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor.  Similarly, if you are a conservative or libertarian who would like to see more conservative and libertarian challengers to the reigning two-party state over the course of the next four years, you should cast your ballot for Warren Redlich, the Libertarian Party candidate for governor.  Or are you satisfied with the state of New York State?

Update:  I contacted Richard Winger of Ballot Access News to make sure that I had my facts straight regarding ballot access law.  Via email, he agrees that the Green and Libertarian parties would indeed be in a far better position if they qualified for a ballot line, and adds: "They could then run statewide nominees with no petition at all.  But their district and county and municipal candidates would need petitions to get themselves on primary ballots."  [Emphasis added.] 


Anonymous said...

Carl Paladino is also running on the TaxPayer line, which could also become a party if it gets 50,000 votes.

Paladino will fight the insiders in Albany and cut taxes by 10% and cut spending by 20%. New York is screwed if cuomo gets elected.

Vote TaxPayer line

Anonymous said...

Carl is trying to get that line so he can sell it for an unknown return favor. The people who support the Tax Payer party are unorganized, unsure of what they stand for, and, above all, not committed towards the risk of actually financially backing another party. The Libertarian and Green lines are unlikely to be up for sale as their platforms are unique, their leaders are principled, and their members are committed. Finances are not a concern to these parties at this time.

Anonymous said...

I was one of those who collected petitions for the Tax Payer line. I can tell you right now that the line was to be for those who are not beholden to any special interests OR party. It is also a TRUE CONSERVATIVE line.

Liberterian and Green Party are two heads of the same beast. Neither one of them offer a social conservative a voice. The Green Party tends to be compised of socialists and are for socialized health care and the Liberterians support gay marriage, the legalization of pot and support the building of the mosque at ground zero.

The Conservative Party has been taken over by special interests, unions, and therefor is no longer considered Conservative to a tue Conservative.

The TaxPayer line is the response to having NO Conservative line for a True Conservative.

A true Conservative would never vote for a Liberterian or a Green party candidate.

d.eris said...

I'd be interested to hear more on your critique and criticism of the Conservative Party, Anonymous commenter #3, and I would note in addition that you are overlooking the conservative wings of the Libertarian and even the Green parties. Conservative (in your sense) Greens and Libertarians do in fact exist.

(btw, all these anonymous comments make it kind of difficult to carry on a discussion, I'd be much obliged if folks would please consider at least signing off with a fake name or handle at the end of comments.)

To tell you the truth, I haven't really been following the efforts of Paladino's Taxpayer Party line. From what I initially read, it seemed like his setting it up was more an insurance policy to provide him the opportunity to appear on the ballot if he failed to get the GOP nomination, rather than a sincere effort to launch a group that would run independent candidates against Republicans and Democrats. Is anyone running on that ballot line besides Paladino?

pete healey said...

I agree with much of what has been said by all the commenters thus far, except of course for their conclusions.
In additon, I want to add that I'll probably be voting for Jimmy McMillan as my protest vote (mainly because it seems to me he now has the best chance of achieving the 50,000 votes necessary for a ballot line).
By the way, it will be necessary for these parties to petition by gathering signatures even after achieving ballot status, but the requirement is based on the numbers of their own party registrants rather than the arbitrarily high numbers set by the state for parties that don't have ballot status.
Yes, socialists and social democrats should vote for Howie Hawkins ( I consider myself a Green but not a socialist so I don't support their current leadership and direction) and Redlich should be supported by Republican-leaning libertarians, since Redlich himself is a Republican and advocated votes for several Repubican congressional candidates at the debate.
And it's pretty much true that the
Conservative Party has been captured by the Republicans and the construction trade unions, so the alternative might be the new Taxpayer Party though nothing has been heard from them since Paladino got the Republican and Conservative lines.

Wiseburn said...

While Redlich is socially tolerant, His focus is "Stop Wasting Money". Conservatives should send Albany a message to "Stop Wasting Money" by voting for Redlich.

d.eris said...

Pete writes, "it will be necessary for these parties to petition by gathering signatures even after achieving ballot status, but the requirement is based on the numbers of their own party registrants."

Indeed, the petition signature threshold I've heard is 5% of the number of the party's registrants in the given district, for small ballot qualified parties. So petition requirements could be very low or relatively high depending on the district.

btw, Pete, did you happen to contact Redlich regarding those number of his you were skeptical about?

pete healey said...

I wrote to Redlich during the campaign and got no response. Okay, he was busy. I wrote to him recently and the response I received was a website There was no other written response or explanation. So I went to this site which purports to have a database of all state, county, local, school and other public employees. The closest thing I could come up with was nearly 50,000 people making over $100,000 per year, which isn't really the same thing as the "110,000 bureaucrats making more than $100,000 per year" that I believe was Redlich's claim. So we're almost halfway there, and that's not convincing in my book.