Republicans Threaten Minor Parties, LP Charges
[Editor's note: In 1998, the Colorado legislature passed a bill making it easier for minor parties to gain access to the ballot. The bill was sponsored by then-Representative Ron Tupa and supported by Rep. Paul Weissmann (both Democrats). Prior to that, Libertarian candidates could run only by gathering signatures with petitions. Currently, the state LP can nominate candidates by a vote of the membership at its convention. Following is the perspective of the leadership of the state LP on bill 03-1142, offered by a number of Republicans.]
LIBERTARIAN PARTY of Colorado
REPUBLICANS THREATEN FREE ELECTIVE CHOICE
COLORADO SPRINGS - "Republicans can't stand a little competition! They are trying to steal people's choices." So said John K. Berntson, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado.
Berntson was reacting to House Bill HB03-1142, which is now winding its way through the Colorado Legislature. This bill would have the effect of causing all minor parties to go through the caucus and primary system of the major parties.
"Certainly they realize that most minor parties average less than one registered party member per precinct," continued Berntson. "They also know that they have trouble getting participation at their own caucuses, as many people as they have, so what chance would the minor parties have in meeting their requirements?"
Across the country, the two major parties have long tried to control ballot access, keeping off everyone except themselves. They have even coined the incorrect phrase, "Two Party System," to make people think that this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind for our republic.
Yet the Founders never spoke in favor of political parties. They wanted multiple voices, forming and reforming coalitions, depending on the issue. George Washington even explicitly warned against them. The Libertarian issue is a simple one: freedom. The Republican and Democrat issues are the same: control.
Colorado has been blessed these past five years with the most open ballot access in the nation. Our Minor Party Law gives ballot access to any party that can register one thousand members - something that only a handful of groups has been able to do.
"This bill is aimed squarely at the Libertarian Party," said Berntson. "The other minor parties have only nominated a comparative handful of candidates, while we have had between seventy and ninety candidates in each of the past two cycles.
"This is really about the 2000 elections. Republicans blame us for throwing the State Senate to the Democrats in 2000. Now they are in power again, and they want to stop any possibility that 2000 could happen again. They are simply covering their own assets, because they think they can get away with it.
"The truth is, they have lost some votes to us, because they have failed to represent their own base supporters. If they would shrink the size of government, bring about real tax relief, grant people the right to defend themselves, and stop stealing people's property, they would not have to worry about us."
Did the Libertarians "steal" Republican votes? Only if you believe that Republicans - or Democrats - own votes to begin with, instead of earning them. Republicans know that their base supporters would never vote Democrat, and so were content to ignore their concerns. When Libertarians offered a real choice, those voters took advantage of it.
In a handful of races, Libertarians got enough votes to cost the Republicans seats, though nobody can ever say for sure how those voters would have voted without a Libertarian in the race. Yet Libertarians maintain that this is how our system is supposed to work, that Republicans and Democrats should be required to earn votes, not just cut off the competition at the knees.
"Anyone that wants representative democracy to work should be horrified at this bill," said Berntson. "Though they are sure to say it was written to ensure 'fairness,' all these people want to do is change the rules to eliminate competition. It is the most un-American thing I can think of them doing.
"To them, 'fair' means they have all of the advantages. To us, 'fair' means 'fair'".
The Libertarian Party of Colorado decries this legislation and urges the people of Colorado to call their legislators to kill this bill NOW.
LIBERTARIAN PARTY of Colorado
SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
DENVER - Most members of the Colorado House of Representatives only get to introduce five bills per session, which makes them a commodity not to be wasted lightly. So why has Representative Bill Crane (R-Arvada, HD27) used one of his bills to try to force minor political parties into the major party caucus/primary system?
"Bills are supposed to solve problems and concerns that constituents have, at least in theory," said John K. Berntson, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado. "This bill would just force most minor party candidates off of the ballot. So just what problem is it that Mr. Crane is trying to solve?"
Have constituents complained about having too many choices on the ballot? Libertarians would love to see the evidence to back that up. Even people who do not vote for minor parties seem happy to have the extra choice.
Has the Secretary of State's Elections Department complained about the modest increase in their workload? When has a bureaucratic agency ever complained about taking on more work? Indeed, state and county elections departments always seem to be happy to have minor party candidates, as it gives them something a little different to do.
Have the minor parties complained about not being in the primaries? This does not seem likely, as the minor parties all realize that they will drown in the paperwork requirements that this bill would enforce.
So just what is the problem here?
"Mr. Crane is sure to invoke the word 'fairness' when he tries to defend this bill," said Berntson. "After all, why shouldn't minor party candidates have to leap through the same hurdles as the majors, according to him?"
But the major party political machines have access to millions of dollars and paid staff. They can work through any kind of requirements they set on themselves.
Minor parties, on the other hand, are true grassroots organizations, getting by on volunteer efforts. They simply cannot afford to organize assemblies in each county or handle the resultant paperwork. Crane and other Republicans know this.
Should not minor parties be allowed the same opportunities to set their own requirements, as do the major parties? Is that not what true equal opportunity is all about?
One thing is for sure: Bill Crane misrepresents his own views by this bill. On his website at
"Mr. Crane, like many Republicans, thinks that we stole 'his' votes in the last election. He thinks we gave control of the Senate to the Democrats in 2000. That is the only problem he is trying to solve.
"Shame on you, Bill Crane!" concluded Berntson.
From the Secretary of State's election website:
State Representative District 27
Bill Crane REP) 12531 50.95%
That's pretty close. Maybe this is the problem? Or is it just that Rep. Crane is just a poor winner and barely effective campaigner in his Arvada district?
The Libertarian Party of Colorado opposes HB 1142 and urges the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs to kill this ridiculously partisan bill NOW, before freedom of choice is further stifled in the name of allaying the fears of the out-of-control Republican status quo.