Libertarians Maintain Narrow Lead Over Greens
by Ari Armstrong, December 16, 2003
The Libertarian Party of Colorado lost registered voters during 2003 but regained some voters the last part of the year, maintaining a slim lead over the Greens.
In January, the LP enjoyed a lead of 360 registered voters over the Greens. 5,844 people were registered to vote as Libertarians, while 5,484 were registered to vote Green. By November, however, the LP's lead was cut by two-thirds. Libertarian voter registrations declined to 5,772, while Green voter registrations increased to 5,652. These statistics were provided by LPCO Outreach Director Rand Fanshier in his December 9 report, based on information from the Secretary of State.
In November, the state Libertarian Party gained 32 new voter registrations, while the Green Party gained only 5. LP voter registrations dropped to their lowest 2003 total in May, with 5,649. Fanshier notes that in March, 2002, LP voter registrations totaled 4,915 (compared to 4,832 for the Greens).
From January through November, 2003, the Green Party was the only one in Colorado to show growth. Democratic voter registrations declined from 874,451 to 850,837, while Republican registrations declined from 1,063,134 to 1,040,467. Meanwhile, "unaffiliated" voters declined from 945,197 to 901,698. (Fanshier didn't list the numbers for any other party, though all other minor parties are far behind the Libertarians and Greens.)
From October to November, 2003, all parties made gains. Interestingly, the ranks of "unaffiliated" voters grew by 2,760 during this period, while the Republicans picked up 1,304 and the Democrats picked up 1,132. With 32 new voter registrations showing up in November, the LP picked up 0.6% of the 5,231 total new registrations recorded for that month. As of November, the LP's list of 5,772 is 0.2% of the total 2,805,634 voter registrations.
Fanshier explained why "unaffiliated" registrations seem to have picked up steam. It used to be the case that voter registration cards provided check boxes for "Unaffiliated," "Republican," and "Democrat." Those who wanted to register Libertarian had to check "other" and write in the name of the party.
On January 15, 2001, "Bill Compton, Chief of the Election Division of the Secretary of State's office... promised that Secretary Donnetta Davidson would look into changing the current voter registration cards that are biased against Minor Parties," according to a release by the Reform Party. In May, 2001, Libertarian activist David Aitken suggested to the Blue Ribbon Election Task Force that the voter registration cards include the names of all parties.
During the legislative session this year, Republicans passed HB 1142 into law, a measure that changed some of the rules pertaining to minor parties. Libertarians opposed the bill, which underwent serious revision before it passed. One consequence of the legislation, though, is that all parties are treated equally on voter registration forms. Libertarian Ralph Shnelvar wrote, "The best news is that voter registration forms will no longer list any political parties."
Aitken explained, "It happened because of 1142, which lets us participate in the primaries. Because the old forms said you had to be registered as a Republican or Democrat to participate in the primaries, that wasn't true anymore... [Secretary of State Donnetta Davidson] recognized that the form was no longer valid... In order to make the form reflect reality, she either had to put all the parties on there, or she had to take all of them off. She chose to take all of them off."
Fanshier speculates that, because all parties are now treated the same on voter registration cards, and registering "unaffiliated" requires only checking a box rather than writing out the name of a party, more people will tend to register "unaffiliated" than in the past. He hopes that advertising campaigns, such as a recently announced campaign to buy ads on bus benches, will convince more people to register Libertarian. That remains to be seen.
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On December 16, LPCO Chair Norm Olsen replied via e-mail to an inquiry from the Colorado Freedom Report concerning the current financial status of the party.
Olsen wrote, "The financial state of the LPCO is rather poor. Dues paying membership (i.e., pay $25 annual dues to the national) is down to approximately 600, which means our monthly check from national is about $600. Our 1776 Club membership is now down to about $300 a month. It has been dwindling over the last two years as there has been no fund raising effort to keep it up. So, our income (sans fund raising) is about $900 a month. By the time we pay for an office, the phone, and mail some Liberties [the newsletter], we're flat broke. We can't do much to grow the party."
Dues-paying members need not be registered to vote Libertarian within Colorado. LPCO accepts as members those who register as Libertarian as well as those who pay dues to the national LP.
I am working with Publications Director Steve Gallant to produce a quarterly, eight-page newsletter for LPCO, a job for which I get paid $400 per issue. The Colorado Freedom Report is an independent publication, not affiliated with the Libertarian Party or any other organization.
Olsen estimated it costs the party around $2,500 to send the newsletter to over 5,000 people. But this will change next year. Olsen explained, "A motion made and passed [at the December 9 board meeting] that said we would reduce the mailing of the Liberty to dues-paying members, with the exception of the pre-election issue," which would go out to the full list. This would cost "considerably less," perhaps half the previous cost, Olsen said. "With the budget the way it is, mailing 5,000 Liberties precludes us from doing virtually anything else," he said. The Winter issue, bundled with a fund-raising letter, has been handed off to the Post Office for delivery to about 5,200 people.
Olsen had a number of suggestions for LPCO members who want to help the party:
"1. Rand needs some help building affiliates. He really can't progress anymore without some serious dedicated help. This is perhaps the most important thing long term.
"2. Libertarians who are not dues paying members should seriously consider joining up and paying the $25 annual dues. National keeps (about) half, and we get half. But, $25 isn't that much, national does do some worthwhile things, and I think the new National Director will get national doing even more worthwhile things.
"3. Join the 1776 Club for $10, $15, $20 bucks a month. This goes directly to the state party. With this kind of reliable money, we can do the local affiliate/voter registration building stuff. (Please note, that fund raising is great, but it costs about 50 cents to raise a dollar.) Rand is hot on local affiliates and bus bench ads; all of us are hot on buying and distributing another 32,000 Viewpoint tabloids. (That's where the bulk of the "surplus" that we inherited went.)
On May 21-23, 2004, Colorado Libertarians will meet in Estes Park to nominate candidates, discuss party rules, and elect several board members.