DANIEL VAUGHAN: Republicans should get Green Party on the ballot

As Republicans work through the aftermath of the 2020 elections, they should take one legal strategy into 2022 and 2024: expand ballot access to third parties, like the Green Party, challenging Democrats’ attempts to suppress other left-leaning parties in critical battleground states. 

In the months leading up to the 2020 general election, state-level Democratic parties and their lawyers made a point of targeting Green Party candidates and removing them from the ballot. Democrats feared the Green Party’s potential influence in a close election. 

In September, Pennsylvanian Democrats convinced a 5-2 Democratic majority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to remove Howie Hawkins, the Green Party’s presidential candidate, from the state ballot. The two dissenting Republicans agreed the Green Party failed the statutory test. However, those Republicans would have granted an opportunity to fix the issue rather than denying the Green Party outright access.

Three days before Pennsylvania Democrats won their case, Wisconsin Democrats won a similar legal victory, kicking the Green Party off that state’s ballot, too. Similar lawsuits were filed and in Montana and Texas. Democrats lost the case in Texas.

It’s easy to notice a commonality in these cases: they’re occurring in what political parties perceive as battlegrounds, whether for the presidency or lower offices. Democrats are not targeting the Green Party in California or Massachusetts — only battlegrounds like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. 

When Republicans have supported third-party ballot access, the mainstream press reports as if it’s some sinister conservative plot to harm Democratic ambitions. Ballot and voter suppression on the left can’t possibly exist under this kind of stunted analysis. 

In 2016, the Green Party candidate Jill Stein received nearly 50,000 votes in Pennsylvania. The margin between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton in the same state was a little over 44,000 votes. In the 2020 race, with no Green Party, Joe Biden’s margin over Donald Trump is north of 80,000 votes. The Libertarian Party candidate received nearly 80,000 votes.

In Wisconsin, Joe Biden won with nearly 20,000 votes and no Green Party candidate. In 2016, Donald Trump won Wisconsin with a little over 20,000 votes. The Green Party received a little over 31,000 votes that year. The Libertarian candidates received nearly 40,000 votes in 2020 and over 100,000 votes in 2016.

When dealing with tight elections and thin margins, whether a third party is on the ballot could reshape an outcome. That’s not a sinister plot, however. It’s allowing freedom of choice on a ballot. If a voter on the right has options, including the Republican and Libertarian parties, why should Democrats be allowed suppressed?

In a statement regarding all these lawsuits, the Green Party called Democratic legal strategies in 2020 voter suppression: “By kicking Howie and Angela off the ballot in Wisconsin and then publicly celebrating this naked act of self-serving disenfranchisement, the Democrats have made plain their intention to ‘save democracy from Trump’ by killing it themselves first and then dancing on the grave.”

The legal maneuvers Democrats took in 2020 undercut their claim of being a party of people and ideas. If a political party believes the only way it can win is suppressing other parties and those voters, it doesn’t say much for that party. And Democrats have admitted as much in the lawsuits about the Green Party’s access to the ballot. When asked under oath why they worked to keep the Green Party off the ballot, one Montana Democrat said

We would have to spend resources in numerous ways. … We would have to put more resources on the ground to knock on different doors than we normally would. We would have to put out more expensive, more complicated polling. We would have to — we would have to hold more fundraisers, spend more resources trying to gather more money to pay for all of these things. Just very numerous ways the Montana Democratic Party would have to — would have to adjust and be harmed.

Democrats don’t want to put in the work to win over voters. So instead, they’ve focused on suppression efforts on people on their own side.

Republicans should take this opportunity to lower bars of access for groups like the Green Party. And if Democrats want to be the party of ballot suppression, they should be forced to answer why they support such plans. Why should Democrats be allowed to remain in an environment with no challenge to their left flank?

Republicans have lived peacefully for decades with third party candidates from Ross Perot to Libertarian and Constitutional Party candidates. Democrats can live with one other party nipping at their heels from the left.

That is, unless Democrats can’t compete with the Green Party’s ideas. If true, that’s something else the left should answer.

Either way, the lane is wide open for Republicans to be both a working-class party and the group promoting ballot access moving forward. They should take that route.