Iowa Lets Voters (Even Libertarians) ID Their Party Affiliations

Thanks to a lawsuit by the ACLU of Iowa, Green and Libertarian voters in that state can now register as Greens and Libertarians. Before the lawsuit was settled this week, voters were limited to parties that had received at least 2 percent of the vote in the previous gubernatorial or presidential election. In other words, they could pick any party affiliation they wanted, as long as it was Democratic or Republican. State leaders of those parties say they are not worried about the new rules, which should make it easier for small parties to organize and raise money. The ACLU of Iowa's Randall Wilson seems to blame "bureaucratic resistance" more than a conspiracy to maintain the two-party duopoly: "I think to a certain extent, it was just bureaucratic resistance years ago to the problem of implementing this and wondering where do you stop and how much work is it going to be to keep track of these parties when they're unlikely to win any major victories soon." The ACLU lawsuit, which noted that Iowa and Kansas were the only states that refused to allow minor-party registrations, suggested that those newfangled electric thinking machines would make it easier to keep all the political flavors straight.

[Thanks to Mark Lambert for the tip.] 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • the innominate one||

    That is good news, although it's pretty sad that a lawsuit was required to get the state to change. Why are individuals so incapable admitting the existence of a better idea?

    Also, I'm not sure why the party primaries get governmental funding and oversight. Can't the parties arrange their own election system to determine who their candidates will be, and the leave the actual election oversight to the government. That seems more proper to me.

  • ||

    One still can't register as a Libertarian in NC. There is some similar law that requires a percentage of the vote in the previous election for the party to continue to be recognized. If that doesn't happen they have to get X number of signatures on a petition to continue to be recognized, so they end up having to do that every few years. A few years ago they couldn't meet the requirements that way and the party was dropped. Anybody that was registered L was automatically switched to I, and all of the Libertarian candidates had to run as independents in the following election. The Libertarian party brought a lawsuit against the state last year, but I don't think that anything ever came of it.

    According to the LPNC, 50% of NC legislature candidates ran unopposed in 2006.

  • D. Greene||

    "newfangled electric thinking machines"

    I'm saving that for later.

  • ||

    In other words, they could pick any party affiliation they wanted, as long as it was Democratic or Republican.

    Does the statute also forbid Libertarians and Greens from getting 2% of the vote?

  • brian||

    crimethink

    Does the statute also forbid Libertarians and Greens from getting 2% of the vote?


    Well if no Libertarians could run as Libertarians, how could they get 2% of the vote? Instead, Independents got 2% of the vote!

  • ||

    Doesn't forbid it, but helps prevent it.

  • ||

    brian,

    Candidates could run as Libertarians before...voters just couldn't register as Libertarians.

    While I understand that this might make it easier for the LP to get addresses of people who identify themselves as Libertarians, I really don't see how the former system put them at a significant disadvantage.

  • brian||

    crimethin
    brian,

    Candidates could run as Libertarians before...voters just couldn't register as Libertarians.


    Oh, I must have confused the H&R story with JLM's story from NC:

    JLM: all of the Libertarian candidates had to run as independents

    That's what I was referring to. Without that restriction, I guess you're right. There was a disadvantage, but probably not a large one. Still, I don't see the point of the law (other than the fact that it keeps the two main parties in power).

    On that topic, how do people feel about proportional representation? It never comes up, but I like it, especially since it breaks the two party duopoly encouraged by FPTP systems. Also, instant runoff voting is nice. Anything's better than FPTP really when it comes to promoting third parties.

  • Robert||

    "I'm not sure why the party primaries get governmental funding and oversight. Can't the parties arrange their own election system to determine who their candidates will be, and the leave the actual election oversight to the government."

    Originally it was to keep the parties from discriminating racially.

  • ||

    brian,

    From what I understand about PR, you vote for a party and not candidates. Parties will have a list of candidates ranked, and whatever percentage of the vote they win comes off the top of that list. It does give more representation to third parties.

    I think the problem with PR is that it lessens the individuality of candidates (and their accountability to specific disticts) and increases party unity. Therefore you may have a few dogs in the fight, but the majority party might be so unified that nobody in the minority parties has any influence anyway. Where it could give you an advantage would be if no party had a majority and your third party formed some sort of coalition with one of the majority parties, giving you greater influence than your percentage of the seats would otherwise allow.

  • ||

    "......some sort of coalition with one of the majority parties,...."

    That should say "bigger parties".

  • ||

    JLM

    What you have described is "party list" PR. And your complaint with it is on the money.

    There are PR systems in which the voters select individual candidates. They tend to be complicated both for the voters and the canvassers.

    For the voters because they are usually required to select several candidates ranked by preference. And for the canvassers because the math required to calculate the results can be quite complex.

  • ||

    I do recall seeing something about that type of system, and it does sound pretty complicated. I imagine that roughly 5% of the voting public here would be smart enough to grasp the concept.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement