The Libertarian Party and other third parties in New Jersey, dubbed the “mafia state” by the Green Party, are fighting back against electoral procedures that stack the deck in favor of Republicans and Democrats. The Independent Voter Network reports:
New Jersey’s 2017 gubernatorial race is a battleground for independent and third party candidates who feel the election system is rigged against them, and toward Republicans and Democrats.
Greens, Libertarians, and disenfranchised progressives are railing against a system they say locks them out and suppresses their voices in public debate.
Most states require party status or a percentage of support from voters (which NJ also requires) to get into debates. However, the $430,000 financial requirement is seen by some independents and third parties as a pay-to-play scam, held up by the most powerful political groups in the state.
“In NJ, the two “Old Parties” have shared control of the state for the past 150 years, and they will do whatever it takes to keep it that way,” said Pete Rohrman, the 2017 Libertarian gubernatorial candidate in New Jersey, in an interview for IVN.
“The last time someone other than a member of one of the “Old Parties” participated in a NJ gubernatorial debates was 1997. Dr. Murray Sabrin ran as a Libertarian that year. Shortly after Dr. Sabrin qualified, the state raised the requirements for debate access to near impossible levels for emerging parties.”
In the last election cycle, candidates for governor in New Jersey only had to raise $380,000. A spokesperson for the New Jersey division of elections was not immediately available for comment on why there is a financial threshold, or why the threshold continues to increase.
Who is eligible to participate in gubernatorial debates? Under NJ code 19:25 16-3, qualified party candidates must appear on a primary ballot, and meet the $430,0000 threshold — or meet filing rules and the $430,000 financial requirement.
It is not so hard to get access to a primary ballot — only 1,000 signatures, but most independent and third party candidates don’t qualify for public support to run primary elections, like Republicans and Democrats do.
In order to get party column status, and get support from the state, a group must garner at least 10% of the votes from the previous election cycle.
So why can’t independent and third party candidates meet these requirements?
According to the parties, they need access to the political infrastructure, including media coverage, and debate access, that gets their message out to the people.
“People don’t know that they have options,” said Kaper-Dale’s Operations Director.
“The majority of people in NJ want someone other than a Democrat or a Republican to vote for. The only way most of them will learn about other candidates is a fair and open debate,” said Rohrman.