Third parties don't make the cut

Green, Republican Moderate parties may be left out in the cold

Posted: Friday, November 08, 2002

Two of the state's six political parties face the prospect of losing official party status following a poor showing for their gubernatorial candidates in Tuesday's general election.

Although the official ballot count will not be completed until Nov. 29, the Green Party and Republican Moderate Party are far from receiving the necessary votes to maintain their spots on the ballot.

To be recognized by the state, political parties must take 3 percent of the vote in the gubernatorial election or have that many voters registered with the party.

Of the 460,855 registered voters in the state, early tabulations show 199,410 voted for governor in Tuesday's election. The number needed to reach the 3 percent requirement is 5,982.

Janet Kowalski, director for the Division of Elections, said the state still is counting absentee ballots and questioned ballots but acknowledged it is unlikely the Republican Moderates and Greens will gain the necessary votes.

The unofficial results show the Green Party taking 1.23 percent of the votes and the Republican Moderates taking 0.63 percent.

The Libertarian Party and the Alaskan Independence Party took less than 1 percent of the votes cast, but both have enough registered members to fulfill the 3 percent requirement. The AIP has 17,787 members and the Libertarians have 7,228.

Organizers for the threatened parties are devising plans to regain recognized party status.

Steve Cleary, co-chairman for the Alaska Green Party, said it has about 4,800 members.

"We're trying to get each Green Party member to register one other voter," Cleary said.

With a goal of signing up about 1,500 by the beginning of 2004, the group will send out mailers and solicit voters at universities, shopping malls and the state fair to increase enrollment, Cleary said.

The Green Party attained official party status in 1990 and has struggled to keep its numbers high enough to stay in the political arena; in the 1998 gubernatorial election, the Greens made the 3 percent threshold by just 13 votes.

Republican Moderate Party Chairman Ray Metcalfe said the party, which has 3,074 members, gains about two members a day. Republican Moderates achieved party status in 1998.

Metcalfe said he expects enrollment to grow to 4,000 or 5,000 within the next two years.

Even if the party does not gain the necessary enrollment by the next election cycle, it could nominate candidates for the general election by petition.

In order to fulfill the petition requirements, candidates would have to gather signatures from 1 percent of the voters in their prospective districts who voted in the last election. This would call for about 60 signatures for House candidates and about 120 signatures for Senate candidates, Metcalfe said.

"That's not that hard of a nut to crack," Metcalfe said. "This is walking around the block a few times and knocking on some doors."

Metcalfe attributed the low voter turnout for the Republican Moderate gubernatorial candidate Raymond VinZant to the perception that the race between Republican Frank Murkowski and Democrat Fran Ulmer was close.

This made voters "unwilling to throw a vote" to the Republican Moderate candidate, Metcalfe said.

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothyi@juneauempire.com.



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