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Thursday, April 25, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Of political parties and Idaho’s presidential ballot…

When you head to the polls in November to vote for president, don’t expect to see a line for the Green Party on the Idaho ballot. Idaho has just four recognized political parties with ballot status: Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Constitution Party. But that doesn’t mean Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee, won’t be on the Idaho ballot; she was on it in 2012 as an independent.

It takes just 1,000 valid signatures for an independent candidate to qualify for the Idaho ballot for president; Green Party signature gatherers are out now, and say they’ve passed that 1,000 mark.

But to qualify as a political party for ballot status in Idaho, a party would have to present signatures of enough qualified electors to add up to 2 percent of the aggregate vote cast in the last presidential election by Aug. 30. That comes to 13,325 valid signatures, according to the Idaho Secretary of State’s office.

Then, after qualifying with petitions, a party must either continue to have three or more candidates for state or national office listed under its party on the ballot at each general election, or have one of its candidates must get at least 3 percent of the vote, for it to remain a recognized party. The existing four parties in Idaho have met that.

There have been other parties that qualified for the Idaho ballot in the past, including the Natural Law Party and Reform Party in the 1990s and, decades ago, the Populist Party. The Green Party, which was founded in 1984, has never been on the Idaho ballot, according to Chief Deputy Idaho Secretary of State Tim Hurst. However, that doesn’t mean some of its nominees haven’t.

In addition to Stein, who drew 4,402 votes or 0.7 percent in Idaho as an independent in 2012, Ralph Nader, who had been the Green Party’s presidential nominee in 1996 and 2000, finally made the Idaho ballot as an independent in 2008. He drew 7,175 votes, or 1.1 percent. Four years earlier, in 2004, Nader had fallen short of the required number of signatures by the August deadline to run as an independent, but sued, trying to get on the Idaho ballot anyway; he lost. He ran that year as a write-in, but got just 0.2 percent of the vote; he’d polled 2.5 percent of the vote as a write-in in 2000.

In recent years, the highest vote numbers for a third-party or independent candidate for president in a general election in Idaho went to Ross Perot, who ran on the Reform Party ticket in 1996 and drew 62,518 votes, 12.7 percent of the vote that year.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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