OLYMPIA – Washington voters dissatisfied with their likely choices from the nation’s two major parties will have more options on the November ballot than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Slates from three minor parties – Socialist Workers, Socialism & Liberation and Green – already have qualified for the state’s general election ballot by submitting 1,000 valid signatures from Washington voters. More third-party candidates are likely if 2016 is like previous presidential election years, when as many as a dozen presidential choices were available to Washington voters.
On Tuesday, members of the Socialist Workers Party hinted that the Secretary of State’s Office had tried to keep them off the ballot, saying they were initially told about half of their 1,700 signatures were valid.
“In effect, they were striking some 800 people who had signed to support our right to be on the ballot,” Mary Martin, the party’s gubernatorial candidate, said during a news conference on the Capitol steps, not far from the Secretary of State’s Office.
Some of those signatures had been gathered as candidates went door-to-door in Spokane and other cities, or on picket lines like the one set up for the Triumph Composite strike and lockout, Martin said. Party officials collected letters of protest from supporters and contacted their attorneys.
But Sheryl Moss, of the state elections office, said party officials were never told they wouldn’t make the ballot. Rather, they were given a “heads up” that some of the signatures they submitted weren’t in the database, but further checks were being made. The office determined it was because the state was using a database that hadn’t been updated since January, and many new voters have been registered because of party precinct caucuses and the May 24 presidential primary.
When the signatures were checked against an updated database, the party had enough signatures, Moss said. Even if it didn’t, the party would have had until Aug. 5 to submit additional signatures to reach the requirement to secure a spot on the ballot for presidential nominee Alyson Kennedy and vice presidential nominee Osborne Hart.
Martin said the massive interest in Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders proves voters are interested in choices outside the mainstream of the two major parties.
Hart, who joined Martin on the Capitol steps, called the party’s ballot access “a victory for all working people across the United States.” The party’s presidential slate is currently only on eight or nine state ballots, but its candidates are campaigning to “build a movement,” not win the election. The goal of such a movement would be to end capitalism and reorganize society “in the interest of humanity.”
“No social change comes from pulling a lever or putting a ballot in the box,” Hart said.
But that doesn’t keep the Socialist Workers Party from seeking access to the ballot. Its presidential tickets have been on the Washington ballot most elections since 1948, although in some of those elections those candidates collected only a few hundred votes.
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