Wisconsin Greens and Libertarians welcome Pocan-Risser Clean Elections Bill as a vast improvement
Wisconsin Green Party
April 18, 2007
Wisconsin Greens and Libertarians welcome Pocan-Risser Clean Elections Bill
as a vast improvement
WISCONSIN -- Although Greens and Libertarians have very different views on publicly funded elections, the Wisconsin Green Party and the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin agree that the Pocan-Risser Clean Elections Bill is a significant improvement over the existing Wisconsin public funding legislation.
"Greens are strong supporters of public funding of campaigns," said Ruth Weill, Co-chair of the Wisconsin Green Party. "In our current system, elections are often heavily influenced by wealthy special interests. Publicly funded elections put the public's interests in the forefront."
"Libertarians are not in favor of publicly funded elections," said Jim Maas, Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin. "We feel it is wrong for the government to take our money, and then use it to support candidates that we do not support. We believe that individuals should be free to use their money to express their political preferences. But if there is going to be public funding, it should be fair to all candidates."
The existing public funding legislation virtually excludes Libertarians, Greens, and all other third parties from receiving public funding in regular elections, since it requires that candidates in regular elections receive 6% of the primary vote in order to qualify - an extremely difficult requirement that has never been met by either party. Candidates from both parties have qualified for public funding in special elections, where the regulations are less arduous.
"The current law definitely discriminates against third parties," said Linda "Liberty" Sturtzen, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin. "This bill is definitely an improvement over the last one in its treatment of recognized third parties."
"This fall in the 1st Senate District, a Republican, a Green, and a Democrat were competing for office," said Ron Hardy, Co-chair of the Wisconsin Green Party. "None had opponents in the primary, and yet only the Democratic and Republican candidates qualified to receive public funding, because there were other hotly contested races in their parties that drew voters to their primaries. Representative Pocan was responsive to our concerns, and changed the bill to eliminate the exclusionary requirements for recognized parties. We commend his willingness to revise the bill in favor of fairer elections."
The new bill would place Libertarians and Greens on equal footing with Democratic and Republican candidates by removing the 6% primary threshold. The proposed bill requires the same from all candidates of "recognized political parties". As of April 2007, there are four recognized political parties in Wisconsin: Democratic, Libertarian, Republican, and Wisconsin Green. The bill proposes new requirements similar to those in the Maine and Arizona clean elections bills - among them the requirement that candidates collect a specified number of $5 contributions from citizens within their district.
However, the bill has a steeper requirement for independent candidates and those from non-recognized political parties - requiring them to receive 1% in the primary. The Libertarian Party of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Green Party are concerned that the proposed bill does not require the same qualifying threshold for all candidates.
"Greens and Libertarians believe in fair treatment of all candidates, not just those from recognized political parties," said Jacob Burns, Libertarian State Elections Board Member. "Although the proposed bill is a definite improvement over the current public funding legislation, this bill has a higher threshold for any candidate that is not from a recognized political party. It supports party politics. Candidates often choose to run as independents because they are adverse to party politics - and getting 1% in the primary as an independent is quite difficult."
"Third party candidates regularly experience the hurdles of our state and
national election systems, which are stacked towards the two-party system,"
said Bobby Gifford, Co-chair of the Wisconsin Green Party Elections Committee. "We like
that the proposed bill is more encouraging towards recognized third parties - it acknowledges the hard work that third
parties have undertaken to gain that status. The bill also attempts to address the
reality that the Clean Elections Fund is made up of taxpayer dollars, and
therefore must be prudently distributed. But we are concerned about the
difficulty that independents and candidates from non-recognized parties will
have in getting public funding. We do wish Wisconsin election laws would
equally encourage all candidates to run. The more diversity we encourage in
our election system, the more vibrant our democracy will be."