Every year around this time, we start getting questions about why candidates for some political parties aren’t included in debates.
In past years, MPR has used a requirement that certain candidates poll a minimum percentage to be invited to debates it sponsors, which created a chicken-and-egg situation. How can a candidate poll a significant percentage if he/she can’t get coverage from the media? It’s a fair point.
The question arises today because the reaction to a show Monday “sizing up” the gubernatorial campaign.
“The Green Party is one of four parties listed on the Secretary of State’s Web site, is there a reason they’re not being included in your discussion or in any of the debates?” a caller asked.
“Well, they’re not a major party,” Midday host Gary Eichten responded.
“I think the interesting thing to me is why they still are a minor party,” guest Dan Hofrenning, a professor of political science at St. Olaf said. “I think in this day and age, when you have Al Gore winning a Nobel Prize, lots of people thinking issues like global warming and energy, why is that the Green Party is still stuck in the 1, 2, and 3 percent?”
Listener Jim Ivey was the caller and follows up with this e-mail today:
“I was one of the callers with a question on Monday’s Midday program. Specifically I tried to point out that there are four officially recognized parties in Minnesota (three major and one minor), and that the fourth is given no mention in any of the MPR discussions, much less an opportunity to participate in a debate. Gary’s response was dismissive, saying that there are only three major parties, and the Green Party is just one of many minor parties. He was wrong, and should have known better. The Green Party is the only officially recognized minor party in Minnesota, and goes to great lengths to maintain that status. Have him read the secretary of state’s website, which shows the registered parties and has a link to the definition of a minor party. As a taxpayer I’d appreciate it if MPR did a better job of avoiding the path taken by corporate-sponsored media in purposefully censoring any discussion of the Green Party and the issues that it tries to bring to the table. After the hundreds of hours of interviews with candidates from the other parties, the least you could do is invite the two state-wide Green Party candidates for separate short interviews on Midday, to allow them to briefly explain what they offer. Ideally you’d also have a separate show to talk about the challenges that the Green Party faces in terms of ballot access restrictions, which are draconian in comparison with most other states. Thanks for your consideration.”
I’ll save you the trouble. Here’s the definition of a minor party:
(a) “Minor political party” means a political party that has adopted a state constitution, designated a state party chair, held a state convention in the last two years, filed with the secretary of state no later than December 31 following the most recent state general election a certification that the party has met the foregoing requirements, and met the requirements of paragraph (b) or (e), as applicable.
(b) To be considered a minor party in all elections statewide, the political party must have presented at least one candidate for election to the office of:
(1) governor and lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, or attorney general, at the last preceding state general election for those offices; or
(2) presidential elector or U.S. senator at the preceding state general election for presidential electors; and who received votes in each county that in the aggregate equal at least one percent of the total number of individuals who voted in the election, or its members must have presented to the secretary of state at any time before the close of filing for the state partisan primary ballot a nominating petition in a form prescribed by the secretary of state containing the signatures of party members in a number equal to at least one percent of the total number of individuals who voted in the preceding state general election.
(c) A political party whose candidate receives a sufficient number of votes at a state general election described in paragraph (b) becomes a minor political party as of January 1 following that election and retains its minor party status for at least two state general elections even if the party fails to present a candidate who receives the number and percentage of votes required under paragraph (b) at subsequent state general elections.
(d) A minor political party whose candidates fail to receive the number and percentage of votes required under paragraph (b) at each of two consecutive state general elections described by paragraph (b) loses minor party status as of December 31 following the later of the two consecutive state general elections.
(e) A minor party that qualifies to be a major party loses its status as a minor party at the time it becomes a major party. Votes received by the candidates of a major party must be counted in determining whether the party received sufficient votes to qualify as a minor party, notwithstanding that the party does not receive sufficient votes to retain its major party status. To be considered a minor party in an election in a legislative district, the political party must have presented at least one candidate for a legislative office in that district who received votes from at least ten percent of the total number of individuals who voted for that office, or its members must have presented to the secretary of state a nominating petition in a form prescribed by the secretary of state containing the signatures of party members in a number equal to at least ten percent of the total number of individuals who voted in the preceding state general election for that legislative office.
The Green Party candidate is Farheen Hakeem, who has also been a candidate in the Legislature, Hennepin County commissioner in 2006, and ran for mayor of Minneapolis in 2005.
The irony of the issue of access to debates is that a “minor party” candidate wants in on the debates and can’t get in. A major party is in on debates, and wants out of one scheduled this week.