Liberty Union Party loses its major party status

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(Host) According to the certified results of last week’s election, Vermont’s Liberty Union Party has failed to maintain its major party status.

Party officials say they’re disappointed, and they plan to actively win this status back in the 2010 elections.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The Liberty Union Party was founded in 1970 as a group that was opposed to the Vietnam War and the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. The Party defines its platform as reflecting non-violent socialist policies.

To be a major political party in Vermont, a candidate from the party must win at least 5% of the vote in a statewide election.

Over the years, Liberty Union has seesawed between being a major party and a minor party.

Coming into the 2008 election, Liberty Union was a major party but its leading vote getter this year, Auditor candidate Jerry Levy received only 3.7% of the vote.

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says this means Liberty Union has lost its major party status and she thinks the rise of the Progressive Party is a major reason why:

(Markowitz) "So in the past if it was just the Liberty Union on the ticket people want a choice and they could easily get the 5% that’s required for major party status in this case though those numbers were split between the Progressive Party and the Liberty Union Party because each of those parties ran somebody in every one of those statewide races and so they didn’t quite make it they came close but they didn’t quite make it."

Peter Diamondstone is one of the founders of Liberty Union and was the Party’s candidate for governor this year.

He says he’s disappointed by the loss of major party status, because under state law, only major parties are allowed to hold statewide primary elections – minor parties select their candidates at a state convention:

(Diamondstone)"We now have to use the very undemocratic with a small "d" method of nomination by caucus and convention and can’t use the primary process where anybody can jump in and participate and seek to be a candidate…it’s really important to me at any rate that we seek to restore our major party status in the next election. "

Diamonstone says he’d like lawmakers to consider lowering that 5% threshold for major party status:

(Diamondstone) "This 5% requirement existed when there were only two political parties the Democrats and the Republicans and as you add parties to that number when you get up to three it becomes harder to get 5% and when you get top four it becomes even harder so maybe we should set lower standards the more parties we have."

The Progressive Party kept its major party status this year because its candidate for Auditor, Martha Abbott received just over 12% of the vote.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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