See more of the story

Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes a mix of national and local commentaries online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


In "Bill would stifle third parties" (Opinion Exchange, March 15) Nathan Atkins offers several analogies. But let's say there is a town with both a Lowe's and a Home Depot hardware store. Someone now decides to build a Menards in the same city, but the city is not big enough to support all three hardware stores. The Menards is built anyway on the theory that it will survive by taking customers from both Lowe's and Home Depot.

However, it does not. It turns out the Menards mainly takes customers from Home Depot. Suddenly both the Menards and Home Depot have to close because there are not enough customers to go around support either and soon all that is left is Lowe's.

That is what the issue is with the current election system.

We have seen election after election spoiled or distorted by a third-party candidate who in some cases was not even endorsed by the third party, and in others was running essentially to put a monkey wrench into the system. The 10% threshold requirement for a political party to achieve major party status in Minnesota, embodied in the legislation Atkins opposes (HF 2802/SF 1827) would keep that from happening. It is very likely that some elections would have different outcomes if that rule was put in place.

The best example would be the 2009 contest when controversial Republican Michele Bachmann barely beat Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg for a Sixth District congressional seat when 10% of voters cast ballots for a candidate who ran under the Independence Party banner, even though the Independence Party endorsed Tinklenberg.

The candidate was able to do this because the Independence Party had regained major party status when gubernatorial Independence Party candidate Peter Hutchinson had received 6% of the vote two years earlier.

Had the 10% threshold been in place, that candidate would not have been on the ballot and it is very likely that Tinklenberg would have won. (The Independence Party lost major party status in 2014 and lost minor party status last year.)

I also would ask everyone who is against legalizing marijuana to support HF 2802. Democrats are under pressure to pass legal marijuana to prevent elections being spoiled by third parties that have gained major party status in recent years running on the legal marijuana issue. Just look at the 5% who voted for two third-party legal-cannabis candidates in the state auditor's race last fall. Democrat Julie Blaha barely squeaked by to win re-election. What marijuana has to do with being state auditor is beyond me.

Pushing the major party threshold to 10% is necessary to keep candidates from trying to exploit third parties simply to tilt elections to one candidate or the other or just to muck up the system.

William Cory Labovitch is a political activist who lives in South St. Paul.