Today’s Texplainer question was inspired by reader Karen.
Hey, Texplainer: I don't like the Republicans or Democrats running in 2018. What are my other choices?
For Texans who aren’t fans of either of the nation’s two major parties, writing in a random person — or meteor — may sound appealing. (Yes, voters in 2016 cast ballots for Giant Meteor, Deez Nutz, Oprah Winfrey, Harambe or just left a somber message like “America U R Broken.”)
No, those votes don’t count. But you still do have some real options besides the chosen Democrats and Republicans.
Third party candidates
Texas Libertarians have fielded a candidate in nearly every statewide race this election season, according to Mark Tippetts, the party’s nominee for governor. A full list of the Libertarians that will be on the ballot this fall can be found on the party’s website.
In order to get their candidates on the general election ballot without a petition, third parties must have at least one candidate win more than 5 percent of the vote in a statewide race during the previous election cycle. Libertarian petroleum engineer Mark Miller barely cleared that hurdle for his party in 2016, winning 5.3 percent of the vote in the race against Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian.
“We’ve maintained ballot access throughout the state by running candidates and getting the percentages needed,” Tippetts said. “It is a really good feeling to have ballot access and it really takes away the argument of the Democrats and Republicans that they are the only ones you can vote for.”
Despite enthusiasm from the state’s only third party to clinch ballot access this year, a Libertarian has never won a statewide race in Texas. According to Tippetts, however, winning an election this fall isn’t the only goal. Rather, he hopes to prove that third parties can compete against the nation’s two major parties and have at least one Libertarian statewide candidate earn enough votes to ensure they’ll be on the ballot again in 2020.
“We must maintain ballot access and we have enough statewide candidates running that I think we should be able to do that,” Tippett said. “We believe we have the best platform and the best principles, but we also realize a party grows little by little and our intent is to keep the party going and maintain ballot access.”
Candidates unaffiliated with a political party are allowed access to the general election ballot as long as they file the necessary paperwork and gather a certain number of signatures — depending on the office sought — from people who didn’t attend either the Republican or Democratic party conventions this year or vote in either party's primary.
“It’s up to their personal campaign on how they want to portray themselves [but] when you’re an independent, you haven’t attended the convention of another party,” said Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.
Independent candidates were required to register with the appropriate office by June 21. This year, eight candidates are registered as independents — seven in congressional races and another vying for a state House seat. None are running for statewide office. Independent U.S. Senate candidate Jonathan Jenkins missed the filing deadline for the November ballot.
Here's the full list of independent candidates:
Scott Cubbler in the 2nd Congressional District in the Houston area.
Benjamin Hernandez and Kesha Rogers in Houston's 9th Congressional District.
Ben Mendoza in El Paso's 16th Congressional District.
Kellen Sweny in the Houston area's 22nd Congressional District.
Martin Luecke in Texas' 25th Congressional District, which spans from Fort Worth to Austin.
James Duerr in Texas' 27th Congressional District along Texas’ Gulf Coast.
Neal Katz, in Texas House District 6 in Tyler.
Five parties in Texas made an effort this year to get November ballot access — America’s Party of Texas, the Christian Party of Texas, the Green Party of Texas, None of the Above and the Texas Independent Party. However, none of the parties secured the nearly 50,000 valid signatures needed for ballot access this fall.
There’s a last-ditch effort these parties can utilize, however: filing a declaration of write-in candidacy. The window to file declarations opened on July 21 and will close Aug. 20, Taylor said.
As of Friday, Taylor said, only one candidate had filed a nominating petition: Samuel Lee Williams Jr. (who will appear on the ballot as Sam Williams). According to his campaign filing, Williams is running as a candidate for the Independent Party against Democrat Veronica Escobar and Republican Rick Seeberger in the race fill the U.S. House seat that’s being vacated by Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.
But don’t be surprised if more write-ins file to get on the ballot over the next several weeks. Jan Richards, a Green Party of Texas candidate for governor, told The Texas Tribune she plans to send her paperwork to the secretary of state’s office in the final days leading up to the declaration deadline — but first she said she needs to collect the $3,750 needed to be eligible as a write-in. She said she wasn’t aware of other candidates in her party that planned on doing the same.
“My own platform represents the needs of a large number of Texans,” Richards said. “There’s a huge number of people who could be served by a candidate like me. What I’m trying to accomplish is talking about issues relevant to people — like education, universal healthcare and workplace improvement.”
Andy Prior, the former state chairman for America’s Party of Texas who’s the party’s nominee for land commissioner, also said he’s considering filing paperwork to be an eligible write-in. According to its website, America’s Party supports a pro-life and pro-liberty platform.
“I plan on making a final decision probably this week, which would give me two weeks to get everything done that would be necessary,” Prior said.
Spokespeople for the Christian Party of Texas, None of the Above and Texas Independent Party did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding their plans for the November election.
The bottom line: For Texans who don’t want to vote for either the Democrat or Republican on the ballot, there are other options available. Libertarians fielded a candidate in nearly every statewide race this year, and there are eight eligible independent candidates running.