Independent voters come in all shapes, sizes and political views. They may be conservative or they may be liberal. They may believe strongly in states’ rights or they may believe the federal government is the true leader in what goes on in the United States. They vote for candidates and issues individually instead of on the basis of political ideology.
But the one thing they do have in common is they can influence an election.
In its 200-plus years of electing everything from presidents to township trustees, independent voters have had a definite say in who is elected to offices. A split in the Democratic Party in 1860 helped pave the way for Abraham Lincoln to be elected president. Ross Perot and his Reform Party had a definite impact on Bill Clinton’s selection as president in 1992, grabbing 19 percent of the popular vote. In 2000, if Ralph Nader and his Green Party didn’t receive 3 percent of the vote, most Americans would never have heard about hanging chads.
Today, about 30 percent of U.S. voters say they are independents. While they may vote primarily one party or the other, they do not consider themselves a Republican or a Democrat. They may also vote for someone outside of the traditional two-party system.
For many years, there have been political parties sprout up that are outside the mainstream. From the Free Soil and American parties of the 1800s to the Libertarian, Green, Constitution and other parties of today, there are many different political factions.
There are many reasons why a voter may break away from the Democrat and Republican parties. Being disillusioned with the direction the party is headed is probably the biggest factor.
Ted Lacksonen of Gambier is one of those disillusioned with the process. Following the 2008 election, Lacksonen was so disgusted with the Republican Party and its presidential candidate John McCain, he began to look for another party to belong.
“After the 2008 election was over, I did some soul searching. I asked why was I so unhappy with both political parties,” the former Republican said. “It was no wonder I had been a Republican, but had voted across the line many times. I had voted for Bill Clinton out of anger for George Bush’s policies. It sounded like very libertarian to do something like that. So I started exploring the third parties.”
As Lacksonen found out, there are many different political parties out there right now. And many of them were formed with the same thing in mind — they were disillusioned with what was going on in the Republican and Democratic parties.
“The rise of the tea party and occupy movement shows me that, yes, people are not happy. Something has to change,” said Lacksonen. He believes he found the one for him with the Libertarian Party.
There are many others doing the same thing. Independents and third-party candidates are sprouting up in all sorts of positions. Many city council, school boards and county offices are being held in Ohio by people who don’t belong to either the Republican or Democratic parties. This year, there are two races here in Knox County that a third candidate is attempting to break through. Independent Scott Rupert is running against incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Josh Mandel for a spot in the U.S. Senate. At the county commissioner level, Independent Jim Hughes is running against Republican Thom Collier and Democrat John Booth.
Because of the direction Lacksonen believes the two parties are headed, he’s hoping that more groups like his Libertarian Party start gaining momentum and getting more people elected to offices, especially ones higher up the chain.
“I wanted to fight the battle that had to be fought. I’m not suggesting it will be easy (to break up the two-party system), but it’s possible and most of us believe it is necessary,” he said.
Editor’s Note: On Friday, the News examined what it means to be a Republican; Democrats were examined on Thursday.
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