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Guest Columnist: Green Party is still kicking

Editor Tom West was a bit dismissive of third parties in his Nov. 10 column. He said the Green Party had lost its major party status and the Independence Party will go the same way next election.

I am here to tell you the Green Party of Minnesota (GPM) is still kicking and progressives are working hard. Nationwide and statewide the Green Party is the fastest growing political party in terms of membership. The message of grass-roots democracy, social justice and ecological wisdom are beginning to take hold.

In 2002, the Greens ran 544 candidates across the country and scored 70 victories. Most victories were city or county elections. One Green was elected to the Maine House of Representatives on Nov. 5. In Minnesota, the Green's Dwayne Voegeli won election as a Winona County commissioner. Elaine Fleming was elected mayor of Cass Lake.

Locally, Duluth Area Green Party's Russ Stewart is a current city councilor. Nancy Nelson's strong showing in last year's City Council race could translate into victory in next year's race. Kriss Osbakken received a respectable 42 percent for county commmissioner in District 2 in her first electoral try. While not getting to 5 percent statewide, the GPM did get 3.67 percent via Dave Berger for State Auditor. Ken Pentel for Governor upped his total of 0.3 percent last election to 2.25 percent this election. The Green Party has to crawl before it can walk, and it is doing so.

One of the better ways to improve our democracy and third parties is to support "Instant Runoff Voting" (IRV). The Green Party advocates IRV. Too many candidates in Minnesota win election with less than majority support. Jesse Ventura's 37 percent and Tim Pawlenty's 44 percent governor elections are just glaring examples. Sixty-three percent did not vote for Ventura; 56 percent did not vote for Pawlenty. Instant Runoff Voting would solve this problem, requiring a majority of Minnesotans to elect a candidate and letting Minnesotans vote their conscience.

Using IRV, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate gets over 50 percent, then the last place finisher is eliminated and his or her second-choice votes are distributed to candidates above. The process is repeated until one candidate crosses the 50 percent threshold and wins. See more info at http://www.fairvotemn.org.

In terms of mandates, it's hard to say what, if any, there are. Nationwide election turnout was the second worst in 50 years. (1998 was the worst.) In terms of the "winning" Republicans, only 20 percent of eligible American voters chose them. What about the other four-fifths of the country? Why are so many people turning off, tuning out and dropping off from elections? It's a belief that their vote doesn't matter or count. And in many respects they are correct.

A majority of U.S. House and Minnesota House seats are "safe" seats where one party always wins. Partisan redistricting makes it worse every decade. To sum up, the Green Party is the only party championing election reforms. Watch the Green Party for more grass-roots democracy in our area. For more information, go to http://www.duluthgreens.org or call 727-0992.

Will Rhodes is a member of the Duluth Area Green Party.

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