October 28, 2003

Senate votes full funding

for HAVA $1.5 billion would go to states in 2004

The US Senate voted October 23

to increase the appropriation for the Help America Vote Act to the

full-funding level of $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2004. There had

been a growing concern that the Congress would leave the states with

an unfunded mandate to upgrade voting equipment and make other improvements

to elections. The measure must still be passed by the House and signed

by the President. See http://www.electionline.org/.

U of M's Larry Jacobs forecasts

third party impact on 2004 presidential election

Third parties have persistent

strength in American politics, in spite of the electoral rules stacked

against them by Republicans and Democrats. And while the odds are

against the movement for better voting methods, the level of dissatisfaction

showed by third party supporters may be an indicator that change

is not impossible if still unlikely. Those were some of the points

made recently by Larry Jacobs, University of Minnesota political

science professor, in an October 18 Washington Post column and in

a Minnesota Public Radio interview on October 24.

The theme of the Washington

Post column http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A44542-2003Oct18.html was

that third party presidential candidates could draw enough votes

to change the results of the 2004 election. Third party candidates

have consistently drawn a greater percentage than the margin between

the two major parties and are poised to do so again. The effect

of the Green Party's Ralph Nader on Democrat Al Gore's performance

in 2000 has been thoroughly analyzed. Jacobs points to a similar

role for the Libertarian Party with respect to Republican George

Bush's prospects in 2004. The constituency for small government

and individual rights may not settle for a president that has presided

over record budget deficits and the USA Patriot Act.

In the Minnesota Public

Radio interview, http://news.mpr.org/programs/midday/ October

24, Hour 1, Jacobs reiterated that the electoral rules are biased

in favor of the two major parties, leading to strategic voting that

further understates third party support. Jacobs found it remarkable

that third party support is as strong as it is in spite of the odds

against them. He said this reflects a deep sentiment for alternative

voices. In response to several callers who advocated election reforms

such as Instant Runoff Voting and proportional representation, Jacobs

insisted that reform efforts face stiff odds and that change is unlikely.

However, with the undeniable persistent strength of third parties,

Jacobs allowed the possibility that "where there is a will, there

is a way."