Independent Voter Project attorney Chad Peace went on RT America Friday to discuss what independent and independent-minded voters can do to make their voices heard in the current two-party system. Peace most recently authored an amicus curiae brief in the lawsuit filed by Level the Playing Field and Peter Ackerman against the FEC, challenging current presidential debate entry rules established by the Commission on Presidential Debates that the lawsuit argues intentionally serve the private interests of the Republican and Democratic parties.
Watch the full interview above and check out the transcript below:
Lindsay France: Independent voters outnumber Republicans and Democrats in this country. Where are they going to turn in the general elections? After all, it’s much easier to cast a ballot in November than in the primaries because the rules of the primaries are set by state parties. So what does that mean? It means in some states you can choose a Democrat or a Republican, basically vote your conscience, and in others you’ve got to be a registered party member. The easier to track you with.
LEARN MORE: How Primary Elections Work
Lindsay France: Just take a look at these numbers here. According to Pew Research Center, 39% of voters identify themselves as belonging to no party -- as being technically independent. Democrats there’s 32% and Republicans there’s 23%. And many other people argue those numbers of independents are even higher.
So what’s the deal with the push with the independent votes right now? Here to discuss Chad Peace, attorney for the Independent Voter Project.
Chad, thanks for joining me.
Chad Peace: Thanks for having me.
Lindsay France: Great. What can voters do to fight against… Um, the latest lawsuit that people are talking about is the presidential debate access lawsuit for independent candidates and third party candidates, like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. That’s been denied. How can voters fight back to break through that barrier that keeps so many independent candidates behind?
Chad Peace: Well there’s a number of things you can do. And first, there is another lawsuit actually that’s been filed by Level the Playing Field that’s still in the court system. But what an every day voter can do is 1) support third party candidates like Jill Stein or Gary Johnson and start informing your friends and your voters about this issue. You know, letters to the editor, call in to your local congressperson, and make your voice heard.
And when the pollsters call, let them know you don’t want to vote for one of the two candidates. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein both, they need to get to 15% in the polls, and a lot of time they're not polled at all, but informing the pollsters that you want another option is something you can do. So go support other candidates and raise awareness among your friends and family.
Lindsay France: That’s right, and as we all know, especially people who follow politics closely. Pollsters have plenty of bias too. So keeping third party candidates and independents out of the polls is good business for them.
Now let’s talk about the myth of the independent voter. A lot of people argue that the formation of coalitions or parties is just a natural product of creating policy. Is it useless in some cases to fight this? Because a lot of people run as an an independent, and that’s not exactly what they are. It’s thinly veiled by partisanship. A lot of people say it’s a myth. What do you say to that?
Chad Peace: Well, independents by definition are very, very diverse. And we shouldn't confuse being a part of a party with being an independent voter. You can be a Republican, you can be Democrat or a Green or a Libertarian and also be an independent. As I define an independent is somebody who comes to their own conclusions, even though they may have ideological tendencies or tendencies toward one party. But they don’t just go lock-step with whatever their party says.
So I think it is a natural tendency for people to associate, in the country and elsewhere. That’s an important fundamental right that we have to associate and coalesce, our opinions and our beliefs, and run them together to seek change. But there’s a lot of voters who don’t see the Republican Party or the Democratic Party as the vehicle for the change that they want.
And so what we want to broaden the perspective of here is that independent voters, they might be conservatives or liberals, they might have all kinds of ideological viewpoints and tendencies, but the thing they have in common is a belief that our election systems, our representatives should represent the diversity of America, not just two ideologically-based teams.
Lindsay France: How do you argue, you know, the corporate angle? The accusations that big business might fund some of the sides, or be lobbying to get independent voters, they’re actually, you know, Republican or Democrat and they’re trying to persuade independents. Do you argue that that’s just part of being an independent, being lobbied by Republicans or Democrats, but keeping your independent status?
Chad Peace: Independents are independent voters. They need to be swayed, and I don’t blame the people trying to sway them. But the two largest corporations, political corporations, in this country are the Republican and Democratic Party. They are private corporations. They’re the biggest lobbyists for independent voters trying to bring them to their team.
But what I think you see in the debate lawsuits, and lawsuits that have gone with respect to the primary election system, is the frustration and the reason why independent voters don’t see that they have a meaningful vehicle is because they’re competing on a field where there’s really only two players. If this was the economy we were talking about, and we gave two businesses exclusive access to all of the consumers. Well not everyone is going to want to eat at McDonald’s or Burger King every night, but they have to eat.
And in the real world, people would choose one and eat there. But in politics, we have two large corporations that control the political landscape. And we’re saying, in order to voice your political opinion, you have to join and you have to go to eat with one of these two teams. And I don’t think that’s fair.
Lindsay France: Let’s talk about a candidate who calls himself an independent. Offering another place for voters to eat: Evan McMullin. Really trying to work on Utah. He’s using the title independent. A lot of people saying he’s trying to operate outside this duopoly. Is he really trying, in your opinion, to create a movement? Based on the independent ideology, or is he a Republican trying to beat Trump..or is he? You know, what is it? How are independent voters reacting to him?
Chad Peace: Well you know, my knowledge of him, especially on a personal level, isn’t very deep. I know of Evan, you know, through Wikipedia and on the news, just like everyone else. But I don’t know his true intentions of why he’s running. It’s my guess that he truly - everybody envisions themselves as an independent who runs as an independent, almost everybody.
And so I think in his mind, in his group of supporters, they are, they’re independent of the two-party machines. Now whether he’s working in concert, or trying to get trump out, or this or that, I don’t think any of us genuinely know. But I don’t doubt his intentions. He seems like a sincere candidate.
But that goes back to the idea of what independence is. In our own minds we define our own idea independence, by its very nature we’re going to have our own definitions. And some of that may come - we’re independent conservatives, or we’re independent liberals.
But the idea in this country is that we have to define everybody by one or two ideologies. This kind of goes against the same idea that in this country we should respect diversity. And within that we have a diversity of viewpoints and reasons - the reasons why we do things. But I don’t question his intentions without knowing more about him.
Lindsay France: That’s a very good way to put it, respecting that diversity. And it seems one overarching thing of independents is tolerance for other people’s political viewpoints.
Thank you very much for your input on this Chad Peace, attorney for the Independent Voter Project.
Chad Peace: Thank you.