By Jennifer Standard
Edited by Nikki Papadopulos
With seven minor political parties having candidates on the ballot, South Carolina will have far more than Democrats and Republicans to choose from Tuesday.
Some have sprung up only in the past four years, possibly reflecting what a recent Gallup poll found: Americans say they want more election choices.
South Carolina has the most parties with candidates on the ballot in the past 50 or 60 years, said Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the South Carolina Election Commission.
An average of four parties have been represented in past elections, other than Democrats and Republicans, he said.
A party must get 10,000 signatures to be on the ballot.
According to the Gallup poll: "Americans' desires for a third political party are as high as they have been in seven years. Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe a third major political party is needed because the Republican and Democratic Parties do a poor job of representing the American people."
Robert Oldendick, a University of South Carolina political science professor, said third parties won't have a significant impact in the election because Republicans and Democrats are established parties that can raise more money and buy more ads.
One third party did change the course of politics in the South: The States Rights' Democratic Party, also known as the Dixiecrats, that endorsed South Carolina Gov. Storm Thurmond in the 1948 presidential elections largely because of civil rights issues.
It caused the Democrats to split, Oldendick said, and while Thurmond did not win, Southern politics began its turn from primarily Democratic to Republican, following Thurmond, who switched from the Democrats to the GOP in 1964.
One of the newer parties, the South Carolina Labor Party, received ballot status in 2006, said party head Donna Dewitt.
Though the party also exists in Ohio, South Carolina is the only one with ballot access, she said. The party has just one candidate, Brett Bursey, who is running for state House District 69.
Dewitt said the party focuses on government-paid health care, free higher education for all and workers' rights as the party sees them outlined by the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery.
Bursey, a well-known Midlands activist, is the party's first candidate, DeWitt said, and is running against Democrat Jan Steensen Crangle and Republican Rick Quinn for the Lexington County seat.
Working Families Party
This party also started in 2006 and has two candidates running for U.S. House seats and eight running for the state House. All candidates but one are also running as Democrats under what is called fusion voting. Two parties separately nominate a candidate, and the votes from each party are added, Whitmire said.
Party organizer Joe Berry said the Working Families Party will support any candidates that take on working-family issues such as providing quality education for all children, changing the practices of "predatory payday lenders that hurt working families" and taking care of members of the military during and after their service.
The Libertarian Party is the veteran of South Carolina's current crop of third parties. It got ballot status here in 1979, and its first candidates ran in 1980.
State Chairman Michael Carmany said that during the past decade the party has moved from an "anarchist" organization to a "constitutional constructionist" party, which means it looks at the Federalist Papers for interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
"Our basic belief is that we are fiscally conservative and socially tolerant," Carmany said.
The Libertarians have one candidate running for state education superintendent, three for the U.S. House and eight for state House seats.
Another party that benefits from fusion voting is the Green Party, which traces its roots to the Independent Party founded nationally in 1980.
Executive Director Larry Carter Center said the party's main issue is sustainability: "We stand for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles."
The Greens want to stop oil drilling both offshore and on American soil and find alternative energy sources, Carter Center said.
He also said the Green Party is "100 percent a feminist party," pro-choice and supporting equal pay for women.
The Green Party wants Medicare and Medicaid for all people, not just the elderly or poor, while another priority is international peace.
The party has 10 candidates, including one each in the governor, attorney general, state education superintendent and U.S. Senate races. It has three candidates for the U.S. House and three for state House seats.
The Constitution Party came to South Carolina in 1990, but originally started in Massachusetts, Chairman Ted Adams said.
"We've gained more indirect support from tea party members. They like what we stand for," he said.
It has seven candidates, three for U.S. House seats and four for the state House.
The party seeks "to elect good people to public office that understand the need and benefit of constitutional government," Adams said.
Constitutional government is a concept "that no person or group should use the government to enrich themselves at the expense of American citizens," he said. The Constitution gives no authority to require a person to support another, except for the military in times of war, he said.
The party has support because "Republicans and Democrats are sold out to the special interests," he said.
United Citizens Party
Founded in 1969 in South Carolina, "it is the oldest civil rights ballot access party in the United States," said Morgan Reeves, who is running for governor under the United Citizens and Green parties. United Citizens also has a candidate running for a U.S. House seat.
Party spokeswoman Almeta Vance said it was formed so every person could have the right to get on a ballot without being shunned.
It is against racism and discrimination for all people, not just blacks, she said.
"We want to make sure all Americans are treated equally."
The party was started in New York in 2007 and had its first South Carolina candidates in the 2008 election, said Jimmy Wood, who is running for the U.S. House.
Independents normally do not affiliate with any political party, but getting on the ballot without being under a party is difficult, he said.
The party says it strives "to foster a non-ideological big tent party of ideas" to serve as a think tank for solutions to problems. Although it is a party, the Independence Party says positions on social issues "are best determined not by a political party but by individuals. We openly welcome party members who hold varying views on social issues."