As the 2020 presidential election approaches, it’s clear that things are not so different from 2016 in terms of electability. As such, some voters are looking for alternative candidates in third parties while going into yet another highly contentious election. Karla Ballard may be the candidate voters are looking for.
According to each party’s respective websites, the Libertarian and Green parties have the largest third party ballot access. However, the Independent party remains the sole political faction to have sitting members in the Senate outside of Democrats and Republicans.
Currently, there are two Independent senators who occupy seats in the Senate: Angus King of Maine, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Senator King won as an Independent in the 2012 Senate race. The victory was historic, marking the first time since 1988 the race wasn’t won by a Republican. King also notably won every county in Maine.
Senator Sanders’ victory in the 2006 Vermont Senate election was also historic. Senator Sanders won every county in Vermont by a wide margin, defeating Republican Richard Tarrant. The Washington Post reported this was the first time in 144 years the seat wasn’t won by a Republican, ending the longest single-party Senate winning streak in history.
Who is Karla Ballard?
On October 4th, I spoke with Karla Ballard, the Independent party candidate for Vice President. Running alongside Brock Pierce, the pair are currently on the ballot in 15 states, with write-in eligibility in an additional six.
After asking why she chose to run as an Independent as opposed to a more powerful third party, Ballard explained that she comes from a diverse background. Ballard is an African-American female and has lineage from Africa and the Shawnee Cherokee tribe on the East Coast.
Ballard is also a fifth-generation great-granddaughter of founding father Aaron Burr. She stated, “I come from all sorts of DNA, if you will, so I’m sort of independent in my own thinking.”
Testifying further on her status as an Independent, Ballard said she has more conservative leaning ideologies when it comes to fiscal matters. But she also created an urban league in Delaware. Ballard’s urban league has become one of the largest civil rights organizations in the state.
Ballard comes from a diverse political background as well. She served as an Republican National Committee (RNC) member on the African-American Advisory Board under the Bush Administration. “And yet,” Ballard explained, “I received, in 2012 from Al Sharpton, the Keepers of the Dream award.”
Ballard’s Stance on Cannabis Legalization and Mail-in Voting
Ballard also spoke to current issues such as the legalization of cannabis for recreational use in New Jersey. “I one hundred and fifty thousand percent support the legalization of cannabis,” she added. “It’s quite literally something that Mother Earth gave to us as a tool.”
“For me, it is crucial we get back to looking at the natural gifts that we’ve been given on this earth and what we have the ability to do with them,” Ballard said. “If you look at the history of why it [cannabis] was criminalized, you will see a little hint of racism. We have to understand now it’s time for us to look at that as well in terms of the federal level.”
Of course, an integral part of the upcoming election won’t just be who people vote for, but how they vote. Since many states are urging citizens to vote via mail-in ballot to limit spread of the novel coronavirus, I asked Ms. Ballard whether she believed this system to be effective and reliable.
“We have very capable people at the U.S. Postal Office. We have very capable vendors and contractors who have worked on this for years,” Ballard responded. “People need to do their homework before they watch Fox News and CNN headlines and go nuts.”
Ballard explained further that voter fraud does happen. But it is important to also be mindful of voter intimidation and social media influence.
Does the Independent Party Have a Shot?
Ballard spoke optimistically about the future of her campaign, “We have won in creating a space for other people’s voices to be heard. This is just the beginning… What we’re trying to achieve is the beginning of this movement.”
Ballard and Pierce have found success across the country. Ballard cited New York as the state in which they have garnered the largest amount of support. She claimed they have also campaigned well in Utah and Wyoming, further substantiating the duo’s Independent party status.
Speaking on the pair’s success in Wyoming, Ballard enthused, “Wyoming has been open arms to the block-chain work Brock [Pierce] has done in the past. They continue to be very excited and very forward-leaning in terms of innovation.”
Ballard acknowledged that it is unlikely her and Pierce will win in November. “There’s a tiny, tiny, slim chance that we would win, so we’re not naive,” she said.
Historically, third parties have not had large-scale success, especially in presidential elections. When speaking with Ballard, I asked what her response would be to those who believe a vote for third parties is a waste in a highly contentious election.
“You’re investing in your future when you vote for us. You have to vote your conscience,” Ballard explained. “We are hearing people mostly come to us saying ‘Woah, now I’m actually going to vote.’”
Certainly, during a time when voter encouragement is at an all-time high, Ballard’s first-hand account is promising for the future of third parties.
By Thomas O’Connor