COLUMBIA – Kermit the Frog once said "It's not easy being green," but in Missouri, voting Green just became easier.
The Missouri Green Party has gained November ballot approval from Secretary of State Jason Kander's office, following a petition process that required the party to submit 10,000 signatures.
The party ultimately submitted 23,000 by the Aug. 1 deadline. Though party members could write in votes for statewide Green candidates in previous years, Green candidates have not officially made the Missouri ballot since 2000, according to a press release.
"It's really exciting, because we collected the most signatures that were ever collected for Green Party efforts in Missouri," said Zay Thompson, regional coordinator of the Kansas City area Green Party. "It makes all the days of [volunteering] in 100-degree temperatures worth it. Many people are discovering they were Green all along, once they discover who we are and what we're about."
According to its website, the Green Party endorses four key values: peace and non-violence, ecological wisdom, grassroots democracy and social justice.
In addition to Jill Stein, presidential candidate and party veteran, Missourians have the option to vote for the following four candidates:
- Johnathan McFarland — U.S. Senate
- Don Fitz — Governor
- Jennifer Leach — Lieutenant Governor
- Carol Hexem — Treasurer
Voters in northern and mid-Missouri can also vote for candidates in Congressional and legislative races.
One of the beneficiaries of the Green Party's ballot access is Fitz, editor of the Compost-Dispatch newsletter and a former environmental psychology professor, who is running for Missouri governor. Fitz said he was involved in publicizing the petition and coordinating the party's collection of signatures.
"We collected many signatures from all over the state, from small cities such as Licking and Marshall, to larger ones like Springfield and Kansas City," Fitz said. "I was amazed by all of the people who said 'I really don't like Trump or Clinton and want another option.' Many were willing to go to people on the street and help out."
Fitz said the party collected even more signatures than the 23,000 turned in, though while proofreading them, he and fellow party members had to discount several as invalid due to illegibility.
Thompson said he thinks the political climate of 2016 is partially responsible for the state party's successful ballot efforts.
"I believe that the electorate is ready for an alternative, and that many are only voting for the two major candidates [Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump] because they're voting against their opponent," Thompson said. "That approach has led us down a blind alley."
Thompson also attributed the successful petition to support from Jill Stein's campaign. As of Sept. 1, the Green Party is on 40 out of 50 state ballots, with ongoing movements to expand this number.
Amy Bojean Campbell, coordinator of the Mid-Missouri Green Party chapter, said the party's ballot approval marks a significant time in its history.
"In society right now, so much is changing and so many people are clamoring for a third party and change," Campbell said. "They're saying that what's happening right now isn't working, and that if we keep going down this path, we're going to disenfranchise more people."
Campbell said that climate change is one issue that resonates most strongly with her, and that she trusts Jill Stein to address it.
Paul Lehmann, outreach coordinator for the Columbia chapter, said his group's next step is to strategize.
"We will try to organize an interested group of college students who can begin the outreach process," Lehmann said. "We're going to go into the university campuses to tell what I call 'the good news' about Jill Stein because she addresses all these issues our society is confronted with, so anyone is invited to join."
Campbell echoed Lehmann, adding that MU might prove to be a particularly fertile ground for Green Party success.
"Especially with the campus history [with last fall's protests], people know what it takes for change to happen, and there's no reason to think the students won't continue that same sort of progressive spirit."
Though most Green Party candidates remain longshots to win, Thompson rebutted the skeptic argument that votes for third parties are 'wasted.'
"The first way to win is to vote; we're definitely not winning if everyone thinks 'Oh, we're not going to win, so we're not going to vote,'" Thompson said. "Beyond just winning [at the presidential level], we hope to put people in local office and get our message out there. If we can get over 2 percent of the vote in Missouri, our candidates can stay on the ballot so we don't have to collect signatures next time around."
Supervising editor is Mark Horvit.