Over one hundred thousand people have already voted in the 2020 general election in Onondaga County alone through absentee and early voting in a heated contest between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden; but voters in New York and 29 other states have at least one other option; Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.
“It’s get out the vote time now,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins is a familiar name for New York voters. He has run for office 24 times and hasn’t won once. He’s thrown his hat in the ring at just about every level of local and state government; from Mayor of Syracuse to Governor of New York, he’s been the Green Party’s champion in New York State; and he’s now their choice for the highest office in the country.
“It was never the plan it’s just every year comes around and the greens all look at me and say they should run for this seat,” Hawkins said.
He joked that he was “unlucky” to become the party’s nominee, saying he didn’t have a good enough excuse this time around. He’s spent time campaigning across the country, recently debating other third-party candidates in Wyoming. He’s also launched a virtual campaign; reaching out to voters via zoom and other online platforms. It’s where you’ll find Hawkins on election night itself; the campaign is hosting a digital watch party. As the Biden and Trump campaigns anxiously await who will be President come January 20, Hawkins will also be watching his vote count; but for another reason.
“People wonder why there aren’t more third-party candidates, it’s hard as hell to get on the ballot.,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins says it’s crucial for the future of the party that they achieve a strong vote count. Parties need to win a certain number of votes to be guaranteed a spot on ballots in future races; after a ruling from earlier this year, all parties need at least 2%, or 130,000 votes, in the previous general or gubernatorial election to qualify for an election in New York state. Without that qualification, parties are forced to scramble for signatures, which can total in the thousands depending on the race.
“You’re spending all your time just fighting to get into the race instead of presenting your program and asking for votes, that’s not how free and fair elections should be run,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins is making his case not just in New York, but across the country. He is in favor of Medicare For All, a Green New Deal, and other progressive policies. He’s urging progressive voters to vote Green at the polls, including battleground states crucial for President Trump and Vice President Biden like Florida and Ohio.
“Use your vote to make a statement it’s your voice, make it heard,” said Hawkins.
In 2016, President Trump won Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania with fewer votes than the then Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, won in those three states. Some believed that were it not for Stein, Clinton could have taken those votes and with them 46 electoral college votes that would have given her the presidency over President Trump; but Hawkins insists that neither he nor the Green Party are “spoilers”, and its because the math isn’t that simple.
There is no guarantee who Stein’s voters would have chosen had the Green Party not put a nominee forward; even still, a CBS News exit poll showed 61% of Green Party voters would not have voted at all if they didn’t have a Green Party option.
“If you don’t vote for what you want, you’re not going to get it,” said Hawkins.
So far, 59,284 people have voted early in Onondaga County; 3,998 of them were registered with a third party.