As members of two minor parties, Linde Knighton and Jody Grage encourage Washington voters to vote outside the box.
In the Spotlight: Voting outside the box
With the November election day just weeks away and another big election year around the corner, Republicans and Democrats are fighting for your attention.
Fighting even harder are the minor parties you don't hear about.
But Ballard happens to be the home of two leading ladies of third parties.
Neighbors in residence and politics, Jody Grage has been the face of the Green Party in Seattle for years and Linde Knighton represents the Progressive Party.
A retired special education and math teacher, Grage is as busy at 76 as she's always been. She's a well-known local community activist, a voice for the Sustainability Movement, a recognized expert on Norwegian folk costumes and needlework, and she has been a leader in the local and national Green Party since leaving the Democratic Party decades ago.
The daughter of a Republican mother, Grage said she first became politically active when John Anderson ran for President.
In the early 1980's, Grage joined the Green Party.
"It seemed to me that at the times the usual candidates were interested in getting elected or re-elected and little interested in what the majority of the people want," she said. "That hasn't really changed yet."
Linde Knighton was a Green for a while as well.
"I was a misplaced progressive in the Green Party," she said.
A former home health aid, Kinghton, 64, co-founded the 43rd-46th District Green Party, served as Deputy Chair of Washington State Green Party, and ran for state senator in 2002.
She left the Green Party to co-restore Progressive Party of Washington in 2003, and was the 2006 Progressive Party candidate for the state house seat from Seattle's 43rd District.
"I regard the idea of having just Democrats and Republicans as a trap," she said.
"Republicans are running to the right and Democrats are running as fast as they can to catch up with them."
Due to the winner-take-all voting system, the United States has had a two-party system for over a century and ballot access laws can be a major challenge to third party candidacies.
These access laws include registration fees and/or petitions requiring a certain number of voters to sign a petition for a third party or independent candidate to gain ballot access. Some states require tens of thousands of signatures.
"The major parties make it hard for us third parties to get elected because it's in their best interest to keep things as they are," Knighton said. "And the general media seems to be allergic to our third party candidates."
But even with the ballot access restrictions and exclusion from general political discourse, third parties play a crucial role in drawing attention to issues that may be ignored by the majority parties.
"We (Progressives) don't have a presidential candidate ever. We feel it's more important to work on local and state offices," Knighton said. "We bring up the issues and do the thinking and some other party will often copy our ideas and pass them off as they're their own. But at least something was done."
Grage added that third parties have been very influential in what we now consider the "no brainer underpinnings of our culture including women's suffrage, abolition of slavery, child labor protection, unemployment insurance, and worker's comp."
"Third parties are given giving us reasons to vote, which is important because [the national] voting record is abysmal," she said.
It's often said that a third party vote is a wasted vote because America has not elected a third party candidate since 1860. But both women agree that it's definitely worth while to fight for third party votes.
"People are getting increasingly disenchanted with the major parties and I think we will see third parties grow stronger," Grage said.
"Political inactivity is a luxury we can't afford. What you don't want is for the disenchanted voters to stop voting. We should offer alternatives instead. The Electoral College is vastly outdated. In Washington State you know the Electoral College votes are going toward the Democrats. No one owns your vote. If the Democrats or Republicans don't earn it, they shouldn't get it."
Both women said they have seen an increase in young people joining their parties.
"It's important to note that a lot of people that are coming to meetings and in the party are younger people. Younger people are increasingly aware and they are really willing to work," Grage said.
What draws people to joining third parties are a good track record, change, and the fact that neither the Green Party nor the Progressive Party takes corporate contributions, said Knighton.
"Since our founding in 1912, the Progressive Party has believed that the government should not be run by big money. The Government should be run by the people not corporations," Knighton said.
Grage said that in a way the economic turnover is benefitting the earth, our communities, and third parties.
"Our economy is not coming back to what it was. We have to find new ways to think about things and third parties could thrive in that," she said.
"Alternative transportation, sharing, downsizing, neighborhood watch, emergency prepardness are all positive effects of this economy but meanwhile the major parties are continuing to bail out banks and corporations and promise new jobs and a restored economy. But it's not going to happen. We need to start thinking differently about the new economy."
The Green Party is willing to give people that reality check, Grage said.
To read more about these two minor parties, visit the Green Party of Washington State website at www.gpows.org or the Progressive Party of Washington State website at www.waprogparty.org.