The Other Half of the Ballot Debate shows students third party options


Jeremy Hu

Juniors Emma Hoffmann and Sarah Coleman with the Illini Young Green Party fold origami with fake bills in support of Illini Young Green Party.

By Jessica Bursztynsky, Staff Writer

Audience members slowly rolled into the Illini Union on Thursday night to watch the Illini Libertarians and the Illini Young Green Party debate.

Both of the student organizations are newly founded on campus, and it was Illini Green’s President MJ Oviatt’s idea to host a debate between the third-party supporters.

“I was on board right away, since both our parties’ biggest problem has been lack of recognition due to being excluded from the debates,” said Illini Libertarian President Sam Erickson.

Debating for the Illini Libertarians was Erickson, Neil Limaye and Caleb Carlson. The Illini Young Green Party was lead by Oviatt, along with Grant Neal and Matthew Martinez.

Oviatt introduced the groups during an opening speech where she reflected on the reasoning behind students’ choices to stray from the two major candidates.

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    “The outlandish scandals, the vulgar recordings, the leaked emails and the futile attempts at meaningful conversation have bombarded headlines for the past year,” Oviatt said. “Now, with election day imminent, Americans across the country are in a state of complete panic.”

    Oviatt explained that if a third-party candidate wins five percent of the general vote, it paves the way for their respective party to gain major party status. The party will have millions of more dollars in federal funding and have ballot access barriers removed.

    Oviatt said these are basic benefits that are automatically guaranteed to the Republican and Democrat parties.

    While at the podium, Limaye noted that the Illini Young Green Party and the Illini Libertarians agree more than disagree on most political issues.

    The issues debated included the parties’ views on legalizing recreational drugs, health care coverage, police brutality and government involvement in regulating the legal drug market.

    Amelia Kelly, a sophomore in LAS, initially attended the debate to support her friend Oviatt but said the debate influenced her at the end.

    “I feel like some people have the attitude that if they vote for a minor party, then they throw their vote away,” Kelly said. “But if I knew that just getting to five percent would help (third parties) out that much, that changes things. I was going to vote for Hillary before, but now, I really like the green party so I’ll have to mull it over.”

    Both Erickson and Oviatt said the debate was a way to educate the public on their options for the Nov. 8 presidential election.

    “We think that if more students were aware of our candidates, they would find that they identify with them more than the Democrat and Republican running,” Erickson said.

    With favorability levels lower than ever, Oviatt said that students should consider their options and not vote out of opposition to another candidate.

    “My fellow greens and libertarians refuse to electively vote for the lesser evil,” Oviatt said. “We will and have voted excitedly for the greater good.”

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