Power Players

Libertarian candidate on presidential race: We don’t ‘take’ votes from other political parties

Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen on the campaign trail in 2020
Courtesy: Jorgensen-Cohen 2020

As vote counting continues in key battleground states like Georgia and Pennsylvania, where Vice President Joe Biden has taken the lead over President Donald Trump on Friday, Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen says third party candidates don't "take" votes from other parties.

"I don't consider it taking votes, because those votes belong to the American voters," Jorgensen tells CNBC Make It.

In the 2020 election, Jorgensen, 63, a mother of two and a Clemson University senior lecturer (she doesn't do research, but teaches classes) who holds a Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, made history as the Libertarian Party's first female nominee for president. On Thursday, her campaign announced that Jorgensen won more than 1.6 million votes nationwide. NBC News has Jorgensen's total at about 1,621,273 votes as of Friday afternoon.

While Jorgensen says the idea of a third party "taking" votes from Democrat and Republican candidates just "shows the arrogance of the dominant parties," it is true that the number of votes third parties get can help determine elections.

For instance, as of Friday afternoon, Jorgensen had more than 61,391 votes in the state of Georgia, according to NBC News. In the state, Trump and Biden are just under 1,600 votes apart with Biden in the lead as of Friday, and the state is headed to a recount.

And in 2016, according to NBC News, third-party candidates like Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson got solid portions of the vote in a handful of key swing states. In Michigan, for example, then a "must-win" for Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton, Johnson and Stein got a little over 222,400 votes combined. Clinton lost Michigan to Trump by 10,704 votes. And, in Florida, third-party candidates collectively drew more than 293,000 votes and Clinton lost the state to Trump by 119,770 votes.

Jorgensen, who has been a Libertarian since the '80s and ran in 1996 as the party's vice-presidential nominee (alongside Harry Browne), says research by the Libertarian Party shows that, historically, the party gets voters from both major parties, with a slight increase in Republicans "but mostly equal." When Jorgensen first joined the party, she says she used to tell people that her party "takes the best from the best from the right and the best from the left."

"[B]ut most of our votes come from Independents or people who have never voted before," she says, citing her party's research. (According to a Pew Research Center report from 2019, nearly four in 10 U.S. adults who identify as politically independent, do lean toward one of the two major parties, with 13% leaning toward the Republican Party and 17% leaning toward the Democratic Party.)

Jorgensen says the particular statistics for this election aren't clear yet clear, but she told USA Today about 70% of her campaign volunteers were registered Democrats or Republicans.

The Libertarian Party, which was founded in 1971, "strongly oppose[s] any government interference into [people's] personal, family, and business decisions," according to the party's website. It "seek[s] to substantially reduce the size and intrusiveness of government and cut and eliminate taxes at every opportunity," and says "government's only responsibility, if any, should be protecting people from force and fraud," among other tenets.

"Essentially, we believe all Americans should be free to live their lives and pursue their interests as they see fit as long as they do no harm to another," the website says.

For instance, Jorgensen, who started her career at IMB and later became an entrepreneur, according to her Clemson bio, does not believe Americans should be mandated to wear masks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"If you want to wear a mask, great. You can vote to shop at Wal-Mart or one of the the many other stores that now require you to wear a mask. And if you don't want to wear a mask, you can vote to not wear a mask by shopping at a store that doesn't require it," she says.

As for the presidential race, Jorgensen says it really doesn't matter who wins.

"[Trump and Biden] are much more like each other than we are," she says, referring to Libertarians.

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