The Constitution Party of Wyoming announced Wednesday that it has submitted enough petition signatures to become the state’s fifth recognized political party.
It’s the most political parties Wyoming has had in more than a decade. Analysts say the number reflects voter discontent, but it is unlikely to make a significant impact on Wyoming elections, at least in the near future.
Founded in 1992 as the U.S. Taxpayers Party, the Constitution Party is one of the top three minor parties in the United States. The party’s stated goals include restoring the Founding Fathers’ vision of a limited federal government based on Biblical foundations.
Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin had a surprisingly strong turnout in Wyoming in 2008. Even though he was listed as an independent on the ballot, Wyoming voters gave Baldwin the fifth-highest vote percentage he received from any state: 0.47 percent, or 1,172 votes.
In 2010, the party backed independent write-in candidate Taylor Haynes for governor. Haynes, a retired Cheyenne surgeon and rancher and a former University of Wyoming trustee, finished third, receiving 7.3 percent of the vote even though he only ran as a write-in candidate.
Party supporters in Wyoming had tried unsuccessfully twice before to get the requisite number of petition signatures to get recognized party status; they missed the state threshold in 2010 by just 388 signatures.
Rex Fritzler said the party will look to field candidates in Wyoming this year for races ranging from Congress to county and local offices around the state. The party is particularly organized in Platte, Goshen and Natrona counties, he said, and will look to tap into voter concern with both the Republicans and the Democrats that they heard while collecting petition signatures around the state.
“What we heard is that people are absolutely fed up with mainstream politics — it doesn’t matter which major party,” Fritzler said. “And the question that’s been resounding is, ‘Why aren’t we following the Constitution?’ And the Constitution Party, across the United States, that’s what we’re about is following the Constitution.”
The party will hold a state convention on June 7-9 in Casper to nominate candidates for the November elections.
The Constitution Party is now one of two provisional parties in Wyoming, along with the newly recognized Americans Elect party. The Libertarians are a recognized minor party, while the Republicans and Democrats are the two major parties in the state.
The main benefit of being a recognized party is that the Constitution Party can just submit its list of candidates to the state to be listed on the ballot, said State Elections Director Peggy Nighswonger. If the candidates ran as independents, by contrast, she said, they’d each have to collect petition signatures to get on the ballot.
Wyoming hasn’t recognized five political parties since the 2000 election, Nighswonger said. And there may yet be a sixth: The Wyoming County Party, formed by former state Libertarian party leaders, has until June 1 to submit the 3,740 valid signatures needed for a political party to be recognized.
University of Wyoming political science professor Jim King said the proliferation of third parties this election cycle is a reflection of voter dissatisfaction with the political scene in general, as well as uneasiness about the likely presidential candidates this year.
But King said third parties are unlikely to make much of an impact on this year’s elections in Wyoming. That’s because third parties generally only succeed, he said, when they have a prominent candidate or group of people at the head of the ticket — such as George Wallace or Ross Perot.
There’s no well-known Constitution Party presidential candidate yet, King noted. And in Wyoming, he said, Taylor Haynes isn’t at that level of prominence yet.
“The average voter going to the polls is probably not going to know who he is,” he said.