Monday, November 2, 2009

Join the Party

I am delighted to hear that Greens are already coming forward to run in the 2010 legislative elections, so here's a tip for anyone thinking of joining the candidates club.

Running for office as a Green requires registering as a Green voter. If you're already a registered Green, no problem. But if you're registered as a Democrat or Unenrolled, now is the time to switch.

Switching to Green is a two-step process. Stage one is easy. All you have to do is go to your city or town hall and let the election officials know that you want to change your party affiliation. Stage two is a little more complicated because it involves a choice; you have to let the election officials know which of the two Green designations you're opting for.

Yes, there are two Green designations in Massachusetts: the Green-Rainbow Party (GRP) and the Green Party USA. When I defected from the Democratic party I opted for the latter, mainly because if you run for office under the Green Party USA designation you get the letter G after your name. In contrast, the GRP designation enjoys (if that's the right word) the letter J.

One of these days I plan to run for office again, and I would like to make things as easy as possible for the voters. I'll be reaching out beyond the core of registered Greens to people who have traditionally voted Democratic, voters who are used to seeing the letter D after their chosen candidate's name because (at the risk of laboring an obvious point) D is the first letter of the word Democratic. It would be a reasonable assumption on their part that the Green candidate's name will be accompanied by the first letter of the word Green, i.e. G.

Persuading large numbers of traditionally Democratic voters to vote Green will present challenges aplenty before the voters enter the polling booth, so I don't want anything -- and I mean anything -- putting them off at the very last moment. For those wavering voters who won't decide how they will vote until they are actually holding the pen over the ballot I would like to remove as many deterrents to voting Green as possible, including the cognitive dissonance that could set in at the sight of the word Green followed by the letter J.

For me, then, there are advantages to registering as a G. On the other hand, registering as a J makes you part of the GRP, a political party with almost 7,000 registered voters (compared with the Green Party USA's tally of roughly 1,000 Massachusetts voters) an infrastructure and a respectable electoral track record. For example, in 2006 the GRP's nominee for Secretary of the Commonwealth, Dr. Jill Stein, won more than 350,000 votes and the GRP nominee for Treasurer, James O'Keefe, did nearly as well with about 320,000.

Winning over a quarter-million votes in Massachusetts was a significant achievement and I think it's safe to say that in 2010 the GRP will do even better if it contests any of the statewide offices. So for Massachusetts voters on the lookout for an organized, on-the-ground Green presence the GRP is the only game in town. Another reason for registering J as opposed to G is the ability to participate fully in the GRP. For historic reasons, full voting membership in the GRP is not open to people who, like me, are registered G.

My advice in a nutshell: If you're completely and utterly hung up on the silliness of the J issue or simply cannot bring yourself to join a party with the word "rainbow" in its name, register G. Otherwise, tell your voting officials that you would like to affiliate with the GRP. Either way, now is the time to turn Green. If you look in the mirror and see a Green join the party.


Peter Vickery said...

I wish to correct some inaccuracies in this entry related to: 1) the appearances of the letters G or J on the ballot; and 2) the mistaken implication that the Green-Rainbow Party and the Green Party of the US are separate entities.


Candidates and voters need not worry about the letter ‘J’ when deciding to register in the Green-Rainbow Party, to run for office, or to cast a vote for a Green candidate . The letters do not appear anywhere on the ballot. I visited my town hall today and looked over old ballots to be sure of this. The letters are not there; only the full party name is listed beside the candidate name.

The state assigns a letter code to all parties. The ‘J’ designation was given to the Green-Rainbow Party when the Green Party and the Rainbow Coalition merged in Massachusetts. According to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, which administers elections and party registration, there was no legal mechanism for the commonwealth to delete or de-activate the “old” party labels, (‘G’ and ‘F’ for Green Party and Rainbow Coalition respectively), so a new party label was needed when the new party formed. The old labels thus remain in the system. (In fact, if you do research on this you’ll see many defunct labels from parties that are no longer active, but are still loaded in the Commonwealth’s election/registration systems.)

There are not two separate Green parties in Massachusetts.

The link that is given in the blog entry for the Green Party of the US is the link to the national party, of which the Green-Rainbow Party is the Massachusetts affiliate. These are not separate parties. All national political parties have affiliates at the state level, where all elections take place except for presidential races. The Green-Rainbow Party elects various officers to serve on national committees of the Green Party of the US. Because registration is at the state level, and because the Green-Rainbow Party is the Massachusetts affiliate of the Green Party of the US, one must register Green-Rainbow in Massachusetts if one wishes to be considered as part of the national party, participate in its national nominating conventions, or serve the national party in any capacity.

Registering ‘G’ in Massachusetts does not place a letter ‘G’ next to your name on the ballot if you run for office, nor does it affiliate you with the Green Party of the United States, despite what the computer system of the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s elections division may imply.

There no doubt is some confusion, but I hope that this message dispels it. There really are no two parallel green universes in Massachusetts. There is only one. If any Massachusetts voter or candidate finds that they are registered with the old G or F label designations and wishes to join the only green party in Massachusetts that makes state and FEC filings, maintains an infrastructure to support candidates, organizes locally, and coordinates with the national party, he/she can download the PDF form that is linked to this page and follow the easy instructions to register Green-Rainbow.

Please contact me at if you have any questions.

Thank you.

Scott Laugenour

Merelice said...


Thanks to Scott for his clarifications. However, there is one inaccuracy in his description of the J designation.

The J designatioon existed BEFORE the Rainbow Coalition Party and the Mass Green Party joined forces. It was NOT created by this coming together. J was the deisgnation of the Massachusetts Green Party that achieved ballot status when Nader received enough votes as a Green presidential candidate in 2000. It retained ballot status when Jill Stein received enough votes as a gubernatorial candidate in 2002. By then, the decisiono had been made to bring the Rainbow Coalition Party (designation F) and the Mass Green Party together after the 2002 election.

We learned from the Elections Division that the only way the two parties could "merge" was for the Mass. Green Party to vote to change its name. When it became the Green-Rainbow Party, it RETAINED its J designation. Members of the Mass Green Party did not have to take any further action. Members of the Rainbow Coalition Party, however, had to change their registration from F to J.

In short, the Mass Greens faced this confusing situation of two Green designations before it became Green-Rainbow.