SALT LAKE CITY — As Republicans duke it out on the East Coast and in the South, some Utah voters want to move away from the traditional two-party political system and throw a third voice into the presidential ring.
In 1992, Texas businessman Ross Perot ran as an independent and gave Democrats and Republicans a run for their money. Analysts say the Reform Party is the fruit of that. Now, organizers of the Reform Party of Utah hope to offer voters another choice for president.
"When Ross Perot ran in 1992, there were two states that he came in second in the polls," said state party organizer Jaime Dives. "One of those states was Maine and the other state was Utah."
Dives is circulating petitions to get the Reform Party on the Utah ballot for the 2012 election cycle. She needs 2,000 signatures from registered voters by Feb. 15.
"We're looking for people who want to sign up to be reform party members or people who want to be active in the party," said Dives. "That will allow us to run our candidate on the election ballot in Utah. It will also give people the opportunity to register to vote as a reform party member."
Despite Utahns voting primarily Republican, Dives said most Utah registered voters aren't registered with a political party. "If you go to the lieutenant governor's office and ask for the roll, you'll see that there are more unaffiliated registered voters than there are Republicans and Democrats combined," Dives said.
She believes this group is ready for an alternative to the perceived two-party system in America.
"Those are the independents," said Dives. "Not the independent party, but independent voters who are looking to see what candidate best aligns with their ideals, not what party they're in."
On a national level, that's the group the Reform Party is targeting.
"The reality is that it's not fully a two-party system. The two-party system is not enshrined in law," said David Collison, chairman of the National Committee for the Reform Party. "There have been both independent candidates and candidates of other political parties who have gained office in local and state races and in legislative races across the country, including the U.S. Congress."
The Reform Party has been in "rebuilding" mode since 2000 to get ballot access in all 50 states. Collison doesn't believe the party can achieve that this election cycle.
"We believe we have a reasonable chance with the right candidate assisting in the petition efforts to get on the ballot in 40 states," said Collison.1 comment on this story
He added that if and when a third-party candidate can achieve ballot access in all 50 states, the implications would be profound.
"It's true that the electoral system has been tuned to the concept of the presumption that there are only going to be two major party candidates competing for the election of president when you get to the general election," said Collison. "But there are provisions in place to handle situations where you have more than two major party candidates."