Definition of a Green Party Candidate/Officeholder

This is an explanation and definition of who is considered to be a Green Party candidate or officeholder, for the purpose of being listed in the Election Data Base of the Green Party of the United States.


Who is a Green Party candidate/officeholder? The answer is simple and complicated, all at once.

It is simple, because a Green Party candidate/officeholder is a Green Party member who is also a candidate or officeholder. But it is complicated, because different states have different ballot access laws, and each state Green Party has also evolved differently. As a result, there are different legal/political/historical combinations across the country.

This memo summarizes the method and criteria that have been ongoingly used to identify ‘who is a Green Party candidate/officeholder’ nationally since 1994, and to document earlier U.S. Green history (1985-1994); such that today all U.S. Green electoral history in the Green Party of the United States Elections Data Base is based upon it.

Definition of “who is a Green Party candidate/officeholder”

“A Green Party candidate (or officeholder) is someone who is a member of the Green Party in his/her state – but is not also a member of another political party.”

Purpose of the Definition

A primary objective has been to achieve and maintain a consistent definition of who is a Green candidate/officeholder.

A consistent definition provides a basis for accurate and meaningful comparisons between Greens candidates/officeholders across the United States – at present and over time.

A definition that draws a clear and unambiguous line between ‘who is’ and ‘who is not’ a Green, also clearly identifies the Green Party as an independent and distinct political entity.

Implementation of this definition necessarily differs in some states compared to others, because of state-by-state legal and historical circumstances. But the standard of who is a Green candidate – membership in the Green Party, but not also in another- has remained the same despite differing implementation.

What this has meant is that in a handful of cases, a local or state Green Party has listed additional candidates that have not appeared on the national party list.

Application of the Definition

Here is a summary of the basic manners in which the definition has been applied:

1) In states where party membership is defined by voter registration – and one can legally register Green – one must be a registered Green Party voter, in order to be considered a Green Party candidate/officeholder.

By legal definition in these states, one cannot also be a member of two parties, because one cannot be registered to vote in two parties. Examples of these states include AK, AZ, CA, CO, ME.

2) In states where party membership is defined by voter registration – but one cannot legally register Green (for various reasons) – the standard has been that 

– one must be a member of the Green Party in that state, according to the state party’s rules, and

– one cannot be a registered voter in another party, rather one must be registered in no party, i.e. ‘independent’ or ‘decline to state”

3) In states where party membership is not defined by voter registration, 

There are 23 states in which party membership is not defined by voter registration. In those states

– one must be a member of the Green Party in that state, according to the rules used by the state party, and

– one cannot also be a member of another party

4) What is the role of ballot lines in defining who is a Green candidate/officeholder?

The practice in tracking Green candidate/officeholders has been to list all Green Party members running for office. It does not matter what ballot line a Green Party member has when they run, as long as they fit the already standing definition of a Green Party candidate/officeholder.

Sometimes a Green Party member may not be able to achieve a Green ballot line because of various legal/ballot status considerations. This does not matter. They are included whether they have the ballot line of another party or that of an independent. In NY and PA, a Green can even have both the Green line and that of another party. That is also acceptable, as long as the candidate/officeholder is truly a Green Party member by the existing national definition.

There are also municipal and county races that are by definition non-partisan. If a Green Party member runs in these races, they are included in the list, even though they are not listed on the ballot as a Green.

What about if someone has a Green Party ballot line, but isn’t a member of the Green Party?

In NY and PA, a member of another party may – through these states’ fusion laws – obtain more than one ballot line, by obtaining the ballot line of another ballot status party. These candidate/officeholders are not counted on, as they are not Green Party members, even if they have acquired a Green Party ballot line.

5) What is the role of other minor parties? 

At times, some Greens will claim simultaneous membership in the Labor Party, Socialist Party, Progressive Dane or others.

Because these parties do not have ballot-status parties in most states, one cannot register to vote in them. Without being able to register to vote in them, this eliminates a conflict between being a member of them and the Greens.

This rule about not being a member of another party reflects the need to be defined independently of the major ballot status parties (Democrats, Republicans), rather than as a ‘club-like’ subset of them.

By comparison, groups like the Labor Party and Socialist Party are more like clubs when ballot status is considered. Membership in them doesn’t really constitute membership in a competing organization with the Greens, the way being a member of the Democrats or Republicans, or even the Libertarian or Reform Party would be.

Reference: Archived link to this definition from its passage by the GPUS Coordinated Campaign Committee in 2002