- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2016

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - After nearly a decade with the Democratic Party, Will Rambo knew it was time to leave. As his political opinions matured after he graduated from college, he realized his views on civil rights didn’t always mesh with the party’s. He saw some Democrats’ efforts to criminalize hate speech, for example, as a dangerous infringement on the First Amendment.

At the same time, he knew his views didn’t align with the Republican Party, and he wasn’t sure he was ready to commit to the Libertarian Party or other third parties. So, with nowhere else to go, he stepped into uncharted territory. Rambo, of Easton, registered as a Jedi.

Yes, as in the interstellar order of monastic warriors from the Star Wars films who wield The Force. Rambo can’t explain how he wound up choosing the Jedi. He even considers himself more of a Star Trek fan, but at a time when he was lost, the Jedi Party was familiar and funny.

“I didn’t know where to go. I told my friends I was politically homeless,” he said.

While Rambo, 27, is the sole registered Jedi in the Lehigh Valley, other voters have taken it upon themselves to join fake or extinct political parties. The voter rolls in Lehigh and Northampton counties include people who have thrown their allegiances to the Wild Party (four members), the Bull Moose Party (one member) and the Halloween Party (five members).

While the region’s 202,845 Democrats and 143,501 Republican voters vastly outnumber them, members of these mock parties outnumber some authentic ones. The Adarian Party, which draws its name from an alien race with a hole in their heads from the Star Wars universe, has more members in the Lehigh Valley than the Communist, American Eagle and Labor parties combined.

“To me, the presidential elections are just a joke, so I might as well have a joke party,” said Ashley Allen, a registered Adarian.

Allen, a 29-year-old South Whitehall Township resident, described herself as an independent thinker who doesn’t fit neatly into either mainstream party. While she agrees with parts of the messages advocated by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, she isn’t confident either has the chops to be president. It’s frustrating that the system has essentially forced her to choose between Trump and Hillary Clinton, whom she has no plans of supporting, she said.

“It’s sort of like choosing between two devils. Which one do you go with?” she asked.

Apparently, even some people registered under these mock political parties are unaware of them. Until reached by a Morning Call reporter, Paul Aemisegeo of Williams Township had no idea he’s a member of the Everyday Party, which presumably draws its platform from the KISS song “Rock and Roll All Nite.”

“I’m a what?” Aemisegio said. He could not explain how he wound up as one of two registered Everyday Party members in the Lehigh Valley. He last voted in a Republican primary in 2008, he said, and thought he was still a member of the GOP.

Bureaucrats might hold the key to the puzzle. A Nazareth man registered with the Birthday Party said he refused to provide his party affiliation when he registered to vote in 1996 while updating his driver’s license, believing it was nobody’s business. The man later learned a PennDOT employee placed him in the Birthday Party, which amused him so much he kept the registration.

Aemisegio said he updated his voter registration at PennDOT over the last eight years, and he could not recall if he selected a political party when he filled out the form.

Whatever the cause, the chances of voters being able to back a Jedi candidate in a primary are slim.

In order to qualify for a primary in Pennsylvania, a third party must have a candidate in a statewide race get votes equal to at least 2 percent of the votes cast for the top vote-getter in any state race at both the state level and in at least 10 counties. Accomplishing that would still only get the party a primary in those specific counties, not statewide.

That means a member of the Everyday Party needed to collect 38,407 votes in a statewide race in 2014, when 1.9 million voters cast ballots for Gov. Tom Wolf, in order to have had a chance for a primary in some counties this year.

Alternatively, a third party could get a primary in a single county if one of its candidates’ total votes matched 5 percent of votes cast in the largest local race the year before. That would mean that if Whigs wanted Lehigh County to conduct their primary this year, one of their four members needed to collect 784 votes in last November election, when unopposed District Attorney Jim Martin received 39,169.

Just don’t expect the Jedi Party to mount such a comeback locally. Rambo has been doing his research on real parties and expects to join one in the months ahead. Libertarian Gary Johnson intrigues him, he said, but he’s not ready to make any decisions. While being a registered Jedi might be funny, too much is at stake not to back the principles he believes in, he said.

“You’re dealing with people’s lives. It matters. I know a lot of young people feel like none of it matters, and it’s easy to feel that way because it’s so hard to make change, but I feel like it’s important,” Rambo said.

HOW THEY LINE UP IN VALLEY

Five largest parties

. Democratic - 202,845

. Republican - 143,501

. Non-partisan/no party/no affiliation - 59,477

. Libertarian - 2,866

. Green - 735

Notable fake or extinct parties

. Adarian Party - 13 (named after obscure Star Wars alien race)

. Birthday Party - 2

. Federalist Party - 1 (Party of John Adams and Alexander Hamilton; collapsed during the 1810s)

. PA for Perot - 2 (Supporters of 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot)

. Whigs - 4 (former national party that collapsed in the 1850s)

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1XbREVI

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Information from: The Morning Call, https://www.mcall.com


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