No Labels, the centrist group preparing to offer a third-party “unity” presidential ticket as an alternative to the presumptive nominations of President Joe Biden by the Democrats and former President Donald Trump by the Republicans, is facing mounting opposition.
According to No Labels, opponents are seeking to intimidate potential No Labels candidates, donors and voters and interfering with No Labels’ efforts to qualify for ballot placement in states across the country. On Jan. 11, No Labels filed a complaint with the Department of Justice, accusing several political activists and other critics of engaging in voter suppression activities and violating a range of criminal laws.
The No Labels complaint is unusual. Attacks and pressure campaigns against potential candidates, donors and supporters of a political party are common — especially in high-stakes presidential races — and are considered protected speech under the First Amendment. But No Labels argues that, at this point, No Labels has no candidates, is entirely nonpartisan and is seeking only to secure ballot access and a voting platform for a potential unity ticket in the presidential election.
According to No Labels, First Amendment protections that are traditionally accorded to political speech do not apply to voter suppression efforts or to efforts to exclude entities from ballot access since, “It is one thing to oppose candidates who are running; it’s another to use intimidation tactics to prevent them from even getting in front of the voters.”
Most of the individuals and groups about whom No Labels complains are Democrat-leaning — reflective of the concern of many Democrats that a centrist, third-party presidential ticket will draw more voters from Biden than Trump. But No Labels also cites harassment and interference from Rick Wilson, a founder of the Lincoln Project, the anti-Trump Republican group, as well as from Jonathan Last of the Bulwark, a conservative news outlet, and Matt Bennett of Third Way, a centrist Democratic group.
In response, the Lincoln Project accused No Labels of trying to “weaponize DOJ [to] attack their opponents for protected political speech,” and Third Way called the complaint “an all-too-predictable attempt to distract from the fact that No Labels has no chance of winning.”
But “winning” isn’t what frightens No Labels’ opponents. What frightens them are the votes a centrist No Labels ticket will pull away from their chosen candidate. And at this point, it is the Biden camp that is most at risk, which makes a separate Jan. 16 letter to Biden from the founding chair of No Labels, former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, all the more interesting and provocative.
Lieberman’s letter complains about steps taken by the Delaware Department of Elections to block No Labels Delaware from securing ballot access in the state. According to the letter, No Labels Delaware was accused of “tricking” voters during the party’s voter registration efforts by making signers think they were signing a political petition rather than joining the No Labels party. And for that reason, the Department of Elections disqualified 1,300 No Labels signatories. Lieberman asked Biden to step in to stop the voter nullification move by his home state.
Neither DOJ nor Biden has responded publicly to the calls for help. Neither should ignore No Labels. Voter choice is a good thing. And everyone will win if it is the voters who decide the election.