|Birth:||August 27, 1943|
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Richard Lee Winger (born August 27, 1943) has been for the last forty years the leading advocate in the United States for minor political parties, in particular for more equitable laws allowing access to the ballot for minor parties. Though he has no formal education in law, Winger is regarded as a formidable authority on election law, having testified as such in countless court cases across the country, and having been published in journals ranging from the Journal of Election Law to the Fordham Urban Law Review. Since 1985 he has published Ballot Access News, a monthly newsletter covering developments in ballot access law and among the minor parties generally. He was inducted into the Hall of Liberty in 2014.
In 1985 Winger helped found, along with several minor party representatives the Coalition on Free and Open Elections (COFOE) in an attempt to co-ordinate action and provide mutual support among the various minor parties for efforts to liberalize and reform ballot access laws, through state legistlatures as well as through the courts. COFOE has been a modest operation throughout, although they briefly had the backing of the ACLU, and has sponsored various lawsuits and other initiatives through the years with mixed success. They have been particularly concerned with urging enforcement of the Helsinki Accords in America, an international treaty on democratic practices which America is believed to constantly violate by its restrictions on minor parties. COFOE continues to meet annually with reliable support from nearly all minor parties.
Winger has been a loyal partisan of the Libertarian Party, though this has hardly interfered with his overall nonpartisanship in his advocacy for the rights of minor parties. Some have even taken him to task for being nonpartisan to a fault, most notably, in the 1980s he was a defender of the New Alliance Party, a group which was widely regarded as a cult. Winger has made only one run for public office, in 1986 for the office of Secretary of State in California as a Libertarian, however, as he was running for the office charged with the administration of elections, the campaign was styled as being nonpartisan, intended to represent the interests of all minor parties.
A lifelong Californian, Richard Winger graduated from the University of California, Berkeley as a Political Science major in 1966, and attended Graduate School in Political Science at UCLA. He has lived for the last 35 years in San Francisco with his partner Jerry Kunz.
Interview by Patrick Nicholson
Winger was interviewed by Patrick Nicholson of the Libertarian Party of California's Historical Preservation Committee on 18 July 2023.