Ballot Access and Reform
"In order to keep our political system healthy, we must once again allow people the freedom to vote for the qualified candidate of their choice. Such freedom is not only essential to the health of our government but also our right as citizens of the United State"- Richard Winger, 1994.
Can we dare call this republic democratic? Card carrying Republicans should be embarrassed at how the party seeks to keep other ideas from being considered. Donıt get me wrong, the Democrats are, if anything, worse or at least as bad, but Republicans should hang their head when they think of how other Republicans do not believe that the power of our ideas are not so strong that they will triumph in the end when it is clear that they are. In the past decade we have seen the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) so corrode traditional liberalism that unions, hyper-environmentalists, and the alternative lifestyle movement have been left as the masses with out a candidate or a platform for policy. Why? Not because conservatives have disallowed those voices from being heard within the Democratic party, but because were and are right! The DLC and their partner in crime, the Progressive Policy Institute have abandoned the Sen. Tom Harkin/ former Sen. Walter Mondale/ Rep. Jim McDermott liberalism in a quest for the center of American politics. Bill Clinton is reforming welfare, Al Gore is championing North America Free Trade America, Sen. John Breau is trying to reform Medicare and Sen. Bob Kerry is trying to introduce private accounts into Social Security. All of these ideas would have been dismissed as radically conservative 10 years ago, but now they are part of the soul of the Democratic Party. Why? Because Republicans came to power and it took the DLC to realize that and correct their party before they became irrelevant. With all of these ideological victories one would think that the GOP would stride confidently into the future. However, instead they, along with the Democratic Party, seek to keep this a two-horse race, and that is just not right.
This paper will show that limiting ballot access is wrong, that it is a reality in this nation, and it will give a prescription for reform.
This nation was built on a premise of self-government. We believe that individuals should be able to choose those individuals who will be their decision-makers in government. We are a nation where the government is a government for the people, not a people for the government. Being that this is the case, the people should have the ability to choose who represents them. If some parties and individuals are kept off the ballot doesnıt that limit our ability to choose our representatives? Obviously it does. Some would argue that it is impractical to allow anyone, unconditionally to be listed on a ballot if they choose. That would seem to be an undemocratic opinion, but if one is to give it merit, than shouldnıt it be applied universally? Of course it should. How is it fair or democratic for some individuals and parties to be automatically, and have others spend a great deal of their resources just getting on the ballot. Doesnıt that give an obvious and unfair advantage to those parties already on the ballot? Obviously it does.
Examples of established party individuals fighting the ballot access rights of smaller parties are rampant. Ballot Access News reports that "On January 20, the Hawaii Attorney General (a Democrat) ruled that the Libertarian Party is not qualified, as had been thought. Therefore, the party had to re-petition" and "On December 30, 1999, a West Virginia State court said that voters cannot sign a petition for a minor party or independent candidate, and then vote in a primary." Some times the efforts are even silly. Ballot Access News reports that "On December 8, the Maine Secretary of State ruled that registered members of the Reform Party must re-register into the Reform Party, if they wish to be members." This is in addition to laws that require at least certain percentage showing in the last election to be on the ballot the next election that exist in all 50 states and the effort in presidential elections to keep third parties out of the debates. Does keeping one off the ballot and out of the debates limit that partyıs chance at sustaining the moment to have an impact. Obviously it does.
In order to truly let the power of ideas and political power plays rule we must grant greater ballot access. Laws should err on the side of letting more rather than less candidates on the ballot. If a candidate can come up with the filling fee and plays by the rules than they should appear on the ballot. If an entity feels that there must be standards for getting on the ballot, than once a party gets on they should have to take themselves off. It is the only way these parties can sustain the moment needed to have an impact.
We call ourselves democratic, yet there are major forces in both of our parties that seek to keep us from being so. We should not allow this to continue. How can our electorate not become cynical when they know great candidates are being kept of the ballot? The right ideas will triumph. If they donıt they werenıt truly the right ideas after all. Letıs start demanding that all voices have the same opportunity to be heard.
Reform America, Inc.
2503 Hatteras Circle, Waldorf, MD 20601