Monday, February 9, 2009

Ballot Access Blues

In the words of some Martinsville natives I've known for years, this just ain't right. Chris Guy at Fred2Blue posted a story on Del. Bobby Orrock (R-54) and his bill aimed at making it even harder for third-party and independent candidates to attain ballot access. Chris posted the money paragraph:

... (iii) makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to pay or receive compensation on a fee per signature or on a basis related to the number of signatures obtained for circulating election-related petitions or completing and submitting voter registration applications;...

Chris notes that the Libertarian Party sent an e-mail to supporters, wherein it was clear they were none too thrilled.

Our ballot access laws are already a sham, not just in Virginia but in the nation as a whole. Over years of two-party dominance, the Ds and Rs have passed regulation after regulation that, taken as a whole, make it effectively impossible for any other party or candidate to compete. Granted, some version of the two parties will always dominate no matter what--that's just the nature of having to win 50% +1 vote (unless we revert to a parliament or adopt proportional representation--both about as likely as John Lennon singing at the next inauguration). 

Having said that, there's no reason smaller parties should be barred from even holding a few seats here or there. Locking out any possible form of competition is every bit as reprehensible as gerrymandering and it is every bit as destructive to our democracy. Think about it: no matter how badly either party screws up, they know that all they have to do is wait and their fortunes will eventually reverse themselves. In the last hundred years, both parties have presided over unnecessary wars, played economic roulette with the livelihoods of all Americans, spent copious amounts of monopoly money and basked in endemic corruption, and yet they remain in power. It would do both of them some good to sweat a little from time to time, and it may even help reduce the average person's cynicism and breathe new life into American politics.

You may have gathered from a recent post that I'm not a big fan of the libertarians' economic philosophy. Their unrestricted trade, let-the-market-run-rampant worldview is demonstrably harmful to the middle class, and I shudder to think of them at the reins of government. But to their credit, at least the LP is ideologically consistent--they're against government involvement in pretty much everything, including social issues like gay marriage, and they're not so sure invading everybody is such a great idea. You can make a good case that they have a more credible claim to "conservatism" than most conservatives. Heck, I'd rather run against them and have a real debate than run against these Rovian clowns who shout us down and scare people into supporting things like the Iraq War.