Thursday, June 29, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Third Party

It isn't just that the schools teach "two-party system". It isn't just that the legacy of third parties is scary to some voters because the only ones they knew of were communist. A lot of what makes it tough to be a third party is that the Republicans and Democrats like their duopoly, and collude to protect it. Ballot access laws in Indiana are difficult for new parties to overcome.

The old ballot access threshhold was a 0.5% statewide result in the Secretary of State's race. Once the Libertarian Party topped this level in the 1980s, the Republicans and Democrats conspired to raise the figure to 2%. Through perseverance, the Libertarian Party of Indiana has maintained continuous ballot access since 1994, despite losing access thanks to the colluding parties raising the bar.

It's nice to see some sympathy in the media for the Green Party. Many outlets, including NuVo and the Indy Star have covered the plight of the Green Party in their attempts to earn the necessary signatures to get a Secretary of State candidate on the ballot in the hopes of earning 2% for four-year automatic ballot access. It is curious, however, that the Libertarian Party, which has successfully leapt the hurdles, barely gets mentioned in the same sympathetic passages.

Observe the Indy Star's coverage today:
Stant, the Green Party candidate for secretary of state, was holding out a sliver of hope Wednesday that he would clear the hurdle, one of the highest in the nation. He and volunteers around the state had collected 20,000 to 25,000 signatures, tantalizingly close to the goal he'd been striving toward for more than a year.

"We still have a fighting chance," Stant said, before wearily adding that, really, the chance was "highly unlikely."

The truth, Stant said, is that "it's not easy being a political candidate when you're not a Democrat or a Republican. You're made to feel like a criminal. You're made to feel like someone who doesn't belong. That's very, very depressing."

I can appreciate this very much. But, we soldier on, and do what needs to be done until we can gain sufficient positioning to change the laws. More:
Leaders of the state Republican and Democratic parties think the 2 percent threshold is reasonable and fair.

Of course they do. It means they never have to worry about it, but others do. Also:

"The reason it's there is to make sure only credible candidates reach the ballot," said Mike Edmondson, executive director of the Indiana Democratic Party.

In other words, every Republican or Democratic candidate is credible. The Republicans have a candidate who espouses public flogging. Good thing only the credible candidates are on the ballot! Mr. Edmondson better not issue another complaint or comment about candidate Walker. Per Edmondson's quote above, Walker is credible.

In other words, any candidate who runs on a Green or other 4th party ballot is not credible, but should they merely run as a Democrat or Republican, they suddenly become credible. That's nonsense. More:

Murray Clark, the former state senator who is chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, said he thinks requiring signatures equal to 2 percent of the vote in the last election for secretary of state is "pretty low."

Secretary of State Todd Rokita, the Republican Stant hopes to challenge in November, said the state should have a discussion on where the bar should be set but added: "We have to have some parameters, or we'd be like some country in West Africa with 18 different parties on the ballot."

I'd like to set the bar thusly: If a political party in Indiana does not run a candidate for US Senate, it is automatically declared a minor party in Indiana, because only a real loser of a political party can't find someone to run for US Senate. If a party does not run a candidate in every State Senate and every State Representative race on the statewide ballot, it is automatically declared a minor party. If a political party fails to run candidates in at least 50% of the races in any given county, they are declared a minor party in that county. Hey- what's good for the goose... I get tired of the Republicans and Democrats crowing about being major parites, when they fail to meet these low threshholds. No excuses!

The real losers are the voters on Indiana, who are robbed of choices that would best represent their views. Rs & Ds really don't represent the views of the people very well. Look no further than the turnout numbers for the proof. 21% statewide for the Primary? That's embarrassing.

So what if there are 18 parties on the ballot? So what if there are some nut jobs on the ballot? You mean to tell me you think that government is devoid of nut jobs, and that the restrictive ballot access laws have made it so? Well, I want to step into your Wonderland, then, Alice.

If a candidate is not credible, the voters won't vote for him. Nothing lost by giving the voters the choice. Plenty is lost by restricting choices and low turnout. We end up with dissatisfied, disinterested citizens who become uninformed voters.

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