Sunday, July 23, 2006

Election Follies, Part Four

Perhaps you've heard, but there was a bit of a mess for Libertarians in Hancock County this year. It's hard to understand exactly what happened, because four quality candidates, including Phil Miller, Jennifer Bradshaw, and Tom Lake, all tried to file as Libertarians, were rejected by the Hancock County Clerk, turned to the Democrats and filed as Ds, with no objection from the Clerk.

Same people, different label, different result.

Now, it could be that Phil Miller is a scary name for a Hancock County Republican to observe on a Libertarian ballot. In 1999, Libertarian Miller ran for Greenfield City Council and won, defeating an incumbent who happened to be the Republican County Chair. Perhaps running as a Democrat is seen as a great albatross around the neck of Miller and the gang, whereas Libertarians have proven themselves able to dethrone powerful Republicans.

It's a pretty tough story to follow. I'm not sure I understand it completely yet, but here goes.

The Hancock County Libertarians held their county convention, but did not nominate any candidates at that convention. Instead, they chose to file post-convention, so that their candidates would be filed late in the filing period, so as not to give other parties time to react and file.

When the completed paperwork for the four candidates was presented to the County Clerk, Phil was told that their candidacies were invalid, because it was too late for post-convention nominations, and they used the wrong form. Panicked and desperate to keep four good candidates on the ballot, Miller contacted the chair of the Democrats and asked if they would accept him and the three others. After short deliberation, the Democratic Chair agreed to permit it.

Riddle me this- If it was too late for a Libertarian post-convention filing, why was it not too late for a Democratic post-convention filing? The deadlines for all three parties are the same! Also, if the Libertarians used the form the County Clerk supplied, why are the Libertarian candidates held accountable and not the Clerk? I would argue that the Clerk ripped off the people of Hancock County, and should be fined by the Indiana Elections Division. Tom Lake's letter to the Indy Star has more details.

Although these events have received scant press coverage, mainly in the Greenfield Recorder, there was a letter in today's Sunday Star:

Does anyone else find it odd that the Libertarian Party was not allowed to run candidates because of problems with forms and deadlines, but after they were denied, those same candidates were allowed to run as Democrats? We obviously have some problems with our election laws.

I constantly hear people complaining about having to vote for the "lesser of two evils." Maybe if we didn't have such prejudiced laws the voters could have more choice on the ballot and vote for someone they actually like.

Karen Valiquett
I know the Libertarian Party is officially classified as a "minor party", but I don't recall reading in the code where we would have to suffer arbitrary dismissal from the ballot because of it. L's do one thing and are disqualified. D's do the same thing and are a-ok. Yes, Karen. I do find it odd.

In fact, it raises a larger issue- Why are we keeping people interested in running for public office off the ballot on the political label of their first choice?

There is an awful irony here that while we have American troops in Iraq, ostensibly fighting to establish a more democratic government with free elections and minority party representation, here the Indiana election laws, and the interpretations made by the County Clerks and the Elections Division, make it so we have fewer parties on the ballot than the Iraqis now have.

The quote from Secretary of State Todd Rokita about multi-party elections was therefore curious, when he told the Indy Star:
"We have to have some parameters, or we'd be like some country in West Africa with 18 different parties on the ballot."
What's wrong with having 18 different parties on the ballot? What's the harm? Why should the State's chief elections official object? The purpose of a political party is to advance a particular political point of view. I would find it amazing to think that even 18 parties could reasonably well represent each voter to his satisfaction. That's the point of free elections and representative government- that any point of view can be carried to the ballot, and then the voters as a whole decide if that viewpoint carries the day. If a party can't carry the day, they fail to be elected. But, everyone has had the chance to vote for those parties, and nobody was silenced.

Neither the County Clerks, nor the Elections Division, nor Todd Rokita, nor the Legislature have any business limiting the number political parties on the ballot. What purpose does it serve to keep minor parties off the ballot, other than to preserve the power of the two dominant parties?

Ah. Of course.

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