Thursday, February 7, 2008

News Flash: North Carolina besieged by "rogue" political parties!

In a bizarre series of arguments, brought to us by Third Party Watch, the State of North Carolina has responded to the combined Green Party-Libertarian Party attempt to relax ballot access rules in the Tarheel State.

The state argued that lowering the bar on ballot access requirements would invite rogue parties to run, thus cluttering the ballot and confusing voters. Nonetheless, from 1929 to 1981, parties had to collect just 10,000 signatures; in one election cycle, the limit was reduced to 5,000. Only in the early ‘80s, when the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party appeared on the ballot, did the state legislature pass a law upping the requirements.

Damn those Communist and Socialist rogues for daring to suggest they might have--oh, let me see--a First Amendment right to free speech and political organization....

Ironically, the judge personally agreed with the Greens/Libertarians that the 2% ballot access number is unnecessarily restrictive:

Last week, Superior Court Judge Leon Stanback Jr. told the small, but packed Wake County courtroom that “personally I think 5,000 or 10,000 signatures should be enough, but the legislature hasn’t seen that it’s sufficient.” He chose not to rule on the constitutionality of the state ballot access law, and instead sent the case to trial. A date hasn’t been set, but the lawsuit is expected to be heard in March.

The State's other argument is apparently the "Pat Buchanan in Florida in 2000 Voters are too Stupid" argument, that

“The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states have an interest in avoiding ballot confusion and clutter.”

Of course, I should have seen it all along: too many candidates and too many choices is too confusing for voters.

Now that's true democracy in action.


Duffy said...

I wholeheartedly agree. All this ballot confusion and clutter make my head hurt. It would be much less confusing to have only one party. Then I'd know who to vote for right away! Think of how fast we could get everyone through the voting lines.

Tyler Nixon said...

The "ballot confusion and clutter" argument is actually codified in Delaware law, at least as a preamble to the arguably unconstitutional (under Delaware's constitution) election code.

The shortest and most fair path to avoiding all of this nonsense is to excise any statutory or governmental recognition of political parties. In Virginia they have no political parties on the ballot - you actually have to know who you are voting for. WOW - how election process and ballot requiring voters be informed enough to know who the candidates are rather than just their party.

Those who are slavish to a legally-codified, institutionalized party system are more interested in protecting power and clannish fiefdoms than in promoting civic involvement and citizen participation in the electoral process. This is even more so in the secondary power balance cemented between the "major" parties and the "minor" parties, whereby we not only have a party system legally and statutorily foisted on our public life, but a dominant two-party system at that.

The party system as a mandatory feature of the electoral process, rather than merely of de facto political alliance-making, has served to dumb down the voters and winnow control over the process to the narrow elites in control of the levers of the dominant parties.

In short, wholly privatize political parties, whether they like it or not. Then we can get on with their work as real grass roots organizations rather than officially-ordained power brokers, and the people can get on with the business of governance on substantive rather than partisan terms.

Waldo said...

The court seems to have properly deferred to a clearly-readable statute with which it personally disagreed.

Anyone who grew up, as I did, with North Carolina politics knows the law is riddled with tripwires and snares the Democrats inserted during decades of single-party rule to ensure no one would ever challenge their supremacy. Real democracy has always been the last thing on their agenda.