If the obstacles to ballot access were removed, third party candidates would be able to win the elections.
When I wrote an article which appeared in our October 2nd, 2016 issue of the third party candidates in the 2016 Presidential elections, I’d mentioned that the last time that a third party candidate was invited to participate in the televised Presidential debates was in 1992, when the Commission On Presidential Debates had invited Ross Perot to participate in the debates along with Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr.
While the Commission On Presidential Debates is giving enormous advantages to the Democrat and the Republican parties’ candidates, the commission’s decision not to invite any of the candidates from any of the third parties to participate in the televised debates is entirely legal because the commission is a private organization, they are not Federally funded.
The Commission On Presidential Debates is a private organization which is comprised entirely of representatives from our two major parties. By inviting only the candidates from the two major parties to participate in the Presidential and the Vice Presidential debates, they are ensuring that the vast majority of the television, radio, newspaper and magazine coverage throughout the U.S., as well as media coverage overseas, will be devoted to the candidates from the two major parties.
Some of the news shows on PBS and C-Span as well as some of the foreign newspapers and television news shows which are aired on some of the foreign-based television networks overseas will show some coverage of the candidates from the third parties, but the candidates from the third parties usually only receive a very minimal amount of publicity.
While the commission’s policies are clearly intended to give an advantage to the two major parties, their policy is in fact entirely legal. By contrast, the various measures that are found in the state legal codes in some states which make ballot access for candidates from the third parties difficult are in fact unconstitutional, and these laws conflict with both the First Amendment (written in 1787, entered into effect in 1791) as well as the Fourteenth Amendment (1868)
Obstacles To Ballot Access
In some states, candidates from the third parties face unreasonable or excessive requirements when they apply for ballot access when they run for city, town, village, county and state offices as well as when they run for Congress, or for President and Vice President.
Each of our 50 state governments, the city government of Washington, D.C., as well as the governments of each of our the Caribbean and our Pacific island colonies establish their own rules, laws, and regulations regarding procedures for parties and candidates to be included in the ballots. Furthermore, within each state, individual county governments, and in some states, individual city governments can enact further laws regarding the procedures for ballot access.
Allowing ballot access for the third party candidates is a complex issue because it will require Federal legislation which would overrule the state, county and city regulations which make ballot access for the third parties difficult.
Some states have laws which require that the number of signatures that a candidate needs to receive on a petition for nomination for running in a Presidential election or for state offices can be as high as 1%, 2% or even 3% of the voters within their constituency. In other states, rather than requiring that the nomination petitions include a specifically designated percentage of registered voters, the laws list a specific number of signatures, which is often the equivalent of 1% or 2% of the registered voters in the relevant constituency. In some states, once a party has demonstrated that they’ve received at least the minimum required number of signatures on a nomination petition, they can continue to place candidates on the ballots in subsequent years, while in other states, candidates are continually required to acquire the minimum number of signatures every year.
While signatures from 1% or 2% of the registered voters in a given state, city or county may not initially seem like an unreasonably high number of candidates from the third parties to receive for a nomination petition, in all of the elections since the 1980’s, many of the candidates from the third parties have found these numbers to be unrealistic and unfair. We need to remember that there are often numerous smaller parties who are competing for votes within each constituency.
In recent years, candidates from the third parties have found that the internet and social media has made the process of acquiring signatures on nomination petitions much easier because they no longer have to send member of their staff to travel so that they can meet people in person, but even with the use of the parties’ websites and various social networking websites, candidates from the smaller parties are still finding the current minimum requirements for the numbers of signatures that they need to receive on their nomination petitions to be unrealistically high.
The Third Parties In Local, State And National Elections In The 2000’s
The third parties in the U.S. encompass the entire political spectrum; we have some very conservative parties here, including some parties whose ideologies seem to be at least partially based on interpretations of various fundamentalist religious ideologies, and at the opposite end of the political spectrum, we also have some socialist parties here. We have some parties who have no more than a very small handful of supporters throughout the entire country. From reading through the websites of some of the third parties, it seems that we have some parties whose candidates seem that they’d be likely to want to try to propose legislation which would never be permitted to be enacted into law because the ideals that they support violate numerous constitutional amendments. The only issue that all of the candidates from all of our third parties all seem to mutually agree upon is that the laws in many states which make ballot access to candidates from the smaller parties difficult need to be removed.
While I personally disagree with the ideologies that some of our third parties advocate for, one of the fundamental principles that this country was founded upon is that anyone should be able to run for office, even when we disagree with the ideologies that they are advocating for.
Some of the smaller parties whose views directly oppose each others’ views on most issues work together within the Coalition For Free And Open Elections, which is a non-partisan independent group which advocates for reasonable regulations for ballot access for candidates from the smaller parties in all of our states.
In recent years, candidates from some of the third parties have been winning elections for city, town, village, county and state offices. In 1998, Jesse Ventura ran as the Reform Party’s candidate for governor of Minnesota, he won the election, and he served as governor of Minnesota from 1999 through 2003. In recent years, candidates from the Green Party have been elected to local offices in a number of states.
In 2000, Donald Trump had actually filed as a Presidential candidate with the Reform Party, though he withdrew from the process relatively early on during the campaigns. In November of 2016, former President George W. Bush did not reveal whom he voted for President in the general elections, but he did tell news reporters that he did in fact vote for someone other than Trump/ Pence or Clinton/ Kaine.
If the obstacles to ballot access were removed, more candidates from more parties would be able to run for offices, and we’d see even more candidates from some of the other parties winning elections.
What Can Be Done? How Can The Obstacles To Ballot Access Be Overturned?
For obvious reasons, there does need to be established procedures for minimal requirements for parties to get their candidates placed onto ballots in elections. We do need a means of effectively removing joke candidates, people who are running for no reason other than to amuse their friends, otherwise, the ballots in some counties and cities would end up listing nearly 100 candidates for a single office, this would be highly impractical and counterproductive to the electoral process.
We do need laws which would require that candidates acquire a certain number of signatures from eligible voters on a petition for nomination, based on a designated percentage of the constituencies that they’re intending to represent before the boards of elections place any candidates onto the ballots, but we need to make certain that these percentages are realistic and fair to new parties and small parties.
Why do the percentages of registered voters within a given constituency that candidates are required to acquire on their petitions for nomination need to be higher than either ¼ of 1%, or ½ of 1%, or why are more than 2,000 or 2,500 verifiable signatures needed to prove that a party or a campaign is serious? Those numbers would certainly effectively eliminate the joke candidates, and those numbers are seemingly much more realistic and easily attainable for the candidates from some of the smallest and the lesser known parties here.
There are quite a few ways that boards of elections can verify that the signatures which appear on petitions for nominations are indeed real, and once the administrators who work in a board of elections have verified the authenticity of the signatures, there should be no further obstacles to ballot access.
For reference about authenticating the legitimacy of voters, see the article that I wrote which appeared in our May 8th, 2016 issue of voter fraud which has been linked specifically to people using the names of deceased persons to vote in multiple voting districts. If people are using various techniques to vote fraudulently, it is reasonable to assume that there do exist at least a small number of people who won’t hesitate to engage in fraudulent practices to attempt to get higher numbers of signatures on candidates’ petitions by the filing deadlines.
Our country’s Founding Fathers never intended for the United States Of America to become a 2 party duopoly when they wrote our Constitution in 1787. Throughout the course of the 18th century, the governments of some of the countries in Europe had functioned as two party duopolies, under the authority of the reigning monarchies of the era, and the Founding Fathers in the U.S. were very specifically attempting to create a new government structure which was not based on the European models.
There’s no simple way to overturn the regulations which create obstacles to ballot access for the candidates from the smaller parties. People will have to begin the lengthy process of filing to challenge some of the existing state laws that I’ve mention in Federal courts.
Anyone who has ever attended any proceedings, hearings or trials in the Federal court system knows how lengthy the processes involved in the Federal legal proceeding are. Appealing these laws will take several years, but eventually the Federal courts will have no choice but to end the obstacles to ballot access for candidates from the smaller parties; the Federal courts are bound to uphold the Constitution Of The United States Of America, the obstacles to ballot access for candidates from the smaller parties are all found in state and county laws, and I don’t think that any of those laws would hold up in the Federal court system if they are challenged. Challenging the numerous state laws which create obstacles to ballot access for the third party candidates may ultimately lead to people proposing a future Constitutional amendment or other Federal legislation which would prohibit any future laws which would restrict ballot access.
In addition to being unconstitutional, the laws that exist within many of our states which create barriers to ballot access for candidates from the smaller parties also violate international conventions, including Article 21 of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights (written in 1966, entered into effect 10 years later in 1976) and The Charter of Paris For A New Europe (1990.)
Because the state laws which create obstacles to ballot access for candidates from the smaller parties are not only unconstitutional, they are also a violation of international law, if these laws are challenged and our Federal courts opt to uphold them, people will have the option to appeal to even higher legislative bodies. The terms of the 1990 Charter Of Paris specifically state that the governments of all of the signatory member states are required to permit all their citizens to run for office.
The Organization For Security And Co-Operation In Europe is the body which is responsible for overseeing that all of the signatory member states to the 1990 Charter Of Paris honor the terms of this treaty. The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights and the subsequent International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights are United Nations documents. If our Federal courts and our Supreme Court ever do decide to uphold the state laws that I’ve mentioned, then people will have the option to try to appeal to the OSCE as well as to try to get the United Nations to pressure our Federal government into overturning these aforementioned laws that I’ve discussed in this article.