Sometimes things just happen! Thurgood Marshall (brilliantly acted by Sidney Poitier) in the HBO movie was quoted as saying, “Sometimes history takes matters into its own hands.” (The Marshall character was referring to the fact that the federal court in South Carolina forced the NAACP to fight not just separate but patently unequal schools but segregation itself) I don’t believe in a personification of history like that; I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. But sometimes, the Lord leads us in directions we did not fully intend!
Well, that’s how I feel right now. I was cited (absolutely correctly) in Ballot Access News about the scandalous situation where 61 members of the House of Delegates have no opponent (and 15 senators join them in that club) and I was going to discuss the matter with a legislator and bring up better ballot access. I needed Winger’s wonderful chart on ballot access. So here it is – the pertinent part of the posting (hat tip and thanks to Richard Winger – the nation’s expert on the subject):
This year over half of the races have only one candidate on the ballot. For the 100 House races, only one person is on the ballot in 63 districts. For the State Senate, only one person is on the ballot in 15 of the 40 races. Thanks to Sandy Sanders for this information. Sanders is working to find a sponsor for a bill in next year’s session to ease the definition of “political party.”
I was in error – it’s 61 districts not 63 – but that is hardly a triumph for democracy!
So here’s what I proposed to the legislator:
Let’s first change the ten percent threshold to five of the vote in a statewide election for a party to stay on the ballot; only Alabama (20%), New Jersey (10% of the votes for the lower house of the state legislature) and Oklahoma (10%) have 10 or more percent of the statewide vote required in an election to get major party status.
Second, let’s stop this insane way that statewide candidates from other parties get ballot access for one election cycle: 10,000 signatures for EACH candidate. If the Libertarians or Independent Greens wanted to run a slate of hopefuls for Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General, they would need a minimum of 30,000 signatures (and actually more because you need a cushion to ensure you got enough) to get the slate on the ballot. That means the guy or gal with the clipboard needs to get three signatures when he or she interrupts you at the Post Office or the DMV or the Kroger (probably without permission in that case!) for a signature.
Let’s do THIS instead: The PARTY seeks the signatures one ONE petition to get ballot access for ALL of its candidates for the next four years (remember, if a party gets ten percent, it gets ballot access for the next two statewide elections – that could be based on some interpretations eight years – but most think it is four years – not just the election cycle it gets the signatures in!) and the signature requirement might be higher – say 15,000 or maybe 20,000. The trade off for more work is greater reward. That ballot access would be for all races, state, local or federal.
That will require legislation. I plan to ask another member of the General Assembly this in the next day or two. But others can steal my idea. Please do. I hope for members of both parties to support this in light of the proposal by the Republican state central committee (a private organization) to restrict primary ballot access to those candidates who pledge to support the winner and not run third party.
The vote (with ID or not) means little if your choices are only one as in 61 of the House of Delegates districts. So I’ll take it on: Better ballot access in the Commonwealth. After all, to quote another classic movie: You fight for the lost causes harder than for any others. Let’s fight hard and make it a victorious cause!
Article written by: Elwood "Sandy" Sanders