Lee Wrights: The Quiet War On Ballot Access

by R. Lee Wrights

Not all of America’s wars are clear and visible. For decades establishment politicians have been waging a quiet, secret war most Americans don’t even realize is going on. But this war is just as destructive of our liberty as the war in Afghanistan, the war on drugs, the war on taxpayers and the myriads of other conflicts our government is waging.

This war is stealing one of our most precious birthrights, the right to vote for the representative of our choice. It is the war on ballot access. Unlike other wars, the war on ballot access is waged by a united front of Democrats and Republicans who always willingly and eagerly stand together to restrict and obstruct any contender for political power but themselves. They’ve seized control of a nation and have no intention of ever relinquishing their stranglehold on the reigns of power.

Most Americans are oblivious to the monopoly of power exercised by the Democrats and Republicans because they’ve been conditioned to believe that “America has always had a two- party” system. Even some otherwise honest and intelligent Republicans and Democrats believe this is the way it’s always been, and seem genuinely amazed when they’re told how difficult it is for third-party and independent candidates to get on the ballot in many states.

That’s exactly what the professional political class wants them to believe. The arrogance of the two-party establishment feeds on itself; the longer it maintains and holds sole power, the more convinced it becomes of its rightness. They see nothing wrong in limiting your choices. In their haughty position of self-importance, they piously proclaim that having more than two choices on the ballot would only result in a “cluttered ballot” and “voter confusion.

These claims are merely a cover for their cynical belief that American voters are too uninformed and uneducated — in other words, too stupid — to make decisions from a long list of choices, unlike voters in countries like Iraq. The same politicians who piously demand other nations institute “democracy” have no qualms about blatantly denying to their own people the right to vote for representatives of their choice.

The stark truth is, if you’re not a Republican or a Democrat in the United States of America, you are a slave to a government controlled by a majority that forces it’s will upon you. Restrictive ballot access laws, perpetuated by the two-party duopoly, are the ultimate abuse of power. They’re depressing testimony to the mortification and calcification of the two-party system to the point that it is close to death.

“One of the best-kept secrets in American politics is that the two-party system has long been brain-dead maintained by a life-support system that protects the established parties from rivals,” said Theodore J. Lowi, senior professor of American Institutions at Cornell University. “The two-party system would collapse in an instant if the tubes were pulled and the IVs were cut. And until then, the dominant two parties will not, and cannot, reform a system in which they are the principal beneficiaries.”

In almost every case, state ballot access laws are an impediment to our rights, our freedom and our liberty. They’re designed exclusively to muzzle dissent and limit voter choice in order to secure power for the ruling class. In this election, however, America will have a clear choice and an opportunity to pull the IV tubes on the two-party duopoly.

Libertarian presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson may well be on the ballot in all 50 states. But to make that happen, the Libertarian Party needs funds to secure ballot access in 19 more states. You can help that effort here.

Then on Nov. 6, 2012, be Libertarian one time and vote Libertarian to stop the war on ballot access. Help us achieve a historic one million votes for the Libertarian candidate for president. Send a clear message to Democrats and Republicans that it is your choice, your vote, your rights, and you will no longer stand idly by while they take them away from you.

Enough is enough! Make them remember this November! Vote Libertarian!

R. Lee Wrights is a writer and political activist living in Texas. He is currently the Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party national committee. He is the co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Contact Lee at rleewrights@gmail.com.


14 thoughts on “Lee Wrights: The Quiet War On Ballot Access

  1. Shane Bruce

    Kudos Mr. Wrights.

    It’s my belief that the ballot access issue should be the primary focus of this years presidential cycle for the LP. Gary Johnson’s run for the White House will be the vehicle for exposing more of our voting citizens to the LP’s proposals on the wide variety of issues that plague our republic. Ballot access is the one issue that illustrates the profound divide between the ruling minority parties and everyone else.

    Here in Georgia we are saddled with some of the most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation. As a result of legal action in 1988, we do have access to all statewide races i.e., Governor, Public Service Commission, Insurance Commissioner, AG and the like but must still petition for access to State House and State Senate races as well as any other partisan political race we might have a candidate for. There are only two mechanisms for the Libertarian Party of Georgia to escape the petition trap so carefully crafted in 1943, 1) Our candidate for Governor must achieve 20% +1 in a Gubernatorial race or 2) The LP presidential candidate must achieve 20% + 1 of the vote in Georgia in a presidential race.

    The 2010 cycle saw Libertarian John Monds fall short of that goal in his bid for Governor. The 103, 194 votes he garnered in his David vs. Goliath run against Nathan Deal amounted to 4% of the votes cast. Our next opportunity for ballot access equality rest on Gary Johnson shoulders.

    How large is that burden? Considerable. If 2012 has similar turn out to 2010, our LP presidential candidate will need in excess of 785,000 votes here in Georgia alone to achieve our state level ballot access goals. Impossible? No. Improbable? Certainly.

    There are other states in our great nation with similar issues but much lower thresholds for complete ballot access via Presidential election voting percentages. Those states with the lowest, most achievable requirements, should be included in this cycle’s calculus and resources should be allocated to assist them with their ballot access struggle. If the LP can win the ballot access war in just one state this cycle, that is victory.

  2. Richard Winger

    In presidential elections, the six most oppressive states account for 60% of the entire nationwide petition burden. Those six states are California, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas, and Indiana.

  3. Oranje Mike

    The war on ballot access could become more grave in Arizona if voters approve the Top Two Primary.

  4. Ralph Swanson

    What an article! I completely agree.

    The LP had a plan to raise dedicated money to destroy these access barriers for good and bring about Direct Democracy. The Reform/GOP extremist thugs killed it along with the other prongs–the platform/get people in office & coalitions and the SPT/bottom-up management plan while they desrtoyed our state parties.

    I hope it will be revived.

  5. Joe Buchman

    Richard @ 2

    Thanks for the list. I was surprised Illinois wasn’t on there — didn’t I read the LP spent $100,000 on ballot access there.

    And Massachusetts has a terrific burden of verification after the signatures are collected — in 350+ town halls?

    Perhaps we could create a kind of weekly Proxmire award for the craziest hurdles raised by the DemoPublicarats for their competition. Maryland’s signature verification court ruling recently seems a good place to start.


  6. R. D. Holland

    I find all of this very interesting, but am curious about “the Maryland signature verification court ruling” and Masachusetts and the “320+ town halls?” I also heard NC even requires write-in candidates must submit 500 signatures? And what is up with the “can’t start” rules imposed on those collecting signatures in NY, WA and D.C.? I never imagined it was so hard for an Independent to get on a ballot …50k+ signatures in GA, 25k+ in IL and 34k+ IN? And 103k+ in CA and 80k+ in TX is unbelievable. But how have so many been able to get on in Florida, with its 112k+? I see the LIB, the Green, the Constn, and Am.ELE all have ballot access? Alot of questions, I know, but I am curious…. It is clear there are those who do not want competition at the polls….

  7. paulie

    I’m not sure what your questions are about the other states. Yes, they have the oppressive ballot access laws you mention, although I believe you mentioned the number of valid signatures needed in most states, but the higher estimated number of raw signatures to get that valid number for Texas.

    Florida actually has very easy ballot access – you have to be recognized as an organized party, which doesn’t take signatures. However, they just passed a new law that only FEC recognized national parties are given this recognized party status, which means that a new party like Americans Elect would have to get 112k valid in future elections. The courts also ruled that since the law was new, Americans Elect would be on the ballot, but now that they have no candidate that has become a moot point.

  8. Humongous Fungus

    Great article Lee!

    The only thing I would add is all the races where Democrats and Republicans don’t even run against each other…leaving only ONE candidate on the ballot … no choice at all…in many states a majority of legislative and even Congressional and some statewide races.

    All while keeping independents, and other parties, that are ready, willing and able to contest those races and give the voters a choice OFF the ballot!

    And then they tell you “well just write it in.” But half the time they don’t count it when you do. How about they write their parties and candidates in?

  9. Starchild

    I’ll echo all the other “good job” comments! Thanks for telling it like it is, Lee. Excellent points also by “Humungous Fungus” @12.

  10. Ad Hoc

    We should certainly not give aid and comfort to the enemy in this war; as Rob Sherman of the Greens and Scott Lieberman of the Libertarians have in some degree.

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