Thursday, September 21, 2006

Editorial: Ballot Access Far Too Limited

Montgomery Advertiser

While it might not rise to the level of a conspiracy between the Democratic and Republican parties, there is little doubt that legislative members of Alabama's dominant political parties have made it extremely difficult for candidates from third parties to gain ballot access.

But it isn't just those third-party candidates who suffer. The real impact hits Alabama voters, who are denied additional choices when they go to the polls.

There will be a smattering of third-party candidates on ballots around the state in the November election, but all will be seeking local or legislative positions. But Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, told the Press-Register in Mobile that Alabama will be just one of four states nationally that will have no third-party candidates on the ballot for a statewide office in November.

That's because Alabama has one of the toughest ballot access standards in the nation.

Third-party and independent candidates for statewide office in Alabama are required to collect signatures from registered voters equal to 3 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots for governor in the previous governor's race.

This year, that adds up to more than 41,000 signatures of registered voters. But to get that many verifiable signatures, candidates have to get twice that many signatures or more.

The Legislature made it more difficult for third-party and independent candidates by requiring petitions to be filed by primary day, making it impossible for candidates to gather signatures at polling places.

Even if they could get on the ballot, it is unlikely that third-party or independent candidates would be elected in Alabama in the foreseeable future. But that really isn't the main issue.

The real issue is that Alabama voters deserve choices. It is likely that the state's poor voter turnouts in many past elections are at least in part due to voters not being enthusiastic about having to choose just between Democrats and Republicans.

Of course, there needs to be a reasonable threshold for candidates to gain ballot access, or the ballots would become too crowded and cumbersome. But there is little legitimate room to argue that Alabama errs on the side of limiting access.

If for no other reason than it's the fair thing to do, we urge Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature to level the playing field for third parties and independent candidates. But mostly it's about allowing voters as much choice as possible.

Thanks for another great editorial Montogmery Advertiser!!

1 comment:

Tanya said...

It's nice to know that your views are being editorialized. Keep up the good work, Loretta.