Guest Post – Maine puts all political parties on equal footing

by d-eris from the Poli-Tea Party

The recent Pew Research Poll which found that self-identified independents now outnumber Republicans and Democrats is likely a cause of great concern for partisans of the duopoly parties. The trend clearly indicates a growing discontent with the politics of the two-party system, but it has not yet translated into widespread support for third party and independent candidates for office. How can we make sense of this apparent paradox? Undoubtedly, many voters shy away from supporting third party and independent campaigns because they have been convinced that such campaigns do not represent a viable alternative to the usual suspects offered up by the Republican and Democratic parties, and thus conclude that a vote for a third party or independent candidate is equivalent to throwing one’s vote away. This is the precise rationale that supports lesser-of-two-evils voting and ensures that, come election day, voters are presented only with a choice between the lesser and greater of two evils. However, the difference between a viable and non-viable third party or independent campaign is the difference between the number of voters who throw their vote away on the lesser of two evils and the number of voters who are willing to cast their ballots in support of a positive alternative to the duopoly charade.

Though they agree on little else, it is thus no surprise that Democratic and Republican lawmakers across the country have come to a bipartisan consensus which dictates that third party and independent candidates must be kept off our ballots at all costs. So, while the duopoly candidates are out campaigning, their third party and independent counterparts can often be found spending precious resources amassing petition signatures to ensure only that their names appear on the ballot. Reform of ballot access laws should be a top priority for everyone interested in widening the scope of representation in our local, state and national governments. Significantly, Maine has just passed a bill into law which eases ballot restrictions on minor parties. The indispensable Ballot Access News reports:

“On June 17, Maine Governor John Balducci signed LD 1041, the bill that alters how a party remains on the ballot. The old law requires a party to have polled 5% for the office at the top of the ballot, at either of the last two elections (i.e., President or Governor). The new law lets it remain on the ballot if it has 10,000 registrants who voted in the last general election. 10,000 is now 1.06% of the number of registered voters. The Green Party of Maine, the only ballot-qualified party other than the Democratic and Republican Parties, has about 31,000 registrants, three-fourths of whom typically vote in the general election. Thus the immediate effect of the bill is that the Green Party is virtually assured of remaining on the ballot for an indefinite time into the future, no matter whether it polls 5% for Governor in the future or not.”

This is a step in the right direction, and provides incentive to independent and third party hopefuls seeking the governorship in 2010. Hopefully other states will follow Maine’s lead in this regard: the lesser of two evils is the enemy of the greater good.


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