Hit & Run

Texas is the Reason that the Candidate's Dead

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I've held off on blogging Bob Barr's unusual Texas ballot situation until now because I figured it was a distraction. The basics: Barr went through the excruciating process of getting on the ballot, was certified, and then noticed that no other party had done the work. Not the GOP, not the Democrats.

But the big two parties are the big two parties. Barr was playing by their rules. They'd eventually get on the ballot anyway, right?

Well…

Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr has filed suit that would keep voters from seeing the names Barack Obama and John McCain on their voting machines, saying they failed to follow the Texas law to get their names placed on the ballot. The Libertarians are claiming that both the Texas Democratic and Republican parties missed the deadline to certify their presidential nominees and report them to the Texas Secretary of State.

Barr got support immediately from the guy he didn't share a third party-promoting stage with last week, Ralph Nader.

Clearly this presents three options for the Democrats and Republicans… First, they could recognize that our crazy-quilt system of unfair ballot access laws harms not only independent and minor party candidates but also democracy processes. They could provide real reform to ensure that voters are able to vote for candidates of their choosing in this upcoming and future elections.

Second, they could take the same medicine they have been dishing out to grassroots candidates for decades, and have their candidates John McCain and Barack Obama join me as write-in candidates in Texas. But what is most likely is that they will choose the third option, which we have seen in the past. They will simply lean on state officials to ignore the law or direct the Texas legislature to push back the deadline after it expired. If this happens, then it is just another example of political bigotry and its double-standard in American politics: independent and minor-party candidates are strictly held to ridiculous requirements to participate in democracy, while the two-party duopoly are given a privileged pass.

I wouldn't bet ten cents on Barr winning this case, but it's amusing to think what would happen if he did. Without Texas, McCain could get to 270 (273, actually) electoral votes if he carried all the Bush states plus New Hampshire and Michigan and Obama didn't win Iowa. But he probably wouldn't be without Texas. The state allows write-in votes, and in 2006 the GOP nearly won a House seat (Tom DeLay's seat) with a write-in candidate whose name was literally too long to fit in the voting machine. It wouldn't be tough for McCain to win the state as a write-in candidate.

Horrifying headline explainer here.