Ballot Access: Another Way Dems and the GOP Screw Third Parties

Election law expert Richard Winger looks at ballot access issues in the 2016 election.

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"A multi-party system is normal," says Richard Winger, publisher and editor of Ballot Access News. "You only have a two party system if there's repression. It's not natural."

With both major parties offering up two of the most unpopular presidential candidates in modern history, many voters (and the media) are paying more attention to third party options such as Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

But while independent candidates are gaining in popularity, getting them on the ballot to vote for them can be a long and costly process.

"There's so many ways in which the United States is near the bottom of democracy," says Winger, an expert in election law and ballot access. "There's been unbelievable hostility in the last few months to minor parties."

This hostility has resulted in states changing their ballot access rules—sometimes at the last minute—in an effort to exclude minor parties from the ballot.

One recent example of this was Gary Johnson's fight to remain on the ballot as a presidential candidate in Ohio after the secretary of state threatened to remove his name thanks to a frequently used rule that allows placeholder candidates when fulfilling ballot access requirements (read more about the incident here.)

"Ohio law explicitly says people who use the independent candidate petition procedure put a substitution committee on the petition," states Winger. But when it came time to remove the placeholder name and add Gary Johnson's, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted "acted like he never heard of such a thing!" Winger exclaimed.

Johnson eventually qualified for the ballot as an independent candidate after his supporters turned in the necessary 5,000 petition signatures to Husted in late August.

"They act like the secretary of state did the Libertarians a big favor by letting them use this thing which has been used all along," Winger says. "It's just so maddening."

Reason TV recently sat down with Winger to discuss which states have the worst ballot access laws, why the major parties give independent candidates such a hard time when it comes to getting on the ballot, and the consequences of a two party duopoly.

"This is one the things that anchors me being a libertarian," says Winger. "Before the government got involved in printing ballots we had total freedom."

Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Alex Manning and Paul Detrick. Music by Alex Fitch.

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  1. Thanks to restrictive ballot access laws the only non-major party candidate to qualify in 50 states is the execrable loser Gary Johnson.

    1. You’re so right. I was going to vote for him, but you’ve convinced me to vote for Clinton instead.

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    2. I used to be a libertarian.

    3. I will NOT hold my nose and waste my vote on Hillary Clinton, who is a bigger war monger than Dick Cheney and supports the racist and un Constitutional war on drugs.

      NO I will not hold my nose and waste my vote on Hillary Clinton the racist war monger.

  2. “Before the government got involved in printing ballots we had total freedom.”

    There was one problem in those days, when people had to bring their own ballots – usually prepared for them by their parties.

    Different parties printed out different-colored ballots.

    So when Joe Sixpack comes in to vote his supposedly “secret” ballot, there could be a guy taking down his name and which party’s ballot he’s carrying. Then next day, Joe gets fired from his job or he’s beaten up.

    We’ve seen even today what happens to someone whose politically-incorrect electoral behavior becomes public – he”s boycotted, fired, shunned, etc.

    So government-printed ballots (so it was argued) were uniform so you couldn’t tell which party a person was voting for.

    But once the government got to print the ballots they decided to have some fun and keep inconvenient candidates and parties off.

    Instead, let’s start with premise that anyone can write in the name of a qualified candidate on their ballot. If a candidate or party wants more exposure for their guy, then pay what amounts to an advertising fee alerting the voters to the existence of a particular candidate and whether any political parties have endorsed him/her.

    Beyond charging advertising fees and making sure that the candidate actually *wants* to be on the ballot, the government should’t particularly care about petitions or any of that nonsense.

    1. Carry in Blue ballot, go into booth, drop green ballot in box, eat blue ballot.

      1. Or carry the ballot into the polling place in a nondescript manila folder or envelope so that people can’t see which ballot you have. Don’t take it out until you go into the booth and pull the curtain or whatever shut.

      2. The box is set out in plain view so people can see if someone tries to drop more than one ballot in? or one of the wrong color.

    2. Or like when Boss Timothy Sullivan (of Sullivan Act fame) had his party’s poll watchers standing with their hands on their guns while the other party’s poll watchers stood with their hand on their dicks. The law was passed to keep guns out of the hands of “undesirables” like Italians and members of the “wrong” party (or today, maybe people on “watch lists”)

  3. As to Presidential elections specifically, as many states as possible should enact a model law by which you get to be on the ballot if you show documentation that you’re on the ballot in five *other* states. All you’d have to do would be to pay a nondiscriminatory fee and turn in a list of electors.

    The more states pass a law like that, then candidates/parties can focus on getting on the ballot on five of the easier states, then the states with my proposed law would put them on the ballot there, too.

    I just want to throw out some constructive suggestions.

    1. That’s great… until all of the states (or all but four of them) adopt that law. Then it’s impossible to accomplish. Kinda like not being able to get a job because you have no experience, but you don’t have experience because you can’t find a job.

    2. constructive suggestions= pipe dreams

  4. I think the two-party system is more common than you think. There’s the Incumbent party that has power and the Opposition party that wants power. Sure, it may seem that there are multiple parties that want power but just watch what happens when one faction of the Opposition party gets power – they immediately become the Incumbent party. When the Socialists replace the Fascists they don’t invite the Democrats and the Republicans, the Monarchists and the Anarchists, the Parliamentarians and the Caesarians to join in some sort of power-sharing arrangement. There’s just Us and Them.

    1. Sounds like you’re counting one-party systems there.

    2. Australia, the UK, and several other counties are like that but 3rd parties get elected to parliament and influence legislation and, in close elections, form coalitions to form a government.

  5. Rassmusen reports that just 29% of respondents trust journalists to “fact check” candidates.

    In other news, 29% of people are gullible idiots.

    1. This is only slightly higher than my assumed 25% of the population being retarded.

    1. I assume its because he didn’t strip them naked and make them crawl through a sewer-pipe while doing so?

    2. My rifle and my clitoris are the defenders of my country.

  6. Random Election by Lottery – It’s the only way to clear the shit out of the government.

    If you’re say between 12 and 100, you might get an envelope in the mail indicating that you have become a US rep or senator. You can decline if you don’t want the job, but otherwise you serve for two or six years, and then you’re ineligible to ever serve again. Flat salary of 100K per year, no other perks. As part of your job offer you are forbidden from accepting any money from anyone, and if found to have violated this provision you are fined double your annual salary, 200K.

    Sounds ridiculous, but it has to be better than what we have now.

    One minor detail: Who is today’s Ed McMahon? Ryan Seacrest? Then so be it. Ryan shows up at your door, and that’s how you know you are in the government.

  7. The U.S. was never meant to be a democracy. It’s a constitutional republic. The founders wanted to protect the ‘sheep’ from the ‘wolves’. Democracy in other countries has stifled speech,outlawed guns They have expanded hate crimes to the point of outlawing insulting words and behavior.. Private property can be taken on a whim and self defense can be a crime.Fuck democracy.

    1. The US approach to those problems was to make a system that compromised between democracy and monarchy. We are safe from democracy only to the degree that our nobility chooses to behave benevolently.

      1. We are safe from democracy only to the degree that our nobility chooses to behave benevolently.

        Conversely, we are safe from monarchy/oligarchy only to the degree that our voters choose to vote judiciously.

    2. We can avoid doing all that even without a two party system. We would still have a constitution, so I wouldn’t expect things to get significantly worse.

      Also, making our system of voting in representatives more democratic would not make the US a direct democracy. There are different kinds of democracies and varying degrees of it.

  8. “There’s so many ways in which the United States is near the bottom of democracy,” says Winger

    AMERICA IS BEST DEMOCRACY!!

    And Winger has no place lecturing us on politics. He couldn’t even play bass with 2 hands.

  9. If you want to bring legitimacy to third-party candidates, start nominating people who aren’t Gary Johnson.

    1. ^this

      As they say in retarded-social-media-speak, “Y’all got work to do”

      To be sort of fair to the political parties *(even the major ones) – only the shittiest sorts of people seem to want to be in politics to begin with. Finding palatable human beings seems to require a large sample pool.

    2. If you want to bring legitimacy to first-party candidates, start nominating people who arent Clinton or Trump.

      Is what the LP did really so bad, in comparison?

      1. What we should have done is nominated some billionaire asshole who never gives to charity and actually does have orphans working in his diamond or platinum mine. Bonus points if he would actually wear a monocle.

        That way each party would have nominated the worst characterization of their base.

    3. Or STFU and let other than Republicrats on the ballot.

  10. Really Nice Post. Thanks for sharing with us.

  11. …Ballot Access News…
    …BAN…
    *triggered*

  12. A pretty neat explanation – via game theory – of why we might expect Trump to be our newest Chief Commander

    http://www.salientpartners.com…..n-trouble/

    Why do I want to vote for him Simple. Revenge. Throw the biggest grenade I can into the muckworks that is DC.

    Will I vote for him? I don’t know, but the litmus test of acting and looking ‘presidential’ is pretty poor. We don’t have a lot of great examples to go by so its kind of a moving target.

    1. Just like the goalposts.

  13. “A multi-party system is normal,” says Richard Winger, publisher

    So are fascist dictatorships; that doesn’t make them good.

    Under a winner-take-all system for electing representatives, you end up with a two party system; it’s not a grand conspiracy, just simple math.

    Are multi-party systems better? I doubt it. Multi-party systems mean that many fringe groups get their parties in parliament, and they often end up having far more power than they should. Just look at European parliaments and governments.

    1. Did you watch the video? He gave examples of how the Republican and Democratic parties are conspiring to protect their status as the Only Two Parties You Can Vote For (or in some places Only One Party You Can Vote For).

      1. I’m sure that Republican and Democratic parties do all sorts of nefarious things. That doesn’t change the facts: (1) our winner-take-all system already pretty much makes third parties impossible, and (2) the US two-party system is actually working better than the European parliamentary systems.

        The problem the US is experiencing is that the federal government has too much power; you aren’t going to fix that by creating more parties. If the federal government is returned to its constitutional limits, federal elections become boring and largely irrelevant to day-to-day life.

        1. (2) the US two-party system is actually working better than the European parliamentary systems.

          I don’t think that’s because of the hopelessly corrupt two party system, but in spite of it. There are countless other factors at play, wouldn’t you agree? Unless you’re willing to say that the US and all these European countries are the same in all ways except for the fact that the US has a two party system, I don’t see how you could reach such a conclusion.

          1. +1 brain

  14. “There’s so many ways in which the United States is near the bottom of democracy,” says Winger, an expert in election law and ballot access.

    And I sure hope it stays that way, because when Winger says “democracy”, he means tyranny of the majority.

    What has made the US special is limited representative government; that is: government can’t do much, and what it can do is decided by representatives.

    It’s the European delusion that unlimited government with strong popular input into decision making is a good thing; in practice, that delusion is why European democracies have always been doing so poorly.

  15. Is the “In modern history” really needed when describing Clinton and Trump as the most unpopular candidates? Has there been one candidate as unpopular as either of them before, let alone the two of them competing together.

    1. The US has had a lot of really lousy presidents throughout its history. It didn’t use to matter because they couldn’t actually do much.

      1. + one pen and phone (or minus)

    2. I’ve been thinking the same. Notice how few bumper stickers or yard signs there are for either candidate.

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  17. If we had an instant-runoff election system, like the one Australia has and Britain rejected (in a referendum a year or two ago), voters for third parties would not throw away their vote–their vote would get transferred to their next-best choices. Voting machines make the transfer process easy and “instant.”

    1. -1 Diebold

  18. If we had an instant-runoff election system, like the one Australia has and Britain rejected (in a referendum a year or two ago), voters for third parties would not throw away their vote–their vote would get transferred to their next-best choices. Voting machines make the transfer process easy and “instant.”

  19. It may be a much easier task to get people to fight for a Libertarian on the ballot and in the debates if it wasn’t Johnson. The groundswell is just not there for this nutbag. Sorry, but he’s not us. Don’t know what he is with the mixture of messages and the Liberal Republican Failure as a VP choice. I could see myself fighting for someone like Austin Petersen, but Johnson? Meh.

    1. French kiss my sphincter, gay retard. Baby steps, you pederast.

  20. Americans are not some kind of inchoate libertarians yearning to be set free from the yoke of government. That myth should have died with the candidacy of Barry Goldwater. The vast majority of Americans are, and always have been, hard core authoritarians. There never was a “golden age” of liberty. There were times when some few people successfully defied authority in very limited ways but every one of these little rebellions were eventually stamped out. Uber and AirBNB are aberrations that will all be gone, or licensed which is the same thing, within two years.

    Don’t mistake their unwillingness to embrace ClinTrump as a serious rebellion against the establishment. How long did Rand Paul last in the primaries? Two primaries? Chris Christie, who openly disparaged not just libertarianism but liberty itself lasted much longer. Ted Cruz extended his campaign by going wildly nativist. The rest of the candidates weren’t worth a can of shit. Most of them, like most Americans, wouldn’t know a libertarian from a librarian.

    Do you really believe that someone would have done better than Johnson by screaming “end the FED”, “legalize all drugs”, “cut Social Security and Medicare” or “Deregulate banks”?

    Winston Churchill once said that Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they’ve tried everything else. Now they will try ClinTrump.

    1. So, we’re about 10% of the way there.

  21. Weld just said Hillary Clinton is the most qualified.

    Sorry, Gary, but choosing him was a large, large error.

    You guys were both governors. Why would you claim she’s more experienced?

    1. Most qualified? For what? Getting embassy staff killed? Starting wars? Handling bimbo eruptions for a power tripping Don Juan?

      I think Weld is the one getting stoned.

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