Two of the major Republican presidential hopefuls are learning what third party and independent candidates have known for years, that ballot access laws in most states are rigged against offering voters any real choices in primaries and on election day, said Jordon Greene, president of Free the Vote North Carolina.
“If Newt Gingrich thinks it’s difficult to get on the Republican primary ballot in Virginia, he ought to try getting a new party or unaffiliated candidate on the ballot in North Carolina,” Greene said in a statement. “Then he’d understand how the major parties limit voter choice by imposing restrictive ballot access laws.
When Gingrich failed to collect the needed 10,000 signatures for the Virginia presidential primary, he complained that only a “failed system excludes four out of the six major candidates” and said that “voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender.” Only Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney qualified.
“He’s absolutely right,” responded Greene. “It is a failed system which limits voter choice in any way. But as a historian, he should also know that what he called a ‘cumbersome’ process is working exactly as his own Republican Party – operating with the full cooperation of the Democratic Party – have designed it.”
Free the Vote NC is a non-partisan political action committee dedicated to eliminating barriers to participation in the electoral process that restrict or limit the right of citizens to vote for the person of their choice.
Greene said it was “poetic justice” that Texas Gov. Rick Perry also failed to qualify for the primary, because he’s one of only two governors to veto a ballot access reform bill in the last 60 years. In May 2003, Perry vetoed a bill to abolish the need for petitioners to read a 93-word statement to every voter they approach, according to Ballot Access News. “So it’s disingenuous for him to say he’d ‘review the facts’ and possibly ‘challenge’ the decision’ by his own party,” Greene observed.
“Now that they know first-hand how restrictive ballot access laws are, perhaps Speaker Gingrich and Governor Perry will join the effort to reform these laws and restore competition and true free choice to our elections.” Greene commented.
North Carolina has the second most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation, which Greene called a scheme deliberately crafted to impede competition to the two major parties. A new political party must collect in excess of 85,000 signatures to get on the ballot. Then it must draw two percent of the vote for governor to keep ballot status. Only California requires a higher number of signatures for ballot access for political parties.
Free the Vote supports a bill which would dramatically lower the ballot access barriers for third parties and unaffiliated candidates. The bill passed the House in June in a bipartisan vote but is stalled in the Senate. A broad coalition of groups from across the political spectrum supports the legislation, including Democracy NC, the John Locke Foundation, and the Libertarian, Green and Constitution parties.