News Release

Ballot Access: Restriction on Democracy?


As independent candidate Ralph Nader and the Libertarian and Green Parties are fighting court battles to get on the presidential ballot in various states, the following analysts are available for interviews:

Editor of Ballot Access News, Winger said today: “Since the 1890s, when ballot access laws first came into existence in the U.S., both major parties have used the ballot access laws for their own partisan advantage…. This year, though, partisan use of the ballot access procedures for independent candidates has been unusually active. Democrats have challenged Ralph Nader’s signatures successfully in Arizona, and a Democratic challenge of Nader’s petition in Illinois will probably succeed. Republicans in Michigan have completed an independent candidate petition for Nader…. Republican efforts to get Nader on the ballot may be selfish and hypocritical, but these efforts do enhance the ability of voters to vote freely for the candidate of their choice. On the other hand, Democratic efforts to keep Nader’s name off the ballot do interfere with voting rights.”

Winger added: “The Democratic Party has tried to prevent voters from voting for certain minor party and independent presidential candidates in the past. [Progressive Party candidate and former vice president] Henry Wallace was kept off the Illinois and Oklahoma ballots in 1948 through Democratic Party efforts. Eugene McCarthy was kept off the New York ballot in 1976 by a Democratic Party challenge, and the Democratic National Committee intervened in legal proceedings in 1980 to try to keep John Anderson off the Massachusetts and North Carolina ballots…. This type of activity is virtually unknown in other advanced democracies. In Canada, the Liberal Party might be helped if it could keep the New Democratic Party off the ballot. And in Great Britain, the Labor Party might similarly be advantaged if it could keep the Liberal Democratic Party off the ballot. But that doesn’t happen in those countries; it would be considered unspeakably unethical. Ballot access in both Canada and Great Britain is very easy. Candidates for House of Commons in Britain only need 10 signatures plus a filing fee, and Canada is similar.”

More Information

Richardson is completing a four-volume work on third parties. The first volume, “Others: Third-Party Politics From the Nation’s Founding to the Rise and Fall of the Greenback-Labor Party,” was released earlier this year; the second volume will be released in October. Richardson said today: “While ballot access laws are not necessarily getting more restrictive, Secretaries of State and various state election officials around the country are generally becoming more hostile to third parties. The Nader campaign is having difficulties in a number of states; sometimes because of obtrusive tactics. In Arizona, the Democrats hired five corporate law firms to challenge Nader’s petitions… In Oregon, Nader was forced to name a stand-in vice-presidential running mate when the director of elections ruled that Nader couldn’t petition as an independent on the frivolous grounds that his running mate, Peter Camejo, is a member of the Green Party.”

Richardson added: “Restrictions on ballot access have historically increased after third parties have had successes. Pennsylvania, for example, quadrupled its signature requirement shortly after George C. Wallace garnered nearly 10 million votes as a third-party candidate in 1968…. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, when Socialists were seen as a viable alternative, a number of states increased their signature requirements to restrict access to the ballot. Prior to the 1890s, political parties were free to print and distribute their own ballots and, consequently, minor parties throughout most of the 19th century weren’t faced with the kinds of discriminatory and burdensome ballot access laws that they encounter today.”

An independent political analyst in Portland, Oregon, Moore said today: “Both the Democratic and Republican party operatives are playing games with ballot access in Oregon. Groups like Citizens for a Sound Economy, which are allied with Bush, worked to get their membership out to support getting Nader on the ballot. Meanwhile, Democrats are using mechanisms which are also clearly unethical. When the Nader campaign tried to get on the ballot by getting 1,000 people in an auditorium to sign a petition, a local Democratic Party official sent out an email informing people about how they could sabotage Nader’s efforts. The email read: ‘We need as many Oregon Democrats as possible to fill that room and to NOT sign that petition. The rules state that once 1,000 fill into that room, as certified by state election officials, the doors close and those in the room sign the petition. If we attend in large numbers and politely refuse to sign, Nader is denied his needed numbers. It’s that simple.’ Other Democratic Party officials later disavowed this tactic, but if Nader doesn’t succeed in this attempt to get on the ballot [in Oregon], it could well be because of such tactics.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020