News Release

How Ballot Access Restrictions Block Democracy


Editor of Ballot Access News, Winger said today: “In the November 2012 election across the U.S., in 39.9 percent of all state legislative districts, there is no Democratic-Republican contest, because either the Democrats, or the Republicans, didn’t nominate any candidate. The United States, for legislative elections, suffers from undercrowded ballots, not overcrowded ballots. Yet certain states continue to keep in place severe ballot access laws that make it exceedingly difficult for minor party and independent candidates to get on the ballot. These laws are especially harsh, for legislative candidates, in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, and especially North Dakota. This year North Dakota has a complete absence of minor party and independent candidates on the ballot for the legislature.

“In the United States, for over a century, powerful political forces have sometimes tried to find a legal method to keep competition to the Democratic and Republican Parties off the ballot. For example, in 1931, Florida passed a law defining ‘political party’ to be a group that polled 30 percent of the vote in the last presidential election, and deleting all methods for a new party or an independent candidate to get on the ballot.

“Fortunately, in 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment do not permit states to exclude all opponents of the major parties from the ballot.

“Now, however, opponents of minor parties and independent candidates have found a new way to keep the November ballot confined to just Democrats and Republicans. They are working to implement ‘top-two primary’ systems. They have succeeded in Louisiana, Washington, and California, and an initiative to create the system in Arizona is currently leading in the polls.

“We know from the experience of Louisiana, Washington, and California, that top-two open primary systems are fatal to minor party participation in the general election. There have been almost 100 elections for federal and state office under top-two systems in those states, in which minor party members ran and there were at least two major party members running. In every single instance, the minor party member failed to advance to the November election. When that happens, minor parties are unable to campaign in the general election season, when the public is most interested in hearing political ideas. Unfortunately, on October 1, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge against the Washington state top-two system, leaving minor parties in a difficult position to fight top-two systems in court.”