Saturday, December 24, 2011

Why I don't feel sorry for Perry, Gingrich et. al


Before 1884 in the United States, voting systems ran the gamut from the "oral ballot" -- you went to the polling, told the officials for whom you wished to vote and yes or no on any questions, and they added your preferences to a tally -- to paper ballots printed by the candidates and parties, or written out in longhand by the voter.

Between 1884 and 1891, the states each adopted the "Australian" ballot -- a standardized form printed by the government.

The ostensible purpose for this change was confidentiality, but the real effect was to finally and permanently cement the power of the Republican and Democratic parties -- for with government printing of ballots came "ballot access" requirements.

In some states, it's as simple as "non-Republicans/Democrats need not apply." It's harder for a "third party" to get on the ballot in Oklahoma than it is for a secularist party to get on the ballot in Iran, and for the same reason. In other states, filing fees and/or petition signatures are required (in some cases for everyone, in others only for "third" parties).

Like pretty much every form of government regulation, these requirements raise the cost of entry into the regulated field: The golden-haired boys of the major party Establishments have little trouble covering the costs (if they're even required to) from their deep, special-interest-funded campaign treasuries, but new parties and underdog primary candidates are forced to spend their much of their time and campaign money just getting their names on those government-printed pieces of paper before they can ever turn to actually campaigning for office.

So when I hear that Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum just got bit on the ass by the same rules designed to spare them genuine opposition in their past congressional and gubernatorial outings, not even the world's smallest violin is small enough to register the smallness of my sympathy for them.

Note: If you're interested in ballot access news, then you should be reading Ballot Access News. The only reason I link to CBS above is that BAN has separate stories on each of the Virginia fiascoes, and I wanted a catch-all (I suspect BAN publisher Richard Winger will do one at some point).

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