Supreme Ballot Access

Recently the US Supreme Court ruled against the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma in their Ballot Access suit. The court overturned a unanimous 10th Circuit Court of Appeals finding in favor of the Libertarian Party. The court ruled that the state of Oklahoma does not have to allow members of other parties to vote in its primary.

While Richard Winger of Ballot Access News found the decision ironic, because Justice Thomas wrote the majority decision while paying very little attention to oral arguments and Justice Rehnquist signed the decision after being absent for those same arguments, there is actually some positive coming from the decision.

As Richard Winger wrote:

Two of the Justices who voted to uphold the law, Justices O’Connor and Breyer, wrote separately to say that state laws that make it difficult for minor parties and independents to get on the ballot may very well be unconstitutional. O’Connor wrote that if all the election laws of Oklahoma that impact on minor parties had been brought into the case at the first stage, the decision might well have been different. This is the first time Justice O’Connor has expressed any sympathy or interest in minor party ballot access problems.

The 3 dissenting justices (Stevens, Souter and Ginsburg) also were critical of state election laws that make it difficult for minor parties and independent candidates to get on the ballot or otherwise carry out successful election campaigns. Therefore, an actual majority of the court (the 2 concurrers, and the 3 dissenters) have now expressed support for attempts to strike down restrictive ballot access laws. This is the first time a majority of the Court has been sympathetic to minor parties since 1992.

The US Supreme Court also refused to hear Ralph Nader’s ballot access case against Oregon, Kucera v Bradbury. So while there appears to be some movement on the court for equal access for minority parties, the current unsympathetic atmosphere still exists. So much that it is being noticed by countries around the world at the time we are trying to promote democracy for other oppressed cultures.

Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, considered the front-runner in the Iran presidential election next month, is quoted as saying, “There is only a veneer of democracy in the United States. Election laws are so complicated that people have no choice but to vote for one of the candidates who are with one of the two parties.”

Maybe some day soon, enough people in THIS country will be aware of the oppressive environment we live under and will help move us towards a more open political atmosphere. Then we won’t have same level of rhetoric we have to put up with now. We won’t be winning elections by tearing your opponent down but by building yourself up against more than one opponent. We will be brought ideas, not divisiveness. We will once again be led, by men of ideals, and not pushed by mobs of partisans…

But, as Steve Martin might say, …. “Naaaaaaaah…”

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