Guest editorial: Making elections less restrictive
Judge Frank Bullock of the U.S. District Court has struck down a law that would require unaffiliated candidates to collect over 90,000 signatures in order to run for statewide office.
The law was no doubt passed to prevent anyone and everyone from putting their names on a ballot, thus keeping the process from becoming a free-for-all. But this law has the effect of protecting mainstream political parties and their candidates.
Voter registration statistics point out the change in political affiliations in our state. When I first started covering elections there were four registered Democrats to every one Republican. As of June first of this year, there were 5.1 million registered voters in our state. Forty-seven percent list their affiliation as Democrat, 34 percent say they are Republicans, and 18 percent indicate they are unaffiliated.
The unaffiliated number is growing rapidly, most likely due to a change that allows unaffiliated voters to choose which party ballot they want to vote in primary elections.
Political parties were once powerful and important both to candidates and voters. Today, parties are less able to provide either the financial support or turnout they used to wield in elections. Both Democrats and Republicans have seen special interest groups dominate their agendas and move them philosophically further away from the mainstream.
Judge Bullock correctly noted that current laws were unreasonable and discriminatory. Only one unaffiliated candidate has been on the ballot for statewide office in the past 20 years.
It is time North Carolina recognizes the changed political climate and loosens the number of voters required to petition to have a new party or unaffiliated candidate placed on the ballot.
Ninety thousand is far too restrictive.
So, too is the 58,000 required for a new party. Any candidate who works hard enough to get as many as 30,000 voters to sign a petition is serious and deserves to be in the race. Even that number may be too restrictive.
We need more, not fewer, choices when we vote. We trust the people of North Carolina in the electoral process and so should our laws.
Tom Campbell is former assistant state treasurer and is creator and host of “NC Spin,” a weekly statewide television discussion of North Carolina issues airing Sundays at 6:30 a.m. on WRAL-TV.
Published in Editorials on August 23, 2004 12:00 PM