By Alex Neason
As a democratic nation, America relies on the people to choose their leaders and representatives by casting their ballot in November every year. This year is no different. However, this election cycle has been polluted with controversy.
Between Donald Trump and his various antics that earned him the title of a bigot and Hilary Clinton and her federal investigation, Americans have responded to their cold demeanor in kind.
A Gallup poll from July 1 indicated that the duo are two of the most unpopular candidates in 70 years, with Trump polling lower than Barry Goldwater. A staggering 42 percent view him as “highly unfavorable.”
The visible disgust from Americans has led to an increase in the interest of third parties, especially Green and Libertarian, fronted by Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, respectively. But as hopeful voters go out to the polls in November to possibly bring a counter to the two party stranglehold gripping America, they’ll find a system that is inherently skewed in favor of the status quo elitism of the domineering parties.
Going off the trends from the last presidential election in Pennsylvania, compiled by Politico, the only written “official” options on the ballot this November will be the usual Democrat/Republican, Green and possibly Libertarian (Libertarian is working on their ballot access in Pa.).
Due to the fractured nature of who actually appears on the ballot from state to state (Ohio, for instance, had seven candidates in 2012, while Florida had 12), it makes it incredibly difficult for voters to choose who they actually want in if they support a candidate not on their state ballot.
It’s already hard enough for third parties to appear on ballots across the country, but since each state has its own definition of what an independent or minor third party is and how third parties get to appear on state ballots, it can be a nightmare. Pennsylvania state law, for example, requires a petition of two percent of the largest vote tally from the previous general election (that equates to about 25,000 for the upcoming election).
While these arbitrary ballot access laws, at a glance, are implemented as safeguards to the electoral system to deter unserious or joke candidates from appearing on the ballot, they have also wreaked havoc on legitimate presidential hopefuls in the past.
Ralph Nader, a popular independent candidate who ran for president in 2004, was removed from the ballots in Ohio due to then Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, tossing out a chunk of petition signatures necessary to appear on the ballot, under the pretenses of irregularities with how the signatures were handled.
When all else fails, voters can usually opt to do a write-in; however, due to the sheer scale of it on the
national level, and the fact that, according to their state laws, Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma and South Dakota do not allow write-ins. On top of that, according to the National Associations of Secretaries of State, a majority of other states hold laws that require write-ins to submit their intent to run as a candidate.
Colorado, for example, requires those with intent to file paperwork 110 days before the election, or California, which only requires 14 days beforehand. Unregistered write-in candidates for each state are thrown out. As it stands, the current state of write-ins in the general election is equivalent to a wasted vote.
When voters get to their polling locations in November, they’ll be presented with alternatives to the dualistic two party system; but as long as these arbitrary, scatterbrained ballot “access” laws are in effect, the hope for true change and a fair democratic system is nothing more than an illusion.