HOW LONG WILL TEXAS BLOCK ACCESS TO THE BALLOT BOX?
By Chuck Burnett
When my friend, Al Lorentz, got back from one of his tours in Iraq’ he told me about the U.S. setting up the elections over there. Our military made sure that no one political party dominated the election process. There were over forty political parties represented.
We also discussed the disparity between those elections and the ones here in Texas. Many outsiders see the land of the Alamo as a state with less government restraint and more freedom. This may be true in some areas but I’m ashamed to say that it isn’t true at election time. It is much harder to get on the ballot here in Texas, than it is in Iraq.
Since the 1960s Texas has restricted candidate’s freedoms when it comes to getting on the ballot. This applies to county elections as well as statewide elections. Here’s how the charade currently works. A candidate decides that he or she wants to run for governor but does not want to run with a major political party. That person must then run as an independent candidate or else run with another political party. To get listed on the ballot; the candidate - or the party - must collect around 60,000 signatures on a petition. The candidate only has about 70 days to get the signatures. But that’s not all. The candidate must only collect signatures from registered voters within the state. But there’s even more. All of the registered voters must NOT have voted in any other party’s primary or signed any other candidate’s petition. Does the task seem daunting?
It has become glaringly obvious that both major parties have been very resistant to allowing new competition at the ballot. Even at the cost of freedom. Even to the detriment of all Texans; as new and fresh ideas are being kept away from voters fingertips. Let me be very clear is positing that this is not a left verses right issue. It is not a liberal verses conservative issue. Ballot access freedom does not favor any particular ideology or party. It does give Texans more freedom; more liberty; more choices when voting.
I have a great appreciation for Ron Paul’s statement: "Those candidates who represent actual change or disagreement with the status quo are held in check by the two major parties in power, making it very difficult to compete in the pretend democratic process. This is done by making it difficult for third-party candidates to get on the ballots, enter into the debates, raise money, avoid being marginalized, or get fair or actual coverage."
I also have a great appreciation for Carol Quigley’s more sinister quote: “The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to the doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can "throw the rascals out" at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy.”
But we currently have a solution to the problem. Enter Solomon Ortiz, Jr ; one of our state representatives from Corpus Christi. Representative Ortiz agreed that the present system was less than ideal. He and his staff worked to come up with a much less restrictive hurdle. The Bill that Representative Ortiz has sponsored is HB 820 This Bill would lower the requirement of 60,000 or so signatures; to 500. That is a huge change although still more restrictive than things were fifty years ago.
I am going to guess that Representative Ortiz will get some flack from some of his fellow members up in the House. But I am also going to guess that most of it will be behind closed doors; not in the light of day. This Bill may not be appreciated by all because of partisan politics. But it will be appreciated by all that love liberty and freedom. It will be extolled by the statesmen of our day. Those that love freedom can be bold in promoting this bill. Those that oppose it should be ashamed of themselves. This is a very good Bill.
This is also a Bill that is in harmony with the ideals of the founding of this nation. The United States of America came together as a nation to protect freedom and liberty. The original purpose of elections was to allow any qualified citizen to have the freedom to run for office and to give the other citizens the liberty of choosing their representatives. Blocking the ability of someone to run for office is an idea only fit for tyrants.
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This is a Bill that is good for Texas. Will it change things overnight? No, it will not. It may take ten years or more before an independent candidate makes a serious run at a statewide office. But it will have a more immediate effect on the ideas and policies that will be challenged in our elections. It will allow new voices to be heard. It will cause more accountability at election time. It will let Texans know that we have our freedoms returned in our state elections.
� 2009 - Chuck Burnett - All Rights Reserved