Where Do Voters Turn When The Parties Have Left Them Nowhere to Go?

The late, great comedian George Carlin once said “if you vote, you have no right to complain [about the mess politicians got the country in].” There are two problems with that: voter disenfranchisement and ballot access for political parties. Nothing will change if not enough people vote, but if the options in the voting booths are also limited, the problem gets worse.

Ballot access is complicated because it varies state-by-state, but the fact that people are complaining about their lack of ability to vote for the party of their choosing is evidence enough for change. Therefore, reforms are necessary to change the way people are elected in order to create a more representative government. Democracy is only as good as the people who vote and if America did not have the founding history that it has, there would be widespread protests like in multiple other countries.

Think about the case with Tennessee’s voting laws. Democrats and Republicans only need 25 signatures from registered voters to get on the ballot. Third parties, such as the Libertarian Party, are required to get a minimum of 2.5 percent of total votes in the previous governor’s election. The lucky number is 40,000, or 1,600 times the signatures major party candidates need.

To simplify the situation, why not let the threshold equal among all political parties? Maybe it should not as low as 25, but also not as stringent as 40,000.

Another problem to consider is ideological dilution. The GOP, in particular, has an internal problem when it comes to primaries. There is often an establishment figure, either an incumbent or a “moderate” candidate and a more conservative “tea party-backed” individual.

James Hall was a prospective candidate to run in the recent special election in Alabama’s 1st Congressional District, but not as a Republican, even though he considers himself a conservative. Virginia’s recent Libertarian candidate for governor, Robert Sarvis, had cross-party appeal, but failed to garner enough votes to allow the Libertarian Party ballot access in future elections.

Sarvis is not the only third party candidate who attempted to champion the cause, if only on a state level. Evan Falchuk, one of several third party gubernatorial candidates in Massachusetts, is attempting to capitalize on the disconnect between voters and politicians from the two main parties. By creating the United Independent Party, he hopes to attract the 51 percent of Massachusetts’ voters who do not adhere to either party:

“Today, more than half of voters are not in a political party, but almost all the legislators and the governors have been either Democrats or Republicans; so there is a disconnect. I’ve created the United Independent movement to create a platform for people who have socially progressive ideas but want to have fiscally sensible solutions. It’s a place where I think most voters are. Most voters have that combination (of values) and look at the two parties and say ‘I don’t have any place to go.'”

It is a personal decision to cast a ballot for the person you want to represent you in government, from the local to the federal level. That is why it is important for the system to be open to as many people as possible.

Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all have the same right to vote, but that right is severely burdened for any voter or candidate who is not a member of one of the two major political parties. The current two-party system already has inherent advantages from entrenched history to redistricting. Opinions may clash, but that is one of the functions of government: to make progress and compromise. It is a right worth championing.