Category Archives: Election rights and laws

How the system works: who gets on the ballot?

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, May 19, 2015

In honor of primary election day (today), I am reposting this, first posted in the Times of Chester County.

People go in to vote every May and November (at least, that’s what both major parties hope they do). But voters mostly can’t imagine how those names got on the ballot.

Access is basically in the hands of the Republicans and Democrats in our 2-party system.

Independents can get on the ballot in 2 ways:

1) By winning a party primary. That can happen only in a “cross-filed” primary for school board or for judge of the court of Common Pleas or Magisterial District Judge, most likely only when a party doesn’t have at least one candidate for each position open; or

2) By filing “nomination papers” over the summer, for any position.

The chances of an Independent ever winning in November are, to say the least, remote, which means 20% of the local electorate have virtually no chance to serve in elected office….

continue reading at Politics: A View from West Chester

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How the system works: who gets on the ballot?

by Nathaniel Smith, The Times of Chester County, April 13, 2015

Not a Republican or Democrat? It’s a tough road to get on the ballot

People go in to vote every November (at least, that’s what both major parties hope they do). But voters mostly can’t imagine how those names got on the ballot.

Access is basically in the hands of the Republicans and Democrats in our two-party system.

Independents can get on the ballot in 2 ways….

continue reading at The Times of Chester County

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Elections and Choices

by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L. Young, Politically Uncorrected, May 15, 2014

Many Republicans who show up on May 20 to vote in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary will confront a familiar situation in American politics: they don’t have any choices.

Apparently, a few counties will have political GOP gadfly Bob Guzzardi on the ballot because a Supreme Court decision barring him from running came too late. But let’s not kid ourselves. There is no competition in the Republican Party for governor.

And that’s really too bad because as polls and other anecdotal evidence suggests, many Republicans would have preferred choices this year.

That some 3 million Pennsylvania Republicans have no primary choice this year for governor isn’t the worst of it; electoral choices are disappearing across the American political landscape, from state legislatures to Congress and beyond. More and more, Americans have fewer and fewer electoral choices at all levels of politics.

In fact, what passes for competition these days are the spasmodic shock waves that now convulse our politics from time to time, such as the 2010 tea party uprising or the infamous 2005 midnight pay raise in Pennsylvania. The lack of normal political competition has made the system particularly vulnerable to these electoral tsunamis.

Political competition constitutes a fundamental American value. It spurs the accountability of elected officials while ensuring the political system works to produce sound public policy. Yet, American politicians regularly exploit opportunities to limit it further.

For example, the Corbett campaign this year strenuously worked to keep his possible opponent off the ballot by using judicial challenges, a tactic employed by incumbents in both parties. These “ballot access challenges” are only one of an arsenal of tools politicians now regularly employ to limit competition. …

continue reading at Politically Uncorrected

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The Constitutional Woes of American Democracy

by Roger Cohen, Autokthonous, 2/10/14

Of all the myriad public-policy problem facing the country, there is probably broad consensus that the very worst of them is the corruption of our elections and officeholders by the ceaseless orgy of political fundraising and contributions.

The 1974 reforms enacted by Congress in the shadow of Watergate only served to prove conclusively the law of unintended consequences that result when trying to separate thirsty politicians from their supply of mother’s milk.

And the horrible irony of the mess is that it is a direct outgrowth of our most cherished and fundamental constitutional principle: the freedom of speech — or at least as it is understood by the constitutional interpreters who sit on the Supreme Court.

Since the High Court’s five-to-four decision in 2010 in Citizens United v FEC, ending the ban on corporate independent political expenditures, political spending has exploded, turning what had already become a permanent campaign into a full-time fever of nearly election-eve frenzy.

Political communication now is as much driven by Super-PACs and a new structure called “Hybrid PACs” (combining traditional Political Action Committee direct support to candidates with the independence of Super-PACS, all under one roof), and untraceable “Dark Money,” that the politicians themselves — always so eager to collect — find they’ve lost control of the process.

The effect of so much independent cash flooding the marketplace of debate, said Philadelphia elections law attorney Adam C. Bonin, has been “to destabilize the parties as a mediating influence and to shift the center of gravity to outside the party structure.”

Bonin, at a presentation last weekend in Hershey, Pa. on campaign finance post-Citizens United, said he foresees even greater disruption ahead. The 2010 decision of the DC Circuit in SpeechNow.org v FEC “takes Citizens United to its extreme,” Bonin said, holding that “if [under Citizens United] it’s not corrupting for one corporation to do independent expenditures, it can’t be corrupting for a lot of them to join together to do it.”

Currently only binding in the District of Columbia, SpeechNow portends an environment where independent political spending enlarges to a scale approaching the economy of medium-sized countries like Chile or Malaysia.

“The next earthquake,” Bonin said, is likely to be McCutcheon v FEC, now awaiting Supreme Court decision, which challenges aggregate limits on individual contributions to political parties and candidates for office….

continue reading at Autokthonous

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