The Times editorial on Oct. 20 discussing the status of Georgia’s Ballot Access laws, “Opinion: Ballot process is rigged ...” presented a well-reasoned piece explaining what’s required to run for office when you don’t want to sign up as a Republican or Democrat. It’s worth a read if you missed it.
“Ballot access,” as it is called, is complicated and confusing. Importantly, it is different depending on what office is involved, and notably in Georgia, races for Congress, the General Assembly and local partisan contests are impacted most by ballot access restrictions.
It is incredibly difficult, as divided as we are, to explain why more choices on an election ballot is a good thing. And to those who care about ballot access, it is equally as difficult to understand why anyone would want to intentionally limit their options to just one or two. Even by our own admission in nearly every election, those options present equally bad choices most of the time.
Still, a lot of ballots only offer one choice, whether good or bad. Districts are now so partisan and gerrymandered by design, it is a rare General Election that will include two competitive candidates from opposing parties, much less more. In fact, 236 seats were on the ballot for the Georgia General Assembly in November 2018, but only 93 seats included more than one choice. And just like when there’s only one of anything to choose from, whether in the grocery store, underarm deodorants, widgets or election candidates, if you don’t like what's offered, what choice do you have? Now that's power. Only you aren't the one wielding it.
Yet, opponents of ballot access say we will have crowded ballots if we make the requirements to run the same for all. But let’s address problems we have before inventing ones that aren’t there. Getting people to run for office is a challenge regardless of party label, and we have far too few options on our ballots now.
Further, opponents can often be heard saying, “just run as a Republican” or “run as a Democrat.” And with ballot restrictions weighing heavily on independents and third party candidates, there is usually no practical choice but to do just that. Yet, this only further confuses the ideology of the two mainstream brands and reduces the purity of how each party is understood and defined by voters. Plus, there is the unconscionable choice as a candidate of being forced under a different label or any label at all in order to participate in your government.
There are many problems we need to address in government. But lifting the ballot access restrictions in Georgia will enable more ways for candidates outside our current partisan framework to engage with the electorate and quite possibly present solutions and ideas we otherwise do not hear in place of all the current shouting and finger pointing.