by Jacob G. Hornberger
A federal appeals court in Richmond has ruled against GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry’s request to be placed on Virginia’s GOP primary ballot. The ruling came in an appeal of a U.S. district court’s ruling against Perry, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich that denied their request to be put on the ballot.
Talk about hypocrisy and double-standards! It doesn’t get any better than that.
Virginia has one of the highest ballot-access barriers in the country. That’s why Virginia voters in statewide races usually have only two candidates on the ballot from which to choose — a Republican and a Democrat.
The ballot-access barrier is obviously directed to anyone who does not share the political philosophy of the two major political parties, e.g., the Libertarian Party. The idea is to ensure that the two major parties maintain a monopolistic lock on the state’s political system by inhibiting competition from candidates who don’t share their statist political philosophy.
Republicans and Democrats would say that there is plenty of competition between the two parties. Sure, just as there is competition between the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference. But the point is that it’s still one league — the National Football League — that is divided into two football conferences. That’s the way it is in American politics. There is one major political party — the Statist Party — that is divided into two political wings, the Democrat Party and the Republican Party.
As we are seeing in the current presidential race (with the exception of Ron Paul), there isn’t any difference philosophically between the GOP candidates and President Obama. They share the same views with respect to the role of government in society. They all believe in, for example, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, foreign aid, the drug war, regulation, foreign wars, empire, the military-industrial complex, torture, indefinite detention, undeclared wars, the CIA, the Federal Reserve, paper money, income taxation, government management of the economy, and the other aspects of America’s welfare-warfare state.
In a word, the two major political parties are statists. They believe in a statist political philosophy. Both Democrats and Republicans believe that the primary purposes of government are to take money from one group of people in order to give it to another group of people, to control and regulate peaceful behavior, and to police the world.
What about the battle that takes place between the two major parties? It’s over control. Which party will get to control the levers of the welfare-warfare state?
What about people who don’t believe in statism, such as libertarians? They’re effectively shut out of the process. Not totally, of course. It is possible to meet Virginia’s high ballot-access barrier but everyone knows, including Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry, that it is extremely difficult to do so. And the barrier is clearly designed to lock candidates out of statewide races who don’t fit the statist mold and who might wish to challenge the philosophy of both parties.
To get on the statewide ballot in Virginia, a person must secure 10,000 signatures from registered voters. That means he actually has to turn in about 17,000 to be safe, given that many signatures will be invalid.
That is an enormous undertaking, but one that the two major parties are usually able to accomplish easily, given their party’s resources, prestige, and manpower — until they have to compete against each other and cannot rely on the party machinery to help them out, as Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry have discovered.
Finding volunteers who have the time and expertise to get such signatures is extremely difficult. So is finding places to secure such signatures, given that most private establishments don’t want their customers hassled by petitioners. Usually the person must purchase the services of professional signature collectors, who usually charge by the number of signatures collected, valid or not.
It gets worse. Out of the total number of signatures, the person must secure 700 valid signatures from each of Virginia’s congressional districts, which means about 1,500 signatures to be safe. That means that the person and his fellow signature gatherers have to travel all over the state, expending money on hotels, meals, and gas, not to mention taking time off from work.
Why should a person have to get his 10,000 signatures from around the state rather than in one area, like where he lives? After all, in an election does it matter where a candidate’s votes come from? The answer is: to make it more difficult to get onto the ballot to compete against the Statist Party in statewide races.
Virginia’s ballot barrier also has racial overtones. Suppose, for example, a poor, inner city African-American wants to run for statewide office based on his conviction that Virginia’s (and America’s) drug war, which both Democrats and Republicans favor, is racist to the core. What are the chances that he and his friends are going to be able to find places to gather and secure signatures from some of the white, upper-crust areas of the state? Indeed, what are the chances that they’d even have the money to pay signature gatherers or pay for hotel, meal, and gas expense traveling all over the state to gather signatures? What are the chances that they could take off from work to gather such signatures? The chances are nil.
For years, the Libertarian Party has complained about such ballot-access barriers, here in Virginia and elsewhere, to no avail. Throughout that time, people like Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry have had plenty of opportunity to come to the defense of the Libertarian Party by trying to have ballot-access barriers removed.
Instead, they chose to remain passive — until now, when it’s their ox that is being gored. Thus, while it’s obviously ridiculous that major presidential contenders are being kept off the ballot in Virginia owing to the state’s ridiculous ballot-access barrier, there is at least some justice in seeing major-party candidates being hoisted on their own petard.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.
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