Chicago’s mayoral politics is shaping up to be one of the hottest contests across the nation. Before, Rahm Emmanuel decided to step down there were already 13 people promising to run. Now, we have the Daley Empire back on the rise with brother Bill vowing a mayoral run, Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Democratic Party exploring, and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is back in action. But how are all these people going to get on the ballot? Throughout America there’s multitude procedures to run for office. We will explore procedures for that shot on the ballot from the hyper local to national to follow the progression of how career politicians are created.
Hyper Local Elections Change America
Few people think of the local school board or similar institution to be a stepping stone for a political career. But that is where you will find a majority of independent or loosely affiliated party politico’s in their beginnings. LSCs are not just your average mom and pop councils anymore. Independent hopefuls, especially in small towns and cities, use their ability to wield school funding and teacher associations to create local ordinances and legislation. These small councils can be the hub of political activity for towns where there are only a few schools-especially on high school boards. These councils have direct access to most of the immediate voter base allowing them immediate connections in leadership. Predictions aren’t just for crystal balls, they’re here on your kids school calendar.
The Permissible Municipal
Cities and towns are where independent choices really thrive. According to the Green Party they hold 143 seats across America. The county seats-county supervisors, town councils and village trustees, tell the story. Politicians, like business leaders, rise from the bottom. Independent candidates on the local base will continue their path to higher leadership positions. In Chicago, the mayor and alderman are restricted from using party affiliation. That is why we have had an independent, Harold Washington, serve and a populist candidate, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, well on his to City Hall. There can be up to 20 people on a ballot in Chicago, many candidates only receiving 3% of the vote. But at least there’s a choice.
Cities and towns are revolutionizing the ballot industry. These local elections use Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) to boost the ballot. In Oakland, CA an independent mayor took the threshold when they instituted RCV and second place is where the winner is found. RCV is allowing new non-career politicians to guide their cities to new heights. These political leaders do not owe parties any favors, have fewer interest groups overpowering their decisions and encourage more voters to participate in elections.
State Ballot Battles
This is where the political parties truly take control of the ballot. We are going to use Colorado as an example. Candidates for state positions through a party affiliation must receive 30% of the general assembly’s party support. Then they need to receive signatures from voters for ballot access, anywhere from 1000 or more. Then they are placed on the ballot. The unaffiliated candidate has a longer period to register and receive signatures, but they don’t automatically receive 30% support from the richest politicians in the state. It’s not just Colorado, every state has similar connections for their own kind. In Wyoming, a party affiliated person must have a signed certificate from the major party nomination to begin the ballot process. An independent must have a signed petition from no less than 2% of registered electors in the district they will be running. The burden seems to be placed on the independent candidate but in reality it is placed on the voter. The voter that does not have enough choices on the ballot for who their next political leader will be.
The primary elections in America have become exceptionally decimated. According to Pew Research the average voters for Democrats and Republicans hovers at about 7%. Unfortunately, many Americans would rather hide their party affiliation than choose who will be on the ballot. Now, that close to 45% of voters are independent of party, we all land up with whoever a minuscule amount of voters choose. People seemed very dismayed in the 2016 choices, most voters stating they voted for either Trump or Hillary as an “opposition” vote against the other candidate. The primary for president is one of the most important as we are presented with a slew of options for the ballot. From Bernie Sanders to Ted Cruz, all party affiliates had more choices. Unlike, state and municipal elections, 1500 people will attempt to run for president each election cycle. But we only land up with the two choices. Next time the primary rolls around think about the end choice. It might change history.
The battle of the ballots is in your hands. It’s up to us as a nation to begin to truly decide on a candidate, not the better of two evils. Get involved in your future by checking on how to make a greater impact with your vote, starting with changes to the ballot system in your states.