Did you know that as of June 2019 733 people filed to run for president with the FEC? That’s a mad number but how do they get on the ballots? As Americans inundated within a two-party political system we usually don’t hear much about the “other” candidates. People would have never discussed Jill Stein in 2016 if she supposedly hadn’t stolen the votes from Democrats (it’s time to admit that still wouldn’t have helped). So, how do the independents get on state ballots for president? The answers are both mind-blowing and suspicious. There are three basic requirements to run for president; nomination by a political party, independent candidates submitted by petition in all 50 states and then the skeptical write-in. Each of these paths to the ballot has inequitable flaws reducing voter choices. A national law to forge equitable means to the state ballot for president would change our political game.
The first path to the state ballot is the easiest, nomination by a political party (usually Democrat or Republican). As candidates begin the 2020 White House path the Democratic party is already in a conundrum. It will take at least a year for voters and delegates in caucuses to decide the “party” frontrunner from over 20 claiming Democratic eligibility. The 2020 Republicans won’t have as much to contend with. Their party has consistently attacked Trump while denying people access for the contender spot to maintain a strong Red vote. They learned from the scattered 2016 presidential campaign that splitting the base of voters between excessive candidacies can hurt them more in the end as it did when Sanders voters refused Clinton’s rise. But as independent candidates branch off from the Democrats, the real independents like the Libertarian and Green party’s may not take 1% without state ballot changes.
The majority of the nearly 30 main political frontrunners for president in 2020 should be deemed independents since the DNC will support Biden and Republicans will support Trump. Now, it gets interesting. Independent candidates must petition each state to be placed on the ballot. Each state is different, Tennessee requires 275 signatures while California requires 178,039. The in-betweens are just as pervasive with states requiring 1,000 signatures to 1% of the registered voters from the previous election. One more thing to think about. The Green and Libertarian parties-strongest of independent parties-usually have enough in each state to forge the ballot. But what would it cost if all of the currently filed candidates had field signature/ballot teams in every state? If the states and parties don’t force these other candidates to learn and process the discrepancies in the signature process for the ballot, we have many political leaders jumping the ballot.
The third path to the state ballot is the skeptical write-in process. But, even though people are literally writing in anyone from Mickey Mouse to God, a write-in must complete a slew of different paperwork. While 17 states do not require paperwork, it’s all different in the other 33 states.
It’s time Congress passes federal legislation to ensure that voters have a choice at the polls. Independent candidates begin their process of running a year to two earlier than most party-affiliated candidates, receive substantially less financial contributions and encounter more obstacles. Legislation must require no more than 1,000 signatures from across the state for independent candidates and no paperwork for write-ins for each of our 50 states. It’s time we encourage a wave of Independent voters, with independent candidates. The Red and the Blue only encourage political tribalism while neither is promoting all American ideals. Unfortunately, in 2020 people will again feel they are voting for the better of two evils.