The constitutional right to equal protection of the law is one of the most important tenets of the American government. If any citizen, whether rich or poor, male or female, or white, black or brown is harmed by the law, they have the right to seek relief in a court of law. Specifically, this means that all persons have the same access to the law and courts and to be treated equally by the law and courts, both in procedures and in the substance of the law. So, for instance if a minority voter were denied their right to cast a ballot for president based upon the color of their skin they would have the right to petition the court for a legal remedy allowing them to cast that ballot by the same means that I have to cast mine as a white person.
Essentially, we both have a right to be treated equally both in procedure, which is the legal process and in the substance of the law, which is applying the same interpretation of the law to both parties. It can be argued that the second part of the equal protection of the law right which applies to the same interpretation of the law to all parties is where the U.S. falls far short in regards to ballot access laws.
This week, it was announced by the Bob Barr for President Campaign that he will be the only presidential candidate to appear on the Texas ballot in November. Apparently, both the Republican and Democratic Party state chairs failed to meet state ballot access law. They were required to sign and deliver to the Texas secretary of state a written certification of the names of their party’s nominees for president and vice-president by 5 p.m. no later than the 70th day before the election. The exact deadline was last Tuesday August 26 at 5 p.m. On Thursday August 28th Barr sent his supporters an email with a link to the Texas Secretary of State’s site that showed blank spaces under both the Republican and Democratic ballot slots. Barr and his running mate Wayne A. Root did appear on the ballot under Libertarian. One should assume that since the deadline had passed by two days and the state had publicly posted its ballot on the internet without McCain and Obama’s names present that Bob Barr would be the only candidate in Texas running for president. But low and behold, after the Barr campaign brought the “oversight” to the attention of the secretary of state’s office both McCain and Obama’s names appeared on the Texas ballot. This is peculiar since both McCain and Obama’s names were not there on the 28th and because neither man had actually been officially nominated by their respective parties by the Texas deadline. Something smells fishy in Texas and in light of how hot it gets there in August the stench is overpowering.
This is just the latest example of how the equal protection of the law guarantee does not apply to all Americans in terms of election law. In Texas, Barr followed the letter of the law by filing on time. Apparently, the Republicans and Democrats did not. Of course, Barr does have recourse by filing suit in court to have McCain and Obama’s names pulled from the Texas ballot. Yea, good luck with that one! Placing the onus on Barr is both ridiculous and unjust. Texas should follow its own state laws in the first place. It should safeguard the public’s rights by investigating the secretary of state’s office and punishing her if she violated the law by placing McCain and Obama on the ballot illegally. It is unjust because in state after state for many years either Republican or Democratic Secretaries of State have thrown out minor party petitions for ballot access citing violations of state law or inadequate signature numbers.
It would be different if the major parties had to play by the same rules as the minor parties, but they do not. Most times, filing fees are higher, more signatures are required and more complicated paperwork must accompany minor party applications for ballot access. Minor parties have spent a fortune they do not have fighting these battles perpetrated by officials of the two major parties. At present, Barr is fighting at least six ballot access lawsuits – Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Maine. He entered the presidential race to run for the office not to battle unjust laws that keep him off the ballot.
Think about this. We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars fighting a war in Iraq to bring democracy to the Iraqi people. In their National Assembly elections in 2005 more than 20 parties participated with 12 gaining seats in the legislature. If U.S. taxpayer money can be used to guarantee the views of all people in another society be represented in their elections, is it too much to ask that the same thing be done in the U.S? How can we claim to be the beacon of democracy when minority voices are shut out through loopholes, chicanery and unjust rules?
When a minority voter is denied their right to vote we are all aghast and we should be. So then, why is it that when minority views are denied a place on the ballot and at the same time that minority voter is denied the choice to vote for it we look the other way? Yes, the election process in the U.S. has become very undemocratic. Hard to believe that Iraq, which suffered under a brutal dictator for so long, at least for now, enjoys more democracy than America.