This past week, a panel of judges in North Carolina heard the appeal of a 2005 case filed by the state’s Libertarian Party over its loss of ballot access following the 2004 elections. Even though the Libertarians have regained ballot status, the suit has gone forward on behalf of other minor parties still struggling to meet ballot access requirements. The North Carolina election law in question requires political parties not officially recognized (non-Republican and non-Democrat) by the state to gather signatures equaling 2 percent of those who cast votes in the previous gubernatorial election. For the 2012 ballot, 80,000 signatures of registered voters will be required by minor parties just to get on the ballot. The basis of the suit is the Libertarian Party’s claim that the $130,000 they spent and the three years it took them to acquire the signatures put an unfair, unconstitutional burden on their efforts to run candidates for public office effectively. Given that Republicans and Democrats do not have to jump these same hurdles to achieve ballot access, the Libertarians are right.
The state’s law was defended by deputy attorney general of North Carolina, Alexander Peters. He argued that North Carolina's ballot access restrictions on minor parties are reasonable. According to Mr. Peters, “The very fact the Libertarians were able to gain access proved the point that getting on the ballot was not impossible for third parties, even if it was costly and time consuming.” Furthermore, he added, “The larger the ballot, the greater the potential for errors and complications.” He argued that allowing third parties to increase their numbers would complicate the administration of elections, and he did assure the court that there would probably always be at least two parties in the state.
Of course, North Carolina is not unique in having restrictive ballot access laws. Most states have them. However, in light of his remarks, Alexander Peters is not fit to be an attorney general of any state. His argument is offensive, not based on constitutional law, and typical of the tyrannical gibberish usually uttered by the Mugabes and Chavezes of the world. For him to declare that conducting elections with minimal problems is more important than guaranteeing the civil rights of American citizens is preposterous. Do states not administer welfare programs, education systems, and driver’s licenses? We never hear that the millions of people served by these bureaucracies complicate the work of the state to the point where it shouldn’t provide those services anymore. Why should the most basic function of our government, an electoral system, be so demeaned? After all, aren’t the results of free and fair elections supposed to determine the policies our government will pursue?