Ballot Access Concerns

Open Letter to the New York Times By Ralph Nader

Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. followed his declaration in the New York Times in late December that ballot access for voters “must be viewed not only as a legal issue but as a moral imperative” with a lawsuit to block an allegedly discriminatory South Carolina law. Too bad he does not feel the same way about state ballot laws that obstruct access for candidates who are not members of the Republican-Democratic Party duopoly.

Decade after decade, state laws have erected many barriers against the rights of Third Party and Independent candidates to achieve ballot status, challenge this duopoly and give voters more choices.

Neither a smug Congress nor the federal executive and judicial branches have advanced any comparable rights for candidates as they belatedly have with voter rights. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress have repulsed efforts to seek federal relief from draconian state ballot hurdles.

At the least, Congress should replace the 50 different state requirements for candidates seeking federal office with one uniform federal ballot access law closer to the far more accessible standards for candidates in all other western nations. The value of candidate rights and voter rights are mutually reinforcing.

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