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An issue that today's election won't address
November 2, 2010 - Mike Maneval
Before heading into the office on Tuesday I headed out Beaver Lake Road to the polls in Penn Township. Standing in the voting booth and looking over my slate of races and candidates one thought struck me heavier than others: In four races, I have a total of seven candidates from which to select.
Pennsylvania, like a number of the East Coast states with further-reaching pasts, remains an infertile climate for ballot access reform. Efforts to place a minor party candidate or independent candidate on the ballot here have convoluted petition requirements which are easily challenged in court. The hostility to less orthodox candidates has many negative consequences, and chief among them are the resulting swaths of the state where either of the two dominant national parties has such a negative reputation with the precincts' voters that their opposition is merely token, leading such places to be, in effect, governed by one-party rule.
Improving ballot access would give voters more choices, and a more diverse selection of potential solutions, coming from outside the dichotomous and ideologicial prism that gives the two-party system its tunnel vision.
Some argue that the more permissive ballot access standards in western and midwestern states and in New York state allow for the frivolous candidacies of crackpots. I view it as a shallow argument for two reasons: The odder of independent candidacies rarely compete when ballots are finally cast, and neither the Democrats or Republicans are immune to occasionally nominating cranks and weirdoes themselves.
And yet, despite my belief that greater ballot access is an advantagous policy, I hold out little hopes the candidates selected in this election will address it. The status quo is too beneficial to them, the other problems their blinkered approach has accelerated are too serious not to address first, and the voters, media and public have failed to press them on an issue they themselves have spent the campaign neglecting.
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