Tag Archives: elections

Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State

Ballot

In mid-February, Florida’s Division of Elections stripped the state’s third largest political party of its official recognition. Tallahassee’s excuse for ending the Independent Party’s ability to put candidates on the ballot and disenfranchising its 260,000-plus registered voters? The party organization’s 2014 financial audit wasn’t conducted by a Certified Public Accountant.

Florida law doesn’t specify any such CPA requirement, and even if it did this dirty trick would exemplify the real purpose of so-called “ballot access laws”: To safeguard the Republican and Democratic Parties’ near-complete control of American elections.

In every election cycle, “third” parties shell out big bucks just to be allowed to present their candidates to voters. According to Nicholas J. Sarwark, chair of the Libertarian Party’s national committee, the party, its state affiliates, and its presidential campaign spent more than $750,000 on ballot access — that is, on jumping through bureaucratic hoops instead of on getting its message out — in 2016.

It shouldn’t be that way. It doesn’t have to be that way. And it wasn’t always that way.

Some histories of the Civil War era mention that Abraham Lincoln was “not even on the ballot” in several southern states. That’s true. None of the other presidential candidates were “on the ballot” either, nor was Lincoln “on the ballot” in the northern states. There was no such thing as “on the ballot.”

American ballot access laws only date back to the 1880s. Before that, voters cast ballots in one of three ways: They received ballots from and printed by their political parties of choice, they wrote out their own ballots by hand, or, if they couldn’t write, they verbally dictated their choices to election officials who wrote down those choices for them in the presence of witnesses.

Once state governments overthrew those methods in favor of “Australian” ballots — standardized ballots printed by the governments themselves — the next step was feigned concern over  “voter confusion” from “too many” candidates, quickly followed by the erection of barriers to “solve” the “problem.”

These days ballot access laws are so many, so varied and so confusing that there’s an entire industry centered around helping parties and candidates interpret and meet the guidelines. There’s even a dedicated publication, Ballot Access News, dedicated to sorting out ballot access laws on a continuing basis.

And, once again, it’s important to keep in mind the real purpose of these laws: To ensure that, with rare exceptions, only Republicans and Democrats are elected to public office. Or, to put it more plainly, to protect those parties from the risks of free and fair elections.

The states and the establishment parties have proven, over and over, that they can’t be trusted with control of ballot access. Time to take that control away.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Why Trump is Doubling Down on the Voter Fraud Fraud

Ballot

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide,” US president-elect Donald Trump tweeted in late November, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Kind of a sore winner. And now that he’s no longer just president-elect but actually president, he’s doubling down and says he  “will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD …”

That’s dumb. And dangerous.

Dumb because voter fraud is almost non-existent. There are rare cases in which individuals will try to vote illegally. Former Republican congressman Todd Akin of Missouri, for example, who got caught voting at his old polling place after moving, presumably to hide the move from his constituents and opponents. But the key word is “rare.”

Voter fraud is not a strategy used by candidates and campaigns to move the needle on election results. Why? Because it’s just about the most expensive, burdensome, unreliable and risky way imaginable to do that.  A successful voter fraud operation on any scale would require rounding up a whole bunch of people, trusting those people to cast the votes desired instead of just voting however they wanted to vote, and risking any or all of them getting caught (or sprouting a conscience) and blowing the operation. Too many co-conspirators and too many ways for things to go south fast and hard.

If we remove the letter “r” from the end of “voter,” things make more sense. Yes, elections are sometimes rigged. But they’re not rigged the hard way, by impersonating voters.

In some cases they’re rigged at the level of counting votes. Why recruit millions of voters as co-conspirators when a few key election workers (or voting machine programmers) are easier to find, probably more reliable, and far less vulnerable to detection?

In other cases they’re rigged by suppressing the other party’s turnout through fraud (for example, robocalls giving the wrong election date or mailings of fake absentee ballots with the wrong return address) or by law.

Which brings us to the danger of the “investigation” Trump is calling for: Its real purpose isn’t to uncover the truth, but rather to build support for “voter identification” laws.

Some, including me, have described these attempts to impose new and more onerous government identification schemes in the name of “fighting voter fraud” as a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist, but that’s not really accurate. It’s a solution to a problem. Not the problem of ineligible voters. The problem of eligible voters who don’t vote Republican.

Instead of this fake “investigation,” wouldn’t it be cheaper, and more honest, to just put a beige sign outside every polling place? As in: “You must be this pale to vote.”

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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The Virtue of Selfies-ness: Libertarians Fight for Free Speech at the Ballot Box

Caryn Ann Harlos
Caryn Ann Harlos

It’s finally election time — as I write this, early voting is already under way in many states. You may have already voted. Even if haven’t, you probably know who you’re voting for. But if you live in Colorado, it’s illegal to tell anyone who you voted for, or who you think someone else might have voted for.

Yes, really. It’s right there in black and white in Colorado Revised Statute  §1-13-712, section 3: “No election official, watcher, or person shall reveal to any other person the name of any candidate for whom a voter has voted or communicate to another his opinion, belief, or impression as to how or for whom a voter has voted.”

Caryn Ann Harlos objects. Strenuously. She’s the communications director of the Libertarian Party of Colorado and sits on the party’s national committee, so you can probably guess how she’s voting. But she’s not allowed to tell you, even though “communications” is right there in her job title.

Oh, and according to section 2 of the same law, you can’t ask her, either: “No person shall endeavor to induce any voter to show how he marked his ballot.”

Harlos petitioned Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and Denver District Attorney Mich Morrissey to publicly recognize the blatant unconstitutionality of this law. They declined. So, in concert with two other plaintiffs and the aid of the libertarian Our America Initiative, Harlos filed suit  in US District Court. They’re asking, for among other things, a preliminary injunction and restraining order to protect voters, pollsters, journalists, and neighborhood gossips from arrest. The first hearing is scheduled for November 2nd.

Federal judges in New Hampshire and Michigan have already ruled against “ballot selfie” laws, as well they should have. It’s pretty much a constitutional slam-dunk. The act of voting doesn’t create an exception to your free speech rights. The scope of the Colorado law is particularly egregious. Coffman and Morrissey are wasting tax money — and disrespecting Colorado’s voters — by defending it.

The Libertarian Party’s candidates don’t win many elections. In fact, they usually come in a distant third in any three-way race. But Libertarian Party and libertarian movement activists are stepping up to defend your rights. If Caryn Ann Harlos has her way, you’ll be free not just to vote for a Democrat or Republican, but to publicly say you did so. Think about that when you enter the voting booth.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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