“Just as representation without voters has little meaning, voting without free choice cannot result in representative government and becomes nothing more than the people’s periodic renunciation of their sovereignty.”
- Giovanni Sartori in The Theory of Democracy Revisited
Most political scientists would agree that there is one basic criterion or variable upon which the legitimacy of government hangs. That criterion is that of frequent and free elections. Moreover, there must be choice among candidates; and the voter’s choice should have a fair chance—however remote—of winning. Through frequent and public elections the people are able to have a voice in electing those who will administer their government and who will make choices on their behalf. Those whose choice succeeds in an election likely have a stronger belief that government is legitimate; conversely those whose choices lose the election will likely believe less strongly in the government’s legitimacy. Nevertheless, political scientists typically agree that that loss does not equate to the absence of legitimacy, though a citizen may not agree with the office holder. However, a government’s legitimacy rests on knowing that everyone has a chance at being represented by the possibility of electing their preferred candidate to office through free and open elections.
Put bluntly, we do not see people raiding the US Congress or White House every two or four years with guns and pitchforks because their candidates lost the election. Instead, the supporters of those losing candidates accept the results of the election as long as foul play or fraud is not evident and accept the legitimacy of those elected in most cases, despite their personal view of the person in office. This all sounds great and wonderful and even plausible. However, I submit to you that there is one major flaw in this idea. Continue reading
When candidates for public office make their decision to run in an election, there are several observations or considerations that must take place before the candidate can make an informed run for that specific office. He needs to know whom he desires to represent, and in turn, what his constituency want to see in the end from a candidate for that office, as well as other important, yet in some eyes, seemingly miniscule technicalities such as access to the election ballot. Regretfully, I would dare say that most citizens of the United States have little to no knowledge of the issue of ballot access restrictions or the sheer existence thereof, yet it affects their choice of representation every election year. As Oliver Hall, founder and executive director of the Center for Competitive Democracy, states “[although ballot access laws] receive relatively little scrutiny, modern ballot access laws are probably the most obviously anticompetitive feature of the American electoral system” (Hall 414). Ballot access restrictions are a violation of the peoples’ rights and an the individual’s right to participate in his government and must be either drastically reduced or abolished altogether for the restoration of free and equal elections.
The problem is one that can arise and has arrived in the United States, with democratic systems of winner-take-all voting given that majority rules. In effect, with the ill-perceived notion of an American Democracy rather than a Republic, we have allowed this to come about. In a Democracy the majority are able to oppress the minority through their vote; likewise the majority have accomplished this very task through the Republican and Democratic parties with ballot access restrictions that most states have placed on third parties and unaffiliated candidates running for public office. As Oliver Hall states, in essence, the purpose of ballot access restrictions is simply to “…prevent the minority from participating in the political process. When and how to protect the minority in a system of majority rule – the ‘countermajoritarian problem’ of democracy – is an ongoing question for any democratic state” (Hall 408). There is no doubt that it is true that a complete solution to this problem, labeled here as the “‘countermajoritarian problem’ of democracy” still remains undiscovered, yet, significantly lowering ballot restriction and leveling the playing field for the majority and minority in regards to the ballot could be a large step in the right direction. The problem is actually augmented by ballot access laws, which primarily stem from violations of constitutional provision that are set off by corrupt philosophies of proper representation and the lust for power, not merely from majority rule. Continue reading