Ease Ballot Access
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by John Geltemeyer

My name is John Geltemeyer and I have been a Florida resident for 4 years. I am here to speak about opening up the political process in Florida: Opening access to independents and smaller parties. Florida is the title holder of a very embarrassing dishonor: We have the most restrictive laws in the nation, designed to prevent anyone other than Democrats and Republicans from getting on the ballot. To make this booby prize just a little more humiliating, Florida does not meet the requirements for having an open political process as laid down in the Helsinki accords. If Florida were a Third World nation, we would be subject to international sanctions.

The Florida Judiciary and Legislature are on record saying that the restrictive laws are to protect Florida voters from too many choices. To translate, our government officials must think Floridians are stupid. This attitude is elitist and disgraceful. Do state officials really think that Florida voters are so feeble-minded that they have to be protected from a ballot with two or three choices, or are they really just protecting their own parties from competition?

Since 1974, 30% of the state house elections have had only one person running. In 1994 Florida had 11 of 23 US house seats that ran unopposed. Florida's uncontested races accounted for half of the unopposed house races for the entire nation. Our restrictive ballot access laws cannot help but contribute to this. Floridians are not being overwhelmed with choices!

A quick analogy: In the late '70s and early '80s, America's big three auto makers were making pretty much substandard cars. They had gotten into the mindset, due to lack of competition, that they could turn out any product and it would be bought. The Japanese entering the market changed that. Although the Japanese competition was a bit humiliating, in the end their competition forced the big three to turn out a better product. The Republicans and Democrats are now like the car manufacturers of the late '70s. They block competition and put out a product few want. This can be evidenced by voter turn out well below 50%. This increasingly makes them vulnerable to becoming the playthings of focused special interest groups and the well-connected.

This process alienates voters. The voters decides that nothing changes due to their vote and they stay home. Few democracies have been overthrown by revolution. Most die slowly from apathy. Increasing competition gives representation to voters being ignored by the other parties. Lack of competition is a recipe for disaster. I am not asking for special breaks for independents and minor parties. I am asking that they get to play by the same rules play as the Republicans and Democrats. An independent or minor party has to collect around 250,000 signatures just to get their candidate on the ballot. This process exhausts the campaign resources so that they are unable to mount a serious challenge to the other parties.

To sum up: Competition will inspire larger voter turnout, injecting vitality into the elections so critical to our precious democracy. Competition will improve the product that the Democrats and Republicans turn out, making them stronger and better representatives of the people. Most importantly, Florida can get rid of the stigma of a backwater state with an inbred political process. I support the proposals submitted by the Constitutional Liberty Coalition, one of which covers easing ballot restrictions.

Thank you for your time.


This page was last updated 07/02/00 01:50 PM