In Maine: A newspaper helps the government suppress ballot access

KW: Seems like some letters of complaint to the Press-Herald are in order.

from Ballot Access News, editor Richard Winger
Portland, Maine Press-Herald Thinks
Maine Ballot Access is Too Easy

March 20th, 2010

The Portland, Maine daily newspaper, the Portland Press Herald, has this editorial in its March 17 issue. The editorial says it is now too easy for an independent candidate to get on the November ballot.

This is ironic, because in 2008, Maine was one of only three states in which there were no minor party or independent candidates on the November ballot for any congressional race or any statewide state office race. The others were Alabama and Washington. Two independent candidates in Maine made serious attempts to get on the ballot for Congress in 2008, but one, Herb Hoffman, was challenged by the Democratic Party and removed from the ballot. The other, Laurie Dobson, was disqualified because even though she submitted her petitions by the legal deadline for handing them in to the town clerks, the town clerks were unable to check them in time.

The editorial makes several errors of logic. The newspaper does not believe that people should run for office unless they have the capacity to win, or at least come close. It does not follow, though, that just because one holds that view about whether candidates should run, that therefore one believes that the law should prevent such candidacies. Any ordinary person may frown at all sorts of behaviors, but will not necessarily advocate that such behaviors be made illegal.

Another problem with the newspaper’s position is that Maine permits anyone to file as a declared write-in candidate. No fee or petition is required. If the law were altered to make it even more difficult to run for office, that would merely increase the number of declared write-in candidates. It costs election administrators more money to count a write-in vote than it does to count a vote for someone who is on the ballot.

The editorial says having candidates on the ballot who can’t win forces the better-supported candidates “fight” for attention. But, in reality, anyone is free to sponsor a debate and invite only the better-supported candidates. Lesser-supported candidates are often ignored. Their presence on the ballot does not force the bigger candidates to struggle for attention. Thanks to Thomas MacMillan for the link.

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