ARTICLE: Is Government Legitimate Without the Right to Vote?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by JordonMGreene, Sep 26, 2010.

  1. JordonMGreene
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    JordonMGreene Jordon M. Greene

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    Is Government Legitimate Without the Right to Vote?
    by Jordon M. Greene | September 22, 2010 | JordonGreene.com

    “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.

    The flaw itself is not contained directly in the idea or simple construct, but the actual application and definition of elections, and more importantly free elections. If one is speaking of the simple ability to cast a vote, then yes we have free elections. The right to vote in its most basic form is being able to vote; women fought for a Constitutional right to vote in the early 1900s during the women’s suffrage movement resulting in the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, I argue there is a vast difference in this simple form of the right to vote and the full and genuine right to make your choice; the right to vote one’s own conscience. The right to vote one’s conscience is absent in most states in the Union and most assuredly absent in North Carolina. You ask why? It is due to North Carolina’s anti-democratic and free speech-damning ballot access laws dating all the way back to 1901. For this reason, the choice of many North Carolina residents has a near-impossible barrier to overcome to obtain a place among the choices of others.

    These ballot access laws artificially and without reasonable justification restrict the right to vote by limiting voter choice to a select state-approved list of candidates or parties, typically the Democratic and Republican Parties. Since Parties such as the Greens and Constitutionalists among others are not “state approved” they are denied the right to vote by these laws. Therefore, ballot access laws devaluate the right to vote to its most basic form. Being able to go to the polls and mark a ballot is not enough to claim we have voting rights. I truly believe that these laws are comparable to saying that people have the right to vote in countries where voters are coerced to vote for a certain candidate or only given a select number of choices on purpose by the government. The right to vote is empty where there is not choice.

    With that said, it would seem to me that political scientists are really only speaking of perceived legitimacy based on the perceived notion of the right to vote (something quite different from the actual right to vote in my opinion as I explained earlier) and in which case, political scientists need to clarify this and qualify it so as not to be misunderstood. However, I dare say that political scientists are unwittingly stating something rather negative about our system of government. In this case, they may very well be saying that, by the standard given, American government has lost its legitimacy, as people do not have a reasonable expectation or chance that their candidate or choice will prevail in the coming election as their candidate may be entirely excluded from placement on the election ballot.

    For this reason, modern day elections simply serve, as Giovanni Sartori so aptly stated in his book The Theory of Democracy Revisited, as “…the people’s periodic renunciation of their sovereignty” by furthering the hold of the two major parties who are unwilling to permit truly free elections in a system of “…which they are the principal beneficiaries” as Theodore J. Lowi put it. The issue is the right to vote, it is the potential of representation, the possibility of a voice and the legitimacy of the government we live under. I submit to you, that if we truly derive legitimacy of government from the opportunity to be heard, the chance of winning the next election and the competence and freedom built into the system, then sadly American government has been sorely illegitimate for over one hundred years. I say it is high time that we tell those in power that we want our right to vote back. That we reach out and show others in our state and around the nation the need for reform at the ballot box to open up the electoral process to more voices and make it a truly competitive process where people are heard and where the choices made lead to legitimate government once again.

    Constitutional, democratic and lawful government is not legitimate where the state does not allow the full and unequivocal right to vote. An arbitrary and restrictive limitation on voter choice is not and cannot be consistent with government legitimacy.

    Copyright © 2010 Jordon M. Greene. Jordon M. Greene is the President and Founder of the North Carolinians for Free and Proper Elections, he served as campaign manager for his father’s unaffiliated congressional campaign in 2008 and as a member of the Constitution Party of North Carolina State Executive from 2008 to 2010. Jordon is a student of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

    I would like to thank Dr. Martha E. Kropf, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for her assistance with this article.
     
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  2. Madeline
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    Madeline BANNED

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    Interesting. What is supposed to be this fatal flaw in NC's ballot access laws?
     
  3. JordonMGreene
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    JordonMGreene Jordon M. Greene

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    NC's (and a large number of the others states in the Union) requires alternative political parties to collect signatures to obtain access to the ballot for their candidates and the same for independent candidates to have their names put on the ballot. That is not so much the problem as the sheer number required. NC requires political parties to obtain signatures equal to 2% of the total number of votes cast for Governor in the most recent election to obtain access to the ballot, which for ballot access in 2010 and 2012 translates into at a bare minimum 85, 379 signatures. The same number applies to independent/unaffiliated candidates for statewide office in NC (i.e. US Senate, President, Governor, etc.). This the second highest signatures requirement in the nation, and one of the top ten hardest to accomplish. Only the Libertarian Party of NC has managed to accomplish the feat and that is only with literally 100s of thousands of dollars EVERY four years to re-obtain access, since to KEEP the ballot access your party just obtained, that Party's candidate for Governor must obtain at least 2% of the vote cast for Governor, otherwise the Party is decertified (loses access to the ballot) and must start the process all over again. It is even worse for unaffiliated candidates for US Congress who have to get signatures equal to 4% of the total number of voters in their district as of the 1st day of the election year (note, double the percentage, from a larger pool of people).

    The issue here, is that it greatly hinders the right to vote and to associate. The only way third party or independent candidates can get on the ballot here is if they can gather and spend a LOT of funds (the majority likely) JUST on getting on the ballot, and therefore have little to campaign with, not to mention those Parties candidates and unaffiliated candidates which manage to get all of those signatures still have to pay the 1% filing fee (which is also one of the highest in the nation).

    You can learn more at NCFPE.com (the North Carolinians for Free & Proper Elections) on the Issues page where it addresses the ballot access problem.

    You can also read the articles entitled "North Carolina Obviously Thinks Political Competition is Bad for You" and "Freedom of the Ballot" on the Articles page at JordonGreene.com for information as well.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2010
  4. Madeline
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    Thankies for your reply. I assume you'd agree, there's a legitimate need for certification of ballots? What benchmark do you propose NC should be using?
     
  5. JordonMGreene
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    JordonMGreene Jordon M. Greene

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    I agree that some level of registration is needed. For that I actually have a bill proposal as shown on the NCFPE's website, called the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011. I personally would like to see lower requirements than this by and far, but I think the numbers in this proposal are much more attainable and realistic, I can deal with this at least. The proposal that I speak of above (which already have at least one dedicated Sponsor in the NC House, and a couple other likely co-sponsors and some likely sponsors in the NC Senate, AND of which was introduced into the NC Senate in 2009 as Senate Bill 731 with some variations) would do the do the following:

    1. Reduce the number of signatures a new political party would need to obtain ballot access by eliminating the percentage based requirement and instituting a flat number requirement of 10,000 signatures for access to the ballot.

    2. Replace the state's vote percentage requirement to retain ballot access, that of which should have the sole purpose of ensuring that Party's listed on the ballot and registration forms are current, with a requirement that a party must have run at least one candidate for a statewide office in the previous election.

    3. Reduce the number of signatures Unaffiliated Candidates must obtain for ballot access, by replacing the percentage based requirement with a flat number for each office sough in North Carolina.

    Proposed Unaffiliated Candidate Signature Requirements
    a. 5,000 for Statewide Office
    b. 1,000 for US House of Representative
    c. 300 for NC State Senate
    d. 150 for NC State House and any county, municipal or other office with more than 25,000 registered voters as of January 1 of the election year.
    e. 50 for any county, municipal or other office with 25,000 or less registered voters as of January 1 of the election year.

    4. Eliminate the need for Write-In candidate to obtain signatures for ballot access, they would only need to submit a declaration of intent for votes for their candidacy to be counted.

    These are the numbers I would recommend (like I said, I would like to see lower, but this is doable and I can deal with it) and that we will be pushing for in the 2011-2012 Session of the NC General Assembly. We just need NC voters to make this an issue to their candidates for State Reps and Senator so that they will make it an issue when elected in November.

    You can read the entire bill proposal on the NCFPE's website at ncfpe.com (sorry it will not let me put links yet since I've not posted 15 posts) and go to the Legislation page, it will be called the Electoral Freedom Act of 2011.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2010
  6. Madeline
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    Madeline BANNED

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    Thankies again. Have you collected any data about the level of signatures attained in past failed efforts to get on the ballot?
     
  7. The Rabbi
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    The Rabbi Diamond Member

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    Yet another fringe wing nut party whining that people don't get it.
     
  8. Dont Taz Me Bro
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    Dont Taz Me Bro USMB Mod Staff Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    The issue is that in states like North Carolina the ballot access requirements for parties other than the Republicans and the Democrats are exponentially more difficult to achieve and darn near impossible. The Libertarian Party managed to get itself back on the ballot in 2008, but they had to spend more than $100k to do so. It's a grossly unfair system designed to protect the two party duopoly.
     
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  9. Madeline
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    The Rabbi, ain't you a flaming Libertarian? Or was that just a flaming asshole?
     
  10. The Rabbi
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    The Rabbi Diamond Member

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    I'm not a flaming anything, you stupid bitch.
     

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