Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Monday, April 10, 2006

Access Denied

My understanding of Alabama election laws is very limited. I think access to the ballot depends on whether or not you are a member of a political party. If you are, you get on it. If not, you only get on the ballot if you first collect some ridiculous amount of signatures - an amount equal to three percent of the voters in the last election. Oh, and you only get to be a party if your group received at least twenty percent of the votes in the last election.

So you don't get to be a party without the votes, but you don't get the votes unless you get on the ballot and you don't get on the ballot without the signatures.

The result? You and I only get to vote for state-sanctioned candidates. You may disagree with our libertarian candidate Loretta Nall, but surely everyone should have the right to voice their opinion at the ballot box.

Ballot restrictors will respond that too many candidates makes for a confusing ballot and an inefficient election process. Maybe so, but are Alabamians so dumb that they cannot figure out the ballot? Do we really need that much hand-holding from the state? And - to borrow an overused phrase - should concerns about bureaucratic inefficiency trump the citizen's right to deliver an 'up or down vote' on a candidate?