US rulers step up attack on right to be on ballot

By Brian Williams
March 29, 2021

The capitalist rulers and their Democratic and Republican parties have been stepping up attacks on ballot access for the Socialist Workers Party, and other independent political candidates. This effort is bipartisan, as millions of workers and farmers, facing worsening working and living conditions and seeing no serious answers coming from the two parties of the bosses, are looking for new political answers.

State legislators, backed by court rulings, have been imposing increasingly onerous ballot requirements — upping the number of signatures that must be gathered on petitions and pushing deadlines for meeting filing requirements further and further away from scheduled elections, sometimes into the year before.

The Democrats fear that the SWP — which calls for workers to build their own party, a labor party, based on their unions — would get more media and attention from working people if it is on the ballot. And they fear losing votes to third pro-capitalist parties like the Green Party, which could cost them close elections. The Republicans don’t want to see parties like the Libertarian and Independence parties siphoning off votes that could cost them an election.

The capitalist rulers in the U.S. have governed for decades through their two-party shell game, telling working people that if you don’t like one of their parties, just go for the other one.

In New York state, a new law in 2020 promoted by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo boosted to 45,000 the number of petition signatures required when third parties try to run for statewide office, three times the already high 15,000 set before.

The law also increased the number of votes a third party had to get to retain party ballot status in the next election, from 50,000 to 130,000. This meant the Libertarian, Green, Independence and Serve America Movement parties have been removed from the ballot in the future. Now they’ll have to petition for every single office they want to run for going forward.

When these parties challenged the new restrictions, a federal appeals court refused to hear their case, saying removing them from the ballot would improve the chances that the winner of the election will have received a majority of the vote!

Ballot requirements raised

In Iowa, the state Senate passed a bill Feb. 23 that would increase petitioning requirements from 1,500 to 3,500 signatures for independent candidates and minority parties running for president, U.S. Senate or governor. It also imposes a new distribution requirement of getting at least 100 signatures in each of Iowa’s 19 counties. The state’s House of Representatives is now considering the bill.

In Arkansas, the House unanimously passed a bill Feb. 4 to increase petition signatures from 1,000 to 5,000 for independents or other parties running for president.

The U.S. Supreme Court Feb. 22 refused to hear a challenge to the decision by North Carolina officials that petitions for independent presidential candidates must be submitted by the first week of March — eight months before the general election. Their decision means that similar deadlines could also be set in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, and even earlier in South Carolina — in February.

Not to be outdone, the Montana legislature has begun discussing pushing back the deadline for a new party to file petitions there to December of the year before the election.

In Arizona, the State Supreme Court removed independent presidential candidate Kanye West from the ballot last year, saying it would explain why later. “He was apparently removed from the ballot because his elector candidates didn’t file campaign finance documents,” wrote Richard Winger, publisher of Ballot Access News, not because of any problem with his petitions. “Never before had the state required electors to file such documents.”

In Alabama, the state charged the Libertarian Party $36,000 to get a copy of the list of registered voters, while “ballot-qualified parties” — the Democrats and Republicans — got the list for free.

Doesn’t there seem to be a trend here?