Vote for independence: Sign the Semans petition
The two-party system favored by our laws and court system is the subject of much debate in academic circles but hardly garners the attention of the general public.
Ballot access for candidates affiliated with the Democratic or Republican parties is a piece of cake. The parties are automatically on the ballot in each of the 50 states.
Running for local offices, such as Dare County commissioner, is relatively simple if you declare yourself a candidate for either of the two major parties. You pay a fee and file some forms.
If you are lucky, no one will oppose you in your own party and you will find yourself on the ballot in the general election. If you are facing opposition from within your party, you must first win a primary election.
Third parties have a much harder time. The only parties with national organizations, the Libertarians and the Greens, seldom gain automatic ballot status in every state and must mount expensive petition drives to gain access.
Even if they succeed, their candidates are seldom invited to debates at the national, state or local level.
Independent candidates face an even larger hurdle since they lack even the rudimentary party organizational structure of the Libertarians and Greens.
Sandy Semans, the editor of the Outer Banks Sentinel, is trying to become a candidate for the District 1 seat on the Dare County Board of Commissioners.
That seat is currently held by Republican Richard Johnson. Democrat Alfred Jackson is also running.
But Semans must gather 1,085 signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot.
At last count, 27,124 voters were registered in the county. Of those, independents (known as unaffiliated in North Carolina) comprise the second largest group of voters, with 8,815 registered — almost 800 more than the number of registered Republicans.
As a teacher of political science, I have heard, and to some extent understand, the rationale for limiting ballot access. No one wants to run through a list of 20 candidates.
And there is real fear among many academic types that a three- or four-party system would lead to unwieldy coalitions or elected officials garnering less than 50 percent of the vote — which would mirror the stability problems evident in other democracies with more than two major parties.
On the other hand, why should our choices be limited to just two candidates who may not even have to exert any real effort to appear on a general election ballot?
Doesn’t our ballot access requirements make it difficult for the second largest group of voters — independents — to find a like-minded, unaffiliated candidate to represent their interests?
It seems to me that in a democracy, we should encourage more competition in elections. More to the point, signing a petition is in no way a statement that you intend to vote for the candidate.
Instead, in my opinion, it is a statement that you support a viable democratic system of government. And if you are truly tired of the two-party gridlock in this country, an independent choice should be welcome.
You can find a petition for Seamans at this web site.
Remember these rules: The signer must be a registered Dare County voter, the address listed must be the voter’s physical street address (no P.O. boxes), it must be signed and all information must be legible.
The deadline for petitions is June 29 at noon. You can mail them to: Sandy Semans Ross, 133 Bayview Dr., Stumpy Point, NC 27978. Make sure they arrive on or before June 27 to be sure they are in time for the deadline.
See what people are saying:
Join the discussion: