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Jared Alper is the founder of the Common Sense Strategies Group and a political strategist specializing in democracy and government reform. He wrote this for The Fulcrum.
The eyes of the political world were locked when the candidates for governor of Virginia took the stage for a debate on September 28. With the race between Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe tightening, the table was set for a dramatic header. -to-date affair. However, at the end of the debate, the highlight of the show was unexpectedly another candidate for governor: Princess Blanding.
Like his Democratic and Republican opponents, Blanding secured a spot in the November ballot. Under the banner of the Liberation Party she created, she will go down in history as the first black woman to appear on the ballot for state governor. And yet, despite sharing a place on the ballot with Youngkin and McAuliffe, there was no such place for her on stage.
Rather than obediently accepting the debate organizers’ refusal to let her out of the event – instead she was offered a soothing place in the audience in the hope that she would sit quietly and watch her opponents participate – she protested her exclusion, saying she deserved the right to be on the stage, and that explicitly leaving her on the sidelines was a form of censorship and voter suppression. Moderator Chuck Todd responded by calling security, who quickly removed Blanding from the room.
Blanding is right to protest its censorship. Instead of being kicked out of the audience, she should have been on stage in the first place.
Although the discrimination and suppression of voters has become a national problem that has been used by the two main parties to attack and annoy their political bases. In reality, the duopolistic system they created and fought for is designed to disqualify the largest coalition of voters in the country: independent voters and third voters. According to the most recent Gallup poll, 40% of registered voters identify themselves as not belonging to any of the major parties. By creating an electoral system designed to discourage and disadvantage independent candidates, parties have left millions of politically homeless voters without a representative voice.
Parties have been creative in their tactics to exclude independent candidates from the process. Ballot access requirements, such as paid gaming fees or petition signatures, are often considerably higher for independent and third-party candidates, and frequently result in the blocking of general election candidates.
Even when independent candidates do manage to get elected, they are forced to catch up in what is already an uphill battle. In states that hold partisan primaries, winning candidates go through general elections with formidable resources and press exposure already in the bank, while independents must generate that momentum from scratch. Excluding independents from polls and debates is a tactic designed to keep these candidates on the sidelines, out of the sight of voters.
Even public election financing, long championed by reformers as a critical effort to reduce the influence of big money in our elections, discriminates against independent candidates and third parties. In New York, for example, candidates who participate in closed-door primary elections receive public funds for the primary and general elections, while independents who qualify are only eligible for general election grants. guaranteeing they will face a 2-to-1 spending gap.
The institution of non-partisan primary elections, the standardization of the rules of access to ballots and public financing, and the obligation to include all candidates for general elections in public debates are all simple measures that can be taken to end discrimination against candidates who have the audacity to run outside the two parties. , leveling the playing field for all candidates, regardless of their party affiliation.
These crucial reforms must be made to achieve a democracy that is healthier, fairer and more representative of the American people.