Friday, May 30, 2008

Now tyranny is getting somewhere

RALEIGH (AP)- A judge has upheld North Carolina's high standard requiring tens of thousands of signatures to be collected before a group is officially recognized as a political party, ruling there's no fundamental right for the party of a voter's choice to be on the ballot.

The Libertarian Party sued the state in 2005, arguing requirements to get on the ballot and stay on it are too onerous, violating party members' rights to freedom of speech and association. The Green Party of North Carolina later joined the lawsuit.

Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood, who heard the case in a non-jury trial earlier this month in Wake County, ruled late Tuesday that the "state has a compelling interest in requiring a preliminary modicum of support before recognizing a political party and placing its candidates on the ballot."

Hobgood wrote that the state has an interest "in avoiding confusion, deception and even frustration of the democratic process in the general election."

Every four years, the ballot swells with races for president, Council of State, the Legislature and the courts in addition to local races. The more parties on the ballot, Hobgood added, "the greater chance there is for ballots that are so long as to be unwieldy."

This year, under the law, groups had to collect nearly 70,000 voter signatures to receive official party status — one of the highest thresholds in the country, according to the party leaders and candidates who sued.

"We're deeply saddened by this ruling," Barbara Howe, chairwoman of the Libertarian Party of North Carolina, said in a release Wednesday. "Not only did the judge support the state's power to take away our right to choose who represents us, he also upheld the state's assertion that North Carolina voters are not smart enough to fill out a so-called long ballot."

Read the whole article here.

Unwieldly and Catch-22 requirements like the 70,000-signature threshold have long been used to restrict third-party and other less visible candidates from gaining traction. You need a "modicum of support" to participate, but the means to gaining a modicum of support are blocked — no invitations to debate, no ballot access. The tyrants are not usually as bald-faced as Judge Hobgood, of course.

So the state moves another step closer to institutionalized one-party rule, with voters' choices restricted to the two branches of the Big Brother Party. In a perfect world North Carolinians would rise up and impeach Hobgood, but in a perfect world candidates would not have to wedge themselves into the straitjacket of a party organization. In a perfect world we would have dozens, perhaps scores of choices.

Oh hell, in a perfect world these charades wouldn't be necessary as perfectly capable individuals run their own lives in concert with an abiding respect for the lives and the rights of others. But too many people believe their neighbors are too stupid to run their own lives, and too much time and energy has been invested in fanning the flames of that belief.

We have become a world of people afraid to live in freedom, who turn over control of our decisions to less capable individuals who don't respect our lives or our unalienable rights. Hobgood's onerous decision is just another step down that road.

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