In most areas of Texas, it seems any candidate whose name is followed by an “R” is the default choice on most people’s ballots.
No matter how you feel about that, the Republican Party has a strong hold on the politics of the state, with Democrats trailing in the distance. But even further behind that are the Green and Libertarian parties. These groups aren’t just struggling to get into office though — they are having a tough time getting on the ballot.
House Bill 2504, which takes effect in September, changes the necessary steps for candidates and parties to be included on Texas ballots. It lowers the threshold for a party to have its candidates featured from receiving 5 percent of the vote in a statewide race during the previous election cycle to only 2 percent. The other option is for a party to gather 80,000 voter signatures over 75 days, something the Libertarian Party takes issue with, according to the Texas Tribune.
By adopting HB 2504, lawmakers in power are flexing their ability to push smaller parties around, setting up unnecessary obstacles that are undemocratic and hurt voters’ ability to make up their own minds about who they would like to elect.
While gathering signatures might sound like something easy to accomplish, it’s a costly endeavor that requires a dedicated network of volunteers and staff. That happens to be something Republicans and Democrats already have, but growing parties would need deep pockets to get off the ground.
Among the plaintiffs who sued the Texas government this month over the new bill, it was suggested the state update its rules on signatures to something more in line with what Arizona has in place, according to the Texas Tribune. That would mean opening up the process to online signatures, rather than strictly physical signatures that require going from house to house.
Of course, there were fingers pointed that all of this was some conspiracy to remove votes from one party or another in upcoming elections, but what all this really amounts to is moving the chess pieces around the board, forcing your opponent to play by the rules you make up.
It’s a shame to see this practice continue, as the Legislature uses people’s votes like collectible cards to be traded among its representatives.
If someone wishes to vote for a Libertarian, there’s no reason they should be restricted from seeing that candidate’s name on their voting machine simply because they couldn’t get enough attention within 75 days.
This practice contributes to voters continuing to get lame-duck representatives in local and state elections. While the Republican or Democrat can make the ballot by almost default, no matter how deserving of the role they are, an idealistic politician wishing to distance themselves from the bickering of the two major parties would have those desires held against them.
Representatives need to remember that what makes America so special is the people have a voice. By stifling that, they only create complacency or, worse, resentment.