Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Third parties get the shaft

Third parties, which corral the purists of liberal or conservative persuasions, are a nuisance to the major parties. They drain off the true believers at election time and sometimes change the election. Green Party votes shifted the presidential election to George W. Bush in 2000.

But for voters the occasional splinter parties are not a nuisance but the affirmation of a fundamental right to vote freely for their preference. A democracy owes it to people to guarantee that right within practical limits. The Arkansas Legislature disagrees.
The House of Representatives passed a bill last week to make it nearly impossible for third parties to get on the ballot. If the bill passes and Gov. Beebe signs it, the federal court in 2008 will strike it down, as Judge George E. Howard did the current law last fall. It will mean more legal expenses for taxpayers, but for the two major parties it will be worth the expense if they can curtail competition. Howard ruled that the state had to let a third party on the ballot on reasonable terms. It could not require more petition signatures than were required of independent candidates (10,000) and it had to allow a reasonable time to collect them, which he put at five months. The bill, by Rep. Dan Greenberg, R-Little Rock, would allow two months.

What the legislature needs is not more Republicans or more Democrats, but more democrats, which would mean fewer such antidemocratic laws.