The ballot-access protection racket – Orange County Register

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., is experiencing the arcane world of ballot access. That’s because he is running for president as an Independent rather than as a Democrat. If he had remained in the Democratic Party and won the party’s nomination, he would have automatically been on the ballot in November. As an Independent candidate, he must now gather many thousands of signatures in order to get on the ballot in all 50 states.

As Kennedy is now discovering, securing ballot access is no easy task. Each state has different rules with respect to the number of signatures required, the time allowed for securing such signatures, and other prerequisites for securing ballot access. If one fails to comply with all these regulations, the two major parties have legal teams ready to file lawsuits challenging a candidate’s petitions.

This arcane world of ballot access also applies to Third Party candidates, such as the Libertarian Party, the third-largest political party in America. While the Libertarian Party has garnered automatic ballot access in a number of states owing to large vote totals in previous elections, it still has to go through the same hoops that Kennedy must go through to get onto the presidential ballot in many states.

In fact, ballot access was the reason that Kennedy was, until recently, flirting with the possibility of seeking the Libertarian Party presidential nomination. Even though his progressive philosophy is not libertarian, Kennedy was nonetheless considering seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination as a short cut to ballot access in a large number of states.

When independent or Third Party candidates meet the ballot-access threshold, sometimes states increase the threshold for the next election to make it more difficult to get onto the ballot. The state of New York used to require 15,000 signatures in the presidential race. In 2020, the state increased that amount to 45,000 but kept the allowable time to gather signatures to only six weeks.

Collecting signatures on a petition is not as easy as it seems. The first obstacle is finding places where it’s possible to collect large number of signatures. Many private businesses don’t want petitioners to be interfering with their customers, and many people don’t like being approached to sign something that they know nothing about. Moreover, as one who has collected thousands of signatures, I can attest that there is a special skill involved in asking people to sign a petition. Thus, a nationwide professional signature-gathering industry has arisen in which the professional petitioners charge on a per-signature basis.

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