The Politics of Ballot Positioning

As I've noted before, even modestly strong campaigns by independent and third party candidates have a disproportionate effect on political discourse and policy debates. In New Jersey, Chris Daggett's campaign for governor is leading to more calls for ballot reform in the Garden State. The Star-Ledger, which has endorsed Daggett for governor, discusses the politics of ballot positioning:
Finding the incumbent, Jon Corzine, is easy. He’s right there, under the column with the capital letters that read, "DEMOCRATIC." He couldn’t have a better ballot position if he’d bought it. Locating Chris Christie is a snap, too. His name is under the "REPUBLICAN" column. They’re a cinch to find because, in New Jersey, the Democrats and Republicans are in the first two columns. Always.

Meanwhile, Daggett, who is pulling about 20 percent in the latest polls, is swimming among the ballot flotsam and jetsom, all of them under the confusing heading, "NOMINATION BY PETITION." To find him, voters must wade through candidates of the Fair Election Party, or the Socialist Party, or — no kidding — the They All Laughed party.

It’s fitting, because, when it comes to ballot position, the two major parties are laughing at the independents. The Legislature, controlled by the Democrats and Republicans, has refused to reform a system that guarantees the best positions to the two major parties, thanks to century-old laws tilted against independents, who are treated like second-class candidates . . .

"The whole system is so insidiously set up against anybody but the two parties," Daggett said. "In my mind, it’s just corrupt."

Daggett’s candidacy shows it’s time for ballot reform in New Jersey, time to level the playing field for legitimate independent candidates. Because after battling for money, name recognition and legitimacy, there’s still one more hurdle for them on Election Day: The ballot.


Lee Lawless said...

It's filthy-corrupt. Bloomberg's about to buy himself another term in NYC.

Samuel Wilson said...

Ballots should not be popularity polls themselves. Voters should not assume that Rows A and B identify the only serious candidates. Any alternative system, whether it means assigning lines alphabetically by party name or assigning them randomly or doing away with party-line ballots altogether, would probably be preferable to what we have now.

d.eris said...

Lee, it certainly seems that way. But maybe his ridiculously large outlays of money are really just ways of paying back friends in the media. btw: did you catch the heckling he got from the Green Party and Socialist candidates?

Sam, agreed. I would even be satisfied with NT biblical justice: the first shall be last and the last shall be first.