1142 Bullies Minor Parties
by Douglas "Dayhorse" Campbell
[Campell delivered these notes February 6 at a legislative hearing concerning bill 1142. Campbell serves as chair of the American Constitution Party of Colorado, and he ran for Senate in 2002.]
The right to associate implies the right not to associate. If one does not like the candidate selection process in his own party, he can leave and form a new party. The question that has to be answered is: "What's the beef?" What problem exists that this bill is trying to solve? Is there something egregiously amiss with the existing statutes, which were the result of sincere negotiations with your legislative predecessors, which everyone agreed at the time resulted in fair and equitable procedures?
Have the minor parties expressed having a problem with the candidate selection process?
Is there a major uproar on the part of the voting public over the way the minor parties select candidates?
If not, and there is not, then what does this bill attempt to achieve?
The purpose of this bill is simple: to make it harder for the minor parties to put their candidates on the ballot, because the major parties can't stand the notion that there is competition for "their" votes.
Well, let me give you a few big news flashes.
The reason your path to the general election is harder than ours is simple -- your parties are exponentially bigger. You have many more people who want to compete with each other for the privilege of holding office. You need a large and bulky process to sift through all the chaff and get to the wheat. If your process is too difficult, you have the power in your hands to make it easier. In fact, someone (and it was not the minor parties trying to force their will on you), attempted to make your process easier at this last election and you all screamed like stuck elephants and donkeys.
We have no such problem. We have no need for primaries, because we rarely, if ever, have more than one person seeking the nomination for a given office. And if there were, we have methods built into our bylaws to handle such circumstances internally. By the way, I don't see why the taxpayers should foot the bill for a private election for the purpose of choosing your candidates. Over half of the voting age population of Colorado is neither Republican nor Democrat. If your parties want to use primary elections for their internal processes, your parties should pay for them.
The minor parties are, like your parties, private, 1st Amendment political associations. We have the right to choose our candidates however we deem proper. We are required to have such a method specified in our bylaws. But the government does not have the right to impose a certain method upon us. If we choose candidates to represent our views by drawing straws or rolling dice, what compelling state interest is there in negating our process? There is none.
If the problem is that votes are "stolen" from your two parties by minor party candidates, then perhaps your positions, platforms, and campaign efforts are not convincing enough to hold the votes you think you deserve, and therefore it is your own fault and not ours that you lose votes to us. Besides, those votes are not yours -- they belong to the people. And the people have every right to cast them for whichever candidate they think will best serve their needs.
Without considering crossover voting, there are just as many votes attracted from the Democrats by the Greens and Natural Law parties as there are from the Republicans by the Libertarians and the Constitutionists. And the Reform Party probably attracts from both. If this is the beef, is the solution to take away the choices of the voters? Why not enhance their choices by establishing Instant Runoff Voting for Colorado? This would allow voters to rank-order their votes so they could vote for minor party candidates knowing that their vote would be shifted to another candidate if their first choice did not garner enough support. It would also assure that the final choice was a majority winner.
Or is it that the sponsors of this bill are suddenly surprised to find that there are candidates on the ballot other than those of the major parties? Well, were they not aware that there are minor parties? If so, perhaps they don't know enough about the political arena to be a candidate. Furthermore, the minor parties are currently required to file their candidate choices a full month ahead of the primaries. It is us, the minor parties, who do not know who our opponents will be until the primaries are over. To move our deadline dates forward on the calendar would be an enormous burden, and would require us to choose candidates in the year preceding the election, before the issues had even come over the horizon.
The only "fairness" provision in this bill was the opening up of the ballot line placements, which has now been removed. This is small compensation for the imposition of procedures upon us for which we have neither the personnel nor the resources to meet. My party at the moment has approximately 250 members. If we were required to have caucuses, assemblies, conventions, and the like, there would be many attended by 5 or 2 or even none. But our members have every right to field and support the candidates they like, even if those candidates aren't yours.
In the final analysis, this bill is a solution in search of a problem. It would place a fiscal "unfunded mandate" burden on the counties for no good reason. It would place a compliance burden on the minor parties for no good reason. And it would probably result in the elimination of voter choice at the ballot box. Do you really want to become the schoolyard bullies telling the little guys they can't play on your playground any more?
PI this bill.