“We can’t let just anyone on the ballot, otherwise it would be cluttered with too many choices and lead to voter confusion,” is often said by those who advocate for laws that burden minor party and independent candidates. However, in many cases anyone wishing to run for office as a Republican or Democrat can obtain a spot on the ballot with a minimal filing fee or turning in a very small number of petitions. Many advocates for controlling who gets on the ballot will say, “but they still have to win their primary.” Which in a lot of cases is simply a formality.
In New Hampshire where candidate filing for both the party primaries and general election closed last week, despite only requiring a filing fee of $2 to run as a major party candidate for State Representative, there was a dearth of candidates with 21 seats not having any candidates at all. In total, less than 8% of Republicans and less than 6% of Democrats for State Representative in New Hampshire will face opposition in their primary. In the general election, a staggering 58% of candidates for State Representative will not face any major party opposition. Of course, this does not take into consideration so-called safe districts with only token opposition from a major party opponent.
However, the lack of competition in the New Hampshire legislative election seems to be the norm, not the exception. According to Ballotpedia, approximately 83% of incumbents are running for re-election and “only 21.4% of [incumbents] will face a primary challenger.” Adding, “[t]here is only one major party candidate in” 41.5% of the seats up for grabs this year.
With so little opposition to those in office, it’s no wonder so many people get re-elected. Yet, people still wonder why nothing ever changes. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” However it’s not always easy, especially when those who are in the legislature get to set the rules for who can seek to be in the legislature. And it’s not always easy to ask people to allow you to compete against them. But as with all things, persistence is key.
In many states legislation must be filed before the beginning of the legislative session, which means now is actually the best time to talk to your supposed representatives about issues of import such as ballot access reform and repealing laws creating victimless crimes. And when the legislative session begins, phone calls and letters are nice but it’s equally important, if not more so, that people actually show up to the legislative committee hearings. If you’re unable to get on the ballot or get elected, you can still be a voice for liberty in your statehouse by showing up and speaking truth to power. If you’re unable to attend the legislative hearings yourself but have some extra money laying around, you can contribute to Liberty Lobby LLC, a new lobbying firm based in Keene, NH that is lobbying for minimal government and maximum freedom.