Do we really have free elections?
Our laws say that any citizen 18 years or more can vote, but shockingly large numbers of people do not register to vote, and of those who are registered, a large percentage do not bother to vote. In fact, the United States ranks 114th in voter turnout in all elections from 1945-1998, compared with other democracies.
Why don't people vote?
One major reason is that many voters feel that they don't have a real choice. They feel that between the two major political parties and their candidates there generally is not too much difference.
Many Americans want an alternative. But -- and here is the hitch -- independents and alternative parties find the cards stacked against them. A maze of laws and regulations, varying from state to state, is like a barbed-wire fence around the polls.
Most Americans don't know these facts about the electoral process:
Besides these huge signature requirements, there are many obstacles to voter registration, particularly evident against Blacks and Hispanics. All of these are barriers to ballot access. They consume the limited resources of alternative parties and independents and leave them with little with which to carry on effective communication with the voting public.
When independents and minor parties do manage to get on the ballot, the major media studiously ignores them. There are no "Meet the Press" or "Face the Nation" network shows for these candidates.
Few alternative parties have access to the massive funds, private or public, to enable them to buy time in the electronic media or space in print publications to state their case to the voters. Thus, they may get on the ballot in some states, but they can't get a broad hearing to advance their views.
An egregious example
Georgia has had fewer presidential candidates on the ballot in the last 30 years than any other state. Georgia's state definition of "political party" is a group that receives 20% of the vote for president in the entire USA, or 20% for Governor of Georgia. No party other than the Democrats and Republicans has met that definition in Georgia since 1912 (when the Progressive "Bull Moose" Party got 27% for president in the entire USA). Even when the American Party carried Georgia in the electoral college in 1968, that still didn't qualify the American Party, since even though it got over 50% in Georgia, it "only" got 13% in the entire USA. And no third party candidate for Governor of Georgia has polled 20% since 1898.
How does it all add up?
In short, it means that you and you and you don't have a real voice in electing the people who govern us.
It means that the two major parties, heavily financed by the powers that be, dominate our government.
It means that they can decide on war or peace, taxes, labor-management relations, race relations, abortion -- and a host of other issues which affect our lives. Except on the extraordinary occasion when there is an irresistible public movement, they can -- and do -- decide these questions in favor of the powers that be.
"Independents and alternative parties find the cards stacked against them"
"Full and fair access to the electoral process is a right central to democracy"
Coalition for Free and Open Elections
Full and fair access to the electoral process is a right central to democracy