Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Election Scandal You Haven't Heard About

Election scandals are getting lots of press these days. The bogus ACORN voter registration "scandal" has gotten way too much publicity, but it seems to be meeting with widespread debunking. The very real scandal of the GOP voter suppression efforts is being tackled on the liberal and progressive blogs, by the media, and even by videos from Robert Greenwald.

The un-noticed scandal of American politics is that many state legislative seats have no general election competition.

Here are some details from the Ballot Access News

1. Massachusetts

"There is a contest between a Republican and a Democrat in only 29 of those races. This is because of the massive weakness of the Republican Party, which has nominees in only 37 districts." Not much help from minor parties. The Veterans Party is fielding one candidate for State Senate. The Working Families Party is ballot qualified, but is running no candidates and apparently will lose its ballot status.

2. Illinois

Illinois holds a regular election this November in 39 State Senate districts. In 20 of them, there is only one candidate on the ballot. No independent candidate, and no candidate of an unqualified party, is on the ballot for any State Senate race in Illinois this year. Illinois requires a petition signed by 5% of the last vote cast, for such candidates.

Republicans failed to run anyone in 13 of the 39 districts, and Democrats failed to run anyone in 7 of them.

For the 118 State House of Representatives races, there is only one candidate in 52% of the races, and if the Green Party weren’t on the ballot and running 13 State House candidates, the percentage would be 56% of the races with only one candidate on the ballot. Republicans aren’t running anyone in 46 races, and Democrats aren’t running anyone in 20 races. As with the State Senate, the 5% petition requirement kept all independent candidates, and all nominees of unqualified parties, off the ballot.

3. Over 78% of Georgia State House Races Have Only One Candidate on the Ballot

Georgia elects all 180 members of its State House in every election year. This year, of the 180 races, there is only one candidate on the ballot in 141 of the races.

There are no minor party candidates on the ballot for Georgia legislature this year, but there are two independent candidates for State House. Georgia requires a petition signed by 5% of the number of registered voters, to place a minor party or independent candidate on the ballot for district office.

Republicans failed to run anyone in 61 of the State House races, and Democrats failed to run anyone in 82 of the State House races. In the case of the two independents who managed to get on the ballot, they are each the only opposition to an incumbent.
4. Arkansas: All But One State Senate Districts Have Only One Candidate on the Ballot

Arkansas holds State Senate elections next month in 18 districts. In 17 of those districts, only one person is on the ballot. Only the 30th district has a contest, which is between a Democrat and a Republican. Although the Green Party is ballot-qualified, it didn’t run any candidates for the State Senate.

Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News, compiles a listing for all 50 states after every election. It would be worth taking a look at that list when it is available.

Kansas doesn't come off too bad in comparison to these four states. Back after the filing deadline, I noted that

4 of 40 Senate seats and 44 of 125 House seats will be uncontested.
Still, when there is no contest in one-third of House seats that is a democracy deficit.

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