Hat tip to Larry Kurtz!
Just the day before House State Affairs o.k.’ed the petition reform package that makes it harder for candidates to get on the ballot, the Chiesman Center for Democracy said we need to have more elections with full slates of candidates:
We contend that having a full slate of candidates for local public offices would enhance voter turnout by engaging more people in the overall process. This would give voters opportunities to hear how candidates stand on the issues while providing more options at the polling booth. But even more important, is the need for local governmental entities to get the word out about upcoming elections, what the process is to run for office and why these offices are critical to our daily lives.
We agree that the most effective way to make positive changes in our political system is to vote. Beyond just a sense of obligation, we need to instill in all citizens the courage, tenacity and ethical behavior needed to be engaged community members. This can only be accomplished through empowerment, information and education [Rob Timm, “Voter Fatigue, Voter Disgust, and the Lack of Participation in Our Local Democracy,” Chiesman Center for Democracy: Dakota Democracy, 2015.03.05].
The Chiesman post focuses on local offices (less than half of which field enough interested candidates to hold elections), but the logic applies as well to the Legislature. In the 2014 general election, 18 out of 35 State Senate seats went uncontested and 21 out of 35 districts did not field complete slates of candidates. Yet the 2015 Legislature has taken no action to make running for office more appealing or feasible. The Legislature could have pursued petition reform legislation that would increase accountability without making it harder for honest candidates to get on the ballot. Instead, our incumbent legislators are lurching toward an even longer primary season, higher signature requirements, and a more restrictive pool of voters who can sign for Independent candidates.
We need more people running for office. The Legislature appears to want the opposite.