By Lou Jasikoff
“Elections shall be free and equal,” so directs Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution of the Republic of Pennsylvania, but current Pennsylvania election laws are anything but free and equal and that is exactly what Senate Bill 21, also known as the Voters’ Choice Act, or VCA introduced by State Senator Mike Folmer of Lancaster in the state’s previous legislative session was intended to remedy. Senator Folmer is to reintroduce the measure in the current session.
The VCA has naturally garnered the support of independents, third parties, and constitutionally-minded citizens and voters. The Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition has supported a resolution reading:
Whereas, the current ballot access laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania impose an undue and unequal burden on all political parties seeking to offer an alternative choice to the established Democrat and Republican Parties; and,
Whereas, the current ballot access laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as applied to independent candidates of political bodies and minor political parties are in violation of the mandate of the Pennsylvania Constitution, that “Elections … be free and equal” and deny the voters of the Commonwealth a “free and equal” choice of political parties and candidates on the ballot.
Ballot access disparities would seem simple enough to correct, especially given that each and every one of our legislators takes an oath to defend and uphold the Commonwealth’s Constitution.
The Gazette has contacted our local state representatives and hopes to conduct interviews with each one of them throughout February to determine where they stand on this important issue. Mere lip service in support of “free and equal” elections is not the prime objective. Rather, the Gazette will be pressing representatives to take a visible stand by co-sponsoring such legislation and encouraging General Assembly leadership to bring it to a floor vote this year.
Face-to-face meetings with the following representatives have been requested: Senators Lisa Baker, John Blake and John Yudichak along with State representatives Karen Boback, Mike Carroll, Sid Michaels Kavulich, Frank Farina, Marty Flynn, Kevin Haggerty, Sandra Major, Gerald Mullery, Phyllis Mundy, Eddie Day Pashinski, and Tarah Toohil.
Under the present system candidates other than Republicans or Democrats seeking statewide offices in the next election cycle would need to collect and submit more than 60,000 signatures in contrast to the 2,000 required for Republican and Democrat candidates to attain inclusion on the ballot. Consider also a closed primary system in which independents, unaffiliated voters and third-party voters are not allowed to participate and yet are forced to pay for these major — or, legacy — parties to select their General Election candidates, and it all adds up to an election process that is anything but “free and equal.”
Nothing changes until we return competition to politics. If we truly desire good government, we must reduce the influence politicians exert over us. Remember, the bigger government becomes the more favors that it can grant. When it is less expensive for corporations to legislate their competition out of business than to build the better mousetrap, we all suffer — individually and as a nation. The answer for better government is the same one frequently touted for private sector improvement: Competition! Competition! Competition!