Independents Plan To Scale a Mountain on Path to White House

Whether they live in a red state or a blue state, most Americans are eager for change. According to a recent Gallup poll, both legacy parties are disliked by a majority of Americans. In such an environment, it is not surprising that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has decided to run as an independent candidate.

While Kennedy is receiving strong support throughout the country, the road to Washington remains fraught with unnecessary obstacles for independent candidates. In order to get your name on the ballot in all 50 states, an independent candidate must contend with 50 sets of ballot access regulations. Because ballot access is regulated by individual state legislatures, the two legacy parties are uniquely placed to work against the interests of independent candidates.

Democrats and Republicans naturally benefit from making ballot access difficult for their opponents and therefore try to build walls between independent candidates and the ballot. While Democrats and Republicans engage in theatrical primary debates, independent candidates are forced to wage expensive fights for political survival before being granted a meaningful opportunity to put their policies before the electorate.

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Ballot Access News provides a chart detailing different state requirements for independent candidates, who have to gather signatures from registered voters in order to get on the ballot in each state. California and Texas require the largest number of signatures at 219,403 and 145,040, respectively. California offers a narrow window during which to collect signatures, with collections to start no earlier than April 26, while all signatures must be submitted by Aug. 9. New York’s window for signature collection is even narrower, with a start date of April 16 and a May 28 submission date.

While enthusiasm for outsider candidates is a plentiful commodity, their campaigns typically have to bear surprisingly high costs in order to secure ballot access. In his 1992 independent presidential campaign, Ross Perot spent $200,000 to collect 80,000 signatures in New York state according to his supporters at the time, as reported by the Washington Post. Adjusted for inflation, this figure is $438,590.

Research conducted by American Values 2024, the Super PAC supporting Kennedy’s run, estimates that the cost in 2024 will be upwards of $13 million, offset only by a significant volunteer effort. Sixty percent of the number of signatures and costs comes from the five most challenging states which include California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, and Texas. This is an unprecedented effort but an exciting challenge.

The cost of signature gathering and verification in California and Texas is estimated at $2 million in each state. Estimated costs in Arizona are $500,000, while North Carolina is expected to cost the Kennedy campaign $250,000.

Adding to the burden on independent candidates running against legacy parties, Democrats and Republicans will likely exercise their right to challenge the validity of signatures gathered by Kennedy’s team, looking for incorrect addresses and unregistered voters. As a result, the Kennedy campaign, and any other candidates running as independents, will need to collect a significantly greater number of signatures than that required by law in order to preempt these challenges.

Writing in “Reform the Kakistocracy,” attorney and Washington veteran William L. Kovacs explains how Republican- and Democratic-controlled state legislatures “keep changing the [ballot access] rules to advantage themselves.” A New York Times report from last month asserted that political allies of President Biden are particularly tenacious in their attempts to block ballot access for independent and third party candidates. Writing in the Kennedy Beacon, Nikos Biggs-Chiropolos explained that “Democratic Party methods of manipulation include filing lawsuits to prevent third-party candidates from appearing on the ballot in elections and changing laws in Democrat-controlled states to reduce candidate eligibility in the first place.”

Even for someone accustomed to a highly polarized political environment, this level of open vindictiveness against independent and third party candidates is shocking. If Democrats in particular cared about strengthening democracy as much as they claim, they would welcome a plurality of opinions rather than use every means at their disposal to prevent these opinions from being presented to voters.

The system should be simplified and, therefore, democratized in a manner that provides a straightforward path to ballot access for independent candidates. True democracy means that there should be no unreasonable barriers to ballot access. A fair and transparent system would make the process of getting a candidate’s name on the ballot as straightforward as registering to vote.

President Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Running as an independent candidate is without question harder than running with the backing of a well-known party. But much like a moonshot, it requires the supreme dedication of men and women who believe that the ballot is the last best hope to shape our world in a manner that is both peaceful and profound.

Adam Garrie is a writer, speaker, and consultant on a wide range of current affairs as well as political risk. He is also the cofounder of HiCyrus, a data-driven tech startup that aims to fully democratize information access. He is based in London, UK. Garrie -Kennedy Beacon

Source: Real Clear Politics

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