Wednesday, March 25, 2009

what are we afraid of?

With these difficult times, South Carolinians are demanding that their General Assembly works in a bi-partisan fashion to address the states problems. There are growing job losses, falling revenues for state programs, and a growing crime problem, especially with gangs.

Well, the South Carolina General Assembly seems ready to work in a bi-partisan fashion after all. While it is not on the issues that are first on the people’s minds, there seems be bipartisan cooperation on making sure that petition candidates have a harder time getting on the General Election ballot.

If that issue is not at the top of your agenda, you are not alone. But, the bill snaking its way through the South Carolina Senate to make it harder for petition candidates to run has widespread support from both parties. It seems the leaders of both political parties want to enjoy their two party monopoly on state government and will have none of this independent candidate nonsense.

The Bill working its way through the State Senate would require petition candidates to file when candidates seeking a party nomination for office do. Further, it would forbid signatures from voters in a party primary from the petition candidate’s petition to be on the ballot.

In other words, if you are a voter in Chesterfield County, where most of the offices are decided in the Democratic Primary, you have a tough choice. Suppose you thought that the independent or petition candidate for Sheriff was best for your county. You would have to give up voting on other local offices to sign the petition for the Sheriff’s candidate you preferred in the General Election if the Senate bill came to fruition.

It is disappointing that someone like Harvey Peeler, a great voice for the people in his district, actually sponsored this kind of legislation. The legislation denies people their freedom to choose their leaders as they see fit. What will be next? Those who voted in a party’s primary will not be allowed to cross party lines in their general election ballots for some offices?

One of the best things about South Carolina is our open primary system and how we allow petition candidates to run. Further, voters should not be punished for voting in a party primary. If the voters can vote for whomever in the general election, they should be allowed to sign up on a petition candidate’s petition for the General Election.

It is hard enough to get people to care enough to vote in primaries or the General Election without adding one more rule about what the voters can not do. While it is clear that the two dominant parties in South Carolina think that this law will shore up their status, both parties are missing a greater opportunity. Suppose a Republican leaning candidate lives in an area where running as a Republican can not win. So, he runs as a petition candidate. His independence might give Republicans another voice in Columbia. The same is true of the Democrats.

There are those who worry about how petition candidates make parties spend money they otherwise would not. Those parties will find no sympathy here. If either party is afraid of facing some independent that has the signatures of the people behind him, well, that is telling. No party, especially the Republican Party, should fear such.

After all, we live in a free society. We Republicans should be eager to allow for the debate of our ideals against others, and not act as cowards to make sure there is less debate. Our ideals are best for the people, so why act like we fear the petition candidates? Why not let them run and beat them with our ideas?

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