Well, by now you've heard that Bob Barr was won the Libertarian Nomination for President....but who might Mr. Barr be, exactly?
Of course, he's got a campaign website
, so I'll spare you the tedium of excessive cut and pastes today. However, his bio might be worth checking out, and of course we'll go back and look at his platform and positions from time to time...to compare and contrast with the 'big boys'.
Bob Barr represented the 7th District of Georgia in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003, serving as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, as Vice-Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, and as a member of the Committee on Financial Services. He now runs a consulting firm, Liberty Strategies LLC, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia and with offices in the Washington, D.C. area.
Bob Barr chose to join the Libertarian Party because at this time in our nation’s history, it is essential to join and work with a party that is 100 percent committed to protecting liberty.
Bob Barr has served as Regional Representative of the Libertarian National Committee.
Bob Barr works tirelessly to help preserve our fundamental right to privacy and our other civil liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Along with this, Bob is committed to helping elect leaders who will strive for smaller government, lower taxes and abundant individual freedom.
Bob Barr also occupies the 21st Century Liberties Chair for Freedom and Privacy at the American Conservative Union, and is a Board Member of the National Rifle Association. Bob Barr is also a member of The Constitution Project’s Initiative on Liberty and Security, and he served from 2003 to 2005 as a member of a project at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University addressing matters of privacy and security. In fact, recognizing Bob Barr’s leadership in privacy matters, New York Times columnist William Safire has called him “Mr. Privacy.”
Bob Barr was appointed by President Reagan to serve as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia (1986-90), and served as President of Southeastern Legal Foundation (1990-91). He was an official with the CIA (1971-78), and has practiced law for many years.
The biggest challenge facing any third-party candidate is not publicity, or funding, or name-recognition, but ballot access. Googling "ballot access" brings up a whole host of sites detailing the past, present, and future of access for third parties, and indeed ordinary Americans. In fact...without free ballot access, the Republican party may have never been able to exist, as free and fair access was key to their early growth in the 1850s. Beginning around 1930, the parties in control began to pass ever more restrictive laws, as detailed in a paper written by Richard Winger
back about 1994...
Vigorous third parties existed in the last [19th] century because the election laws did not discriminate against them. People were free to form new parties, and the government treated all parties, new and old, equally. In 1854, the newly founded Republican Party won more Governor's seats, and sent more Representatives to the House, than did any other party. It was able to do so because there were no ballot-access laws until 1888. Indeed, there were no printed ballots before that year; people simply prepared their own ballots and were free to vote for the qualified candidate of their choice. When the government began to print ballots in 1888, it acknowledged this freedom of an unrestricted vote and invariably left a write-in space on the ballots.
Furthermore, in the 19th century, there was no such thing as public financing of the two major parties, which began for Presidential elections in 1974. Today, the Democrats and Republicans have their campaigns for President financed by the taxpayers. Under the 1974 law, no third party has ever received general-election public funding, although a handful of third-party Presidential candidates have received some primary season funds.
We no longer have vigorous and active third parties because Democratic and Republican state legislatures passed restrictive laws that make it exceedingly difficult for third parties to get on the ballot in many states. These laws usually require third parties to gather signatures for a petition to be on the state ballot, and they often place strict deadlines for gathering such signatures.
These restrictions did not emerge overnight. From 1888 to 1931, ballot-access laws were rather mild. In 1924, only 50,000 signatures on a petition were required to place a new party on the ballot in 48 states (a figure that represents 0.15% of the number of people who had voted in the previous election). During the 1930s, ballot-access laws became significantly restrictive, as they required new parties to gather more signatures and file for application earlier and earlier in the campaign year. Still, it was not until the 1960s that compliance with ballot-access laws became extremely difficult.
In 1994, a new party that wants to field a candidate in every race for the U.S. House of Representatives and have the party name appear on the ballot next to the candidate's name would need to register 1,593,763 members or gather an equal number of signatures. Yet the Democratic and Republican parties need not collect any signatures to assure themselves of a place on the ballot, and the number of signatures needed for individual Democratic candidates to place themselves on primary ballots in all 435 contests is 138,996 (the number would be slightly different for Republicans).
There's a chart out there at wikipedia
showing the ballot access for all 50 states. Of course, the Democrats and the Republicans are in all 50, but there are some curious gaps in the primary state lists.
But wait...there's more! The coalition for free and open elections
has some interesting information on their minimalist website. It's actually curious that Bob Barr (formerly R-GA) is now the Libertarian candidate and will have to face ballot-access problems. As a congressman from Georgia, he may have been part of the problem.
Georgia has had fewer presidential candidates on the ballot in the last 30 years than any other state. Georgia's state definition of "political party" is a group that receives 20% of the vote for president in the entire USA, or 20% for Governor of Georgia. No party other than the Democrats and Republicans has met that definition in Georgia since 1912 (when the Progressive "Bull Moose" Party got 27% for president in the entire USA). Even when the American Party carried Georgia in the electoral college in 1968, that still didn't qualify the American Party, since even though it got over 50% in Georgia, it "only" got 13% in the entire USA. And no third party candidate for Governor of Georgia has polled 20% since 1898.
So...if you're voting for the mainstream candidates, you can be smug and sit back and not worry that the person you like is going to be on the ballot. But if you're thinking about a less-popular or alternate selection.....well, now you know how Florida and Michigan democrats feel.