I’ve been following the Alaska senate race with a lot of interest. The incumbent, Lisa Murkowski, was edged out in the primary by a Tea Party candidate endorsed by Sara Palin. She conceded the election, but decided to run as a write in candidate. As of today it looks like she just might win the election.
At this point they’re arguing over which votes count. Alaska requires that the write in candidates’ name be spelled correctly. Works for me, except that both major parties went to court to block any list of write in candidates being posted at the polls and to forbid poll workers to help voters with their write in ballots. My source for this is the on line version of the Anchorage Daily News. Both parties, not just disgruntled Republicans who view Murkowski as a spoiler. Some states (example; Texas) block candidates who lose in the primary from running as write ins. Alaska doesn’t.
Let’s shift our perspective a bit. Look at the Republicans and the Democrats as brands like say, GM or Ford. The brand provides a commodity; votes and access on the local, state and federal level instead of pickups and SUV’s. It is in the interest of the major parties to provide fairly reliable results in return for the money donated to their war chests. From the point of view of the donors the parties provide a source of votes and access with as few surprises as possible. Democracy is great in theory. Not so great in practice from the point of view of parties or their donors.
It is also in the interests of the parties and the donors to restrict the competition; in other words the fewer brands (parties) competing for donor money the better. I don’t know how other states handle party access to the ballot. In Oregon a new party has to gather enough signatures to get their candidates on the ballot and then maintain a certain percentage of the ballots cast to maintain that access. A few years ago the legislature passed a (short lived) measure that counted those petition signatures as votes. If you signed a petition to get Joe Blow on the ballot and he didn’t make it you couldn’t vote for another candidate from a different party who did make it on the ballot.
Uncontrolled, unbranded candidates? A successful write in campaign at the federal level could be a nightmare come true for both parties.