The Indianapolis Star on Sunday published an editorial about how unfriendly to voters and the voting process the state is. We make it harder than most states for third-party candidates to get on the ballot. And we have a very narrow window for voting -- our 6 p.m. closing time for polls, for example, is one of the earliest in the nation. I agree with the editorial that some changes are needed -- voting should be a lot more convenient, and we should have more choices. But I think the Star's editors are a little optimistic about the effects of the changes:
A reasonable chance that races will be competitive, rather than dominated by incumbents, would encourage more voter participation as well as better-qualified candidates to enter politics. And more convenient voting sites and longer hours on Election Day would help more citizens exercise their most fundamental of democratic rights.
People will go out to the polls when there's an issue they think will affect them or when there's a race that's been interesting enough to highly publicize. Otherwise, they'll stay home in droves, as always. We've generally lost the connection between the politics of what happens on election day and the governance we experience the rest of the time. In countries where voter turnout is high, they've usually had recent expres with oppression and other forms of political thuggery that make them more aware of what's at stake.
As for ballot access, as someone very sympathetic to the Libertarians, I've always thought third parties should have an easier time getting on the ballot. But there are two major parties for a reason -- the Constitution didn't even envision them, but they developed almost immediately after its passage -- and I don't see any threat to their dominance.
There are variations and nuances, but there really are two basic ways of looking at the approach to government. And the more third-party candidates there are, the more "pure" or "extreme" votes will be siphoned off and the more dominant the two major parties will be. As new movements come along, they will sparkle brightly but briefly, the way Perot's bunch did, or influence the direction of a major party, as the Socialists did for the Democrats and the Tea Party is doing for the Democrats.