I agree with the Seattle Times editorial board in one respect, silly rules do beget silly results, but the ballot mockery they rail against really is as much their own fault as anybody’s.
[L]awmakers should find a way to close one gap in the law that allows candidates to make a mockery of the ballot. Current rules say a candidate can list political party preference below their name as anything that fits within 16 letters.
In the 2008 election, the net result was candidates who listed themselves as members of parties, such as “Prefers Salmon/Yoga Party” or “Prefers Cut Taxes G.O.P. Party.”
Neither are the names of real parties. Some candidates used the 16-character rule to create a campaign slogan, and in the process, ridiculed the ballot.
[…] The same rule allowed Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi to list “prefers G.O.P. Party,” probably because of the dire state of the Republican brand.
Yup, this sure does make a mockery of the ballot, but I think it worthwhile to point out that this mockery is entirely within the spirit of a top-two primary system that intentionally ridicules the party based system it seeks to replace. In championing both the top-two primary and the move to “nonpartisan” elections in King County, the Times has repeatedly berated and belittled the rights of political parties and their longstanding role in the American political process—should it come as a surprise that others, without a printing press at their disposal, have chosen to echo this meme on the ballot itself?
(It is a curious irony that when the Chinese Communists trample the rights of political parties we rightly accuse them of being anti-democratic, but when we do the same here it is always in the name of more democracy. Huh.)
Of course I support the rule change the Times urges, but it merely lances a single oozing boil rather than addressing the underlying disease eating away at our body politic: a profound disrespect for politics itself. Even after the rule change a Republican could still claim “prefers Democratic Party” on the ballot rather than Dino Rossi’s more subtle deception, for as long as the parties are denied the basic right to officially identify or deny candidates as their own, party identification will remain entirely meaningless.
Parties and partisanship have long played a vital role in American democracy, as a means of institutionalizing dissent, and of encouraging a vigorous public debate. In the long run, it is the Times and other defenders of civility, through their relentless undermining of a meaningful dialectic, who really make a mockery of our political process.