Dec 10, 2010

Manski: On the Separation of Party and State

From The Cap Times, an op-ed by Ben Manski, an attorney and director of Liberty Tree Foundation. He ran for the Wisconsin Assembly in District 77 as a Green Party candidate:
In most states, voters individually mark the names of candidates. But in Wisconsin and other “straight party” states, voters can mark the name of the party, and whoever that party has nominated gets their vote. Those straight party votes accounted for nearly half of the total votes for Hulsey, and a third of the votes for Republican Dave Redick.
The result? On Nov. 2, there were two outcomes. My campaign achieved success among voters who indicated a preferred candidate. But Hulsey was elected to the Legislature. The fact that those two wins are not the same victory is a product of one of the enduring problems of our political system, which is that it perpetuates and protects itself against demands for reform.
My campaign overcame major obstacles regularly faced by independent candidates. We showed that the race was “winnable” by securing endorsements from three of Madison’s four daily newspapers, three labor unions, and dozens of state and local elected officials. We raised more than $45,000, and attracted the active support of more than 200 volunteers. We made a big dent in political partisanship, with many committed Democrats deciding to back me over their party’s nominee.
But we could not overcome election rules that reward what one commentator called “political tribalism” in the form of straight party voting. . . .

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