Probably nothing is more important to the Libertarian Party than ballot access. The Libertarians for years fought to get it and every four years fight to keep it by getting the requisite 2% in the Secretary of State's race. The alternative to automatic ballot access is a time-consuming petition process where members obtain the signatures of registered voters. Even thought the Libertarian Party now has ballot access, there are still races which require petitions be gathered to qualify for the ballot - races like Governor and U.S. Senator.
The case at hand involves Rev. Mmoja Ajabu, an interesting political activist in our Indianapolis community. Rev. Ajabu, albeit controversial, has the same rights all of us have to throw our ring in the hat to run for Congress. He did just that this Spring. That was when he ran into the Marion County Board of Voter Registration, an outfit headed by a Democrat and Republican appointee, individuals selected by the two major party chairmen. No elected official has any control over the MCBVR...it is total party control, yet the job they do is supposed to be ministerial in nature. In Ajabu's case the MCBVR was charged with the simple responsibility of verifying names on the petitions were of registered voters
But as gubernatorial candidate Jim Wallace and presidential candidate Rick Santorum had previously learned, the MCBVR does more than its ministerial duty when it comes to voter petitions. It is the gatekeeper for who the establishment in Marion County believes should be allowed the ballot (or, in a case brought by Attorney Greg Bowes, which candidates can have useful public voter information for their campaigns). With regard to Wallace, his challenge to his candidacy was spearheaded by Attorney and former Marion County Republican Chairman Tom John, the very person who had appointed Susan Mowery, the Republican head of the MCBVR. Needless to say, the MCBVR kept finding problems with the Wallace petitions, including address problems and signatures supposedly not matching. One involved a husband and wife couple who signed the petition at the same time. One was deemed okay by the MCBVR, while the other was disallowed. Wallace didn't make the ballot, conveniently falling just a few votes short.
|Sam Goldstein, Chairman of |
Indiana Libertarian Party
Apparently the MCBVR thought Ajabu would give up, but he didn't. This time, armed with better knowledge of how to gather signatures specifically from 7th District voters, gathered 4,430 more names. He took them to the MCBVR. What did they do? They sent him a letter certifying that of the 4,430 names, not a single registered voter could be found among the 4,430 pages of names and that Ajabu's total still stood at 1,300. The voter registration database, however,, shows there were 2,418 names of registered voters among the second batch, putting Ajabu at over 3,700 names and easily qualifying for the ballot as an independent. A later review of the petitions at the Secretary of State's Office revealed that the second batch, as opposed to the first batch, had no notations of "NR" or any notations of any sort. The Board had obviously never even reviewed the petitions before certifying that Ajabu had failed to qualify.
It is not difficult to speculate that Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy, fearing an independent candidate would endanger Rep. Carson's chances (to one degree or another), may have instructed his MCBVR appointee, LaDonna Freeman, to make certain Ajabu did not qualify for the ballot. As far as the argument the Republican appointee, Susan Mowery, would act as a check on the Democrats, the fact is the two county party organizations have always worked together on ballot access and other issues. Besides the Wallace issue, we just had a new issue where the appointee of the two chairmen to the Election Board voted, over the objections of Clerk Beth White, to hire a Democratic and Republican law firm to the tune of a quarter million dollars to defend the Board on its decision to enforce a law that was declared unconstitutional in 2003, at which time Election Board agreed not to enforce the law. Yet none other than Ed Treacy filed the complaint against an unslated candidate that triggered the Election Board's decision to violate a federal court consent decree, a decree that it had entered into in 2003 finding the law was unconstitutional.
One would think Rev. Ajabu's dilemma would concern the Libertarian Party. After all, that party could well face the same concerted effort by the MCBVR an the two major parties to keep the Libertarians off the ballot down the road. Yet when the time came to stand up for principle, the Indiana Libertarian Party, led by Sam Goldstein, remaining seating. To paraphrase a famous saying:
First they disqualified the unslated party candidate, and I didn't speak out because the candidate was not a Libertarian.
Then they disqualified the Socialist candidate, and I didn't speak out because the candidate was not a Libertarian.
Then they disqualified the Independent candidate, and I didn't speak out because the candidate was not a Libertarian.
Then they disqualified me, a Libertarian candidate, but there was nobody left to speak out for me.People who are considered "outsiders" need to learn to stick together, and stand for principle if they want to oppose the establishment. The Indiana Libertarian Party had a chance to stand for principle yesterday, and the party instead chose to remain seated.
Note: Ironically, Rev. Ajabu at the press conference made a forceful argument that Libertarians be appointed to the various boards dominated by the two parties with the hope the a Libertarian appointee would act as a watchdog. So Rev. Ajabu was making an argument for the Libertarian Party, when the Libertarians had failed to support him in the principle he was asserting on ballot access.