Should Ralph Nader be on the ballot? Should other third party candidates? I think so. I have a hard time identifying a principled reason for making it so difficult for independent candidates to get on the ballot. Of course there have to be rules and thresholds, but the thresholds need not be so high and I am unsure why it should be so easy for major parties to gum up the works. In short, reasonable rules for how one gets a name on the ballot need not result in the sort of legal wrangling we see in the current campaign. Democratic principles would seem to counsel giving voters more choices rather than fewer.
While I think ballot access should be less difficult, I find it hard to fault either major party for their handling of Nader’s candidacy. Each is seeking to use existing election laws to their maximum advantage — and I expect nothing less in the heat of the campaign. So Republicans try to help Nader get on the ballot, and Democrats do all they can to keep him off. Neither seems a particuarly cynical move given the rules of the game.
My interest is in the proper resolution of the question whether Nader — or some other candidate with equivalent support — should be allowed on the ballot. Going forward, should it be easier for the Naders of the future to offer voters more choices? I think the answer is clearly “yes,” but would be interested if others have principled reasons for concluding otherwise.