Alright, if I’m so smart, how do we fix things in state and local government? Glad I asked.

Nothing Could Be Finer details the crucial reform that would start us on our way to sane and responsible government. And how the reform is being stiffed by politicians.

Ballot access seems like a dry, boring issue until you realize that it is at the heart of political competition for votes. If you make it almost impossible for new parties and new alliances to form, the old order will maintain control no matter what happens.

That is what we have right now in Raleigh and Uptown — old, entrenched orders which slide a little left or right, but do not fundamentally change. There is, for example, absolutely no place for a fiscal conservative on the local landscape. None.

The state Senate today will vote again on the ballot access question and it is clear nothing will improve. Steps to reform the law were slapped down hard in the state House — with Speaker Jim Black in charge, big surprise there.

The upshot is that NC’s current ballot access law is poised to get even worse. NCbF has the details — the House version is called the “gutted version” here and the attempted reform is the “original version,” and what the Senate is voting on the “current version”:

Number of votes required to stay on the ballot.

Current Law: 10% of vote for Governor or President
Original Version: 2%
Gutted Version: 7%
Current Version: 2%

Number of signatures required to register a new political party.

Current Law: 2% of vote for Governor or President
Original Version: 1/2%
Gutted Version: 2%
Current Version: 2%

Deadline to get petitions in to state Board of Elections to form new political party.

Current Law: June 1
Original Version: April 1
Gutted Version: April 1
Current Version: June 1

Whether candidates from a new political party (nominated in convention, and not allowed to participate in primaries) have to pay filing fees.

Current Law: No
Original Version: No
Gutted Version: Yes
Current Version: Yes

Deadline for a new political party to submit a list of candidates to the state Board of Elections.

Current Law: July 1
Original Version: May 1
Gutted Version: May 1
Current Version: July 1

Note also that the current version evidently has wording which would require a party to get 2% of the vote for BOTH President and Governor, a tall order indeed. Plus, new parties would have to pay filing fees. Enjoy your ballot-access reform, citizens.

It is no mystery why this is being done — it protects the current power structure.

The complete puzzle, however, it the relative silence that has greeted this incumbent protection act in the state’s media organs. Oh, they obsess non-stop about gifts to lawmakers and campaign financing — important issues, yes — yet a cynical move to lock-up the political process and bar any new players slides by without comment. Bizarre.

Maybe editors and reporters do not understand that the best campaign reform is competition. That raising money only becomes central to politics when actual grass-roots activity is outlawed.

Finally, isn’t anyone the least bit curious why this change in state law and general hostility to reform comes at the precise moment means of organizing and communicating have never been more effective and scandal and dysfunction plague state and local government?

Cui bono?

It ain’t us.