(or, What good is it to vote if you cannot elect poor people to public office…?)
The following is a statement delivered by C.T. Weber, Peace and Freedom Party member and PFP nominee for California Secretary of State in Election 2018 on Monday, May 21, as part of the Poor People's Campaign rally in Sacramento. Following the rally, several activists entered the Capitol building with a list of demands for the governor, and some 18 Poor People’s Campaign activists were arrested for the sit-in protest action.
Poor people’s issues cannot be understood and resolved until poor people are able to run for office and be elected. In 1974, some 40 plus years ago, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in Lubin v Panish that California’s filing fees were unconstitutional because there was not a reasonable alternative for poor people to get on the ballot. The reasonable alternative, which California has put in place is more costly in time, energy and money than just paying the unconstitutional filing fees. That so called reasonable alternative is to gather thousands of valid signatures in lieu of filing fees, a task that no volunteer effort by a statewide candidate has been able to accomplish.
Even if our progressive legislators suddenly found it in their hearts, and I doubt it, to drastically reduce the filing fees and/or the number of signatures in lieu of filing fees to a reasonable level so that poor people can get on the ballot, other obstacles still stand in the way of getting their messages to voters.
For example, the Voters Information Guide put out by the California Secretary of State charges candidates $25 a word for a statement. How many poor people can afford $6,250.00 for a 250 statement? Years ago, there were no charges for these statements and there should be no charges today.
Of course, the real solution to these high costs is to get money out of our elections altogether. Big money is corrupting our electoral system. It is time for equal public funding for all ballot-qualified candidates. These are public elections not corporate elections and therefore the public should pay for them, not be sold to the highest bidder.
In short, our elections are not fair. They discriminate against the poor, against women, against people of color, and against those with different political ideas. This twisted system will remain until we change it. We need more choices in our general elections than only two. It is past time to replace that horrible “top two” system which limits our choices in November with a system that allows the representation of various constituencies in the legislature in proportion to the number of votes they receive. That is, of course, Proportional Representation.
Poor people, just like most everyone else, want secure and transparent elections. Let’s move away from propriety owned software and implement publicly owned, open-source paper ballot voting systems.
Let’s all go out and build our movement for change. Change that will allow poor people to get on the ballot, run a viable campaign and get elected to office. That is Poor People’s Power!
-- C. T. Weber, May 21, 2018