Thursday, February 10, 2005

Hack Attack

No, not the computer sort, though the state government server was hit with one this week.

Rather, I am talking about political hacks, the party-first, substance-optional apparatchiks of both the Democratic and Republican Parties. These folks have decided to make life difficult for independent voters, a group that outnumbers both Democrats and Republicans herein the Granite State.

Yesterday, the NH House passed legislation that imposes new roadblocks for independents who wish to participate in a primary election. Under the current system, an independent voter can enter the polling place, request a Democratic or Republican ballot, and, after a few minutes of life as a member of that party, return to Independent status on the way out the door. It's simple and uncomplicated, and it helps avoid scenarios where a voter finds themself "trapped" in a party.

The bill passed by the House yesterday would require independent voters to wait 90 days before they could change their affiliation. It's a silly, pointless bit of bureaucratic buffoonery that can only make independents feel even more detached from the process than they already do today.

The bill's backers would have us believe that this would foster party loyalty and cohesiveness. This is an excercise in wishful thinking. Demographic and political trends have been chipping away at the old party system for decades, and a goofy attempt to lock voters out via bureaucratic boondoggles isn't going to change that.

Personally, I welcome the role of independents in the primary system. Independents play a key role in tempering the angry, polarizing tendencies of some partisans, and force the parties to address the needs of the larger electorate, not merely those of favored special interest groups.

The real motivation here is an attempt by hyperpartisans from both sides of the aisle to remove an unpredictable x-factor from the political arena. Too many party ultraloyalists resent the role of independent voters because these voters refuse to adhere to the agenda of the regulars. It is no surprise that the folks who backed this measure were by and large people who backed Bush over McCain and Gore over Bradley. If Watergate was about following the money, this is about following the election returns...