We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Declaration of Independence, 1776
Our nation was established and government formed these basic presuppositions – all of which are clearly seen in this one paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.
· There is a God
· Rights come from Him
· The purpose of civil government is to protect God-given rights
· All civil government is by consent of the governedWhenever any government becomes destructive
of this purpose, the people have a right and a duty to “alter or abolish” it
Forms of “Consent”
Elections are the ultimate form of “consent,” as well as the first course of action the people might exercise to “alter” a government destructive to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (self-determination). Although the ballot is the format for consent to be granted or removed, it is not exclusive to Election Day. Consent begins long before that, even long before the day an individual even registers to vote.
Access to the Ballot by Petition
As access to the ballot is vital to any candidate or governing question, it is not free access to any individual. A candidate or question must be affirmed by a representative portion of the jurisdiction prior to being placed on the ballot to then seek majority consent.
In some instances, voters wish to change a statute and submit a petition of signatures (representative portion) requesting to bring the matter to the voters in the form of a ballot question. This is known as a referendum. Or an individual may gather the signatures of a representative portion of a political jurisdiction to give their consent to his placement on the ballot as a candidate. This is what one might call an organic candidate, and are oftentimes known as an independent.
This latter example begs the question, “Independent of what or from whom?’ This leads to a slightly more complex form of consent. It begins with groups of people with shared ideas who organize to form a voting block as a type of combined consent. This combined consent, again with the goal of obtaining access to the ballot for candidates, needs to first obtain a representative portion of petition signatures. But because this is an organization of individuals in a combined consent, the requirements of representative portion are significantly greater. Once validated by petition, this organized group has blanket access to the ballot and is known as a party.
Access to the Ballot by Party
Parties, once recognized, do not retain that “consent” in perpetuity. Consent must be continually re-affirmed or the party will lose its status. That re-affirmation here in Maryland can be accomplished in any one of three methods: obtaining a minimum of one percent of the vote for their candidate for the highest office on the ballot, obtaining a minimum of one percent of the total registered voters affiliated with the party or obtaining 10,000 petition signatures.
Individuals with shared values of the party may then request that the party “sponsor” them as a candidate on the ballot. In some cases, more than one individual may be seeking the party’s “sponsorship.” Because access to the ballot, in this case, has been granted to an entity by consent, not an individual by consent, the entity (party) may only present one individual to the voters on the ballot. In these instances, the party must decide which candidate will represent the party on the ballot.
Specifically, here in Maryland these parties are classified as either “principal” or “non-principal.” Maryland statute delineates only two “principal parties” – the political party whose candidate for Governor received the highest number of votes of any party candidate at the last preceding general election (a.k.a. the majority party) and the political party whose candidate for Governor received the second highest number of votes of any party candidate at the last preceding general election (a.k.a. the minority party). Any other parties in existence at any given time are known as “non-principal” parties.
Furthermore, Maryland statute requires that a principal political party use the primary election process to nominate its candidates to the ballot, whereas a non-principal party may nominate its candidates to the ballot by any manner they have established in accordance with their own organization’s constitution and bylaws.
Voter Registration: Aligning consent with personal beliefs year-round
As you can see, your consent is continually granted or rescinded, and not just on Election Day. The inner workings of government are always at work. Since many, if not most candidates find placement on the ballot through a party’s collective ballot access, registered voter affiliation is as an ongoing “consent.” All five of Maryland’s recognized political parties have adopted platforms of their core beliefs, philosophies and public policy positions. If a voter wishes to be affiliated with a political party, he should educate himself and choose carefully in aligning with the one that seems to most closely reflect one’s individual beliefs. In doing so, that party will be able to recruit and run candidates representing you – all but eliminating “the lesser of two evils” scenario.