On Free and Accessible Elections

Letter: Elections should be free and accessible

Some people, such as Rob Port, seem to believe that these "discouragements" are OK because they are done by the incumbents.

Written By: Edward TJ Brown | 11:35 am, Jun. 10, 2021

I enjoy reading Rob Port's opinions, even when I disagree with them. I must respectfully dissent from his take on voting rights. Gerrymandering and harsh ballot access rules are two examples of incumbents attempting to erode the healthy competition that should be the hallmark of regular, free, and fair elections.


Yes, gerrymandering is wrong no matter the political affiliation of the incumbent legislators. It is wrong when North Dakota Republicans attempt to gerrymander themselves into a majority and it would be equally wrong if North Dakota Democrats attempted to do the same thing.


Yes, it is entirely possible that most North Dakota voters are, as electoral consumers, not "buying" what the Democratic Party is selling.

Yet the issue is not the parties, but rather the people. The people should be the ones to select their own representatives, not incumbent legislators.


To continue the analogy of elections as markets, we would not allow the government to gerrymander a business out of the free market.

The success of a political party or a particular candidate should be determined by the people in the free marketplace of ideas, just as the success of a business should primarily be decided by the consumers in the free-market system.


Whereas gerrymandering involves incumbents picking their people, the often-Byzantine set of regulations facing political minorities involve incumbents artificially raising the cost of a class of candidates from entering the electoral marketplace of ideas.


Frequently, this often involves Republicans targeting the Libertarian Party candidates, while the Green Party often draws the fury of Democrats.


Gerrymandering and harsh ballot access laws undermine the electoral free marketplace by diluting the right of voters to make political choices and the right of political parties to sell their ideas to the people.


Simply put, incumbent lawmakers have an incentive to discourage competition through gerrymandering and harsh ballot access laws.

Some people, such as Rob Port, seem to believe that these "discouragements" are OK because they are done by the incumbents. That the Republican Party, in the case of North Dakota, is entitled to undermine the right of the people to vote effectively. I must respectfully disagree.


Edward TJ Brown is a resident of Parkers Prairie, Minn.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.