It’s Time to Reclaim & Re-Energize Our Democracy

Jan. 28, 2019 - Dr. George Wolfe testifies to the Indiana Senate Committee on Elections

2019 Indiana Senate Bill 571 addresses ballot access and laws for political parties in Indiana. Former Indiana Green Party candidate, Dr. George Wolfe, testified to the Indiana Senate Elections Committee regarding these matters.

UPDATES

  • Feb 14, 2019 - SB 571 was defeated in the state Senate by a vote of 16-31.
  • Feb 11, 2019 - SB 571 had a second reading in the Senate. The vote was ordered engrossed and will be voted on by the full state Senate.
  • Feb 4, 2019 - SB 571 has passed the Indiana Senate Elections Committee and will move to a vote on the Senate floor.

Below is a transcript of Dr. Wolfe's testimony:

I am here today to testify in support of Senate Bill SB 571 on behalf of the Indiana Green Party and all past and future third party and independent candidates. And I want to thank Senator Greg Walker for proposing this bill. In the opinion of the Indiana Green Party, it is long overdue.

This past year, I ran for the office of Secretary of State. I choose to run as a Green Party candidate because I agree with their ten key values, in particular the value of grassroots democracy. But it was difficult running as a Green party candidate because of the unfair ballot access laws in the state of Indiana for third party and independent candidates. These laws are unfair because of the quantity and unequal number of petition signatures required for a candidate’s name to be placed on the ballot. Indiana citizens I spoke to while campaigning were outraged when they heard that to gain ballot access, I needed 26,699 signatures on a petition as compared to 4500 if I were running as a Democrat or Republican. And every chance I got, I played the song “It’s not easy being Green,” made popular by Kermit the frog, to dramatize this injustice. I don’t know if you are aware, but Kermit the frog is a member of the Green Party!

The threshold in Indiana to gain ballot access used to be .5% of the vote, but this threshold was raised to 2% in the 1980s. As a result of the voter turnout in our last election, the number of signatures needed for ballot access in 2020 will now be greater than 46,000. Indiana is one of only four states where the Green Party has never had ballot access.

I believe in competition. Competition in my life has made me a better person. In high school it made me a better athlete. Throughout my career, competition made me a better performing artist. Politicians invariably agree that competition is good: good for business, good for hospitals, good for universities. It results in better products and better services. And we have created laws to prevent the formation of monopolies because monopolies weaken the free enterprise system. But while politicians agree that competition is good in the corporate and business sectors, they do what they can to thwart competition in the political arena.

In January of 2018, I announced my candidacy early and was the first candidate to articulate his platform. I ran my campaign based on the view that the political arena should be a marketplace of ideas. I ran to be a positive driving force and to influence the political conversation. It is no coincidence that many of the ideas I included on my sixteen point platform are now being discussed by the two major political parties. In addition to the bill I am testifying for here today, a hate crime bill, the legalization of medical marijuana to help deal with the opioid crisis and provide relief for military veterans suffering from painful injuries and PTSD, the use of paper ballots to drastically reduce the cost of addressing the problems of cyber security and the need for a voting machine paper trail, same-day registration, and a nonpartisan approach to redistricting to end gerrymandering are all becoming part of the political discourse. This is why we need third parties and independent candidates on the ballot. Competition is good for politicians. It will result is better republican and democratic candidates, fairer redistricting, and increased voter access and participation.

A government of the people, by the people and for the people requires that the citizens of our country be involved in the political process. We must ensure that potential candidates have equal opportunity to run for public office and that our electoral system is fair. Based on my experience as a candidate however, I can assure you that the public perception holds that the our elections are not fair. The two major political parties, both Democratic and Republican, have been guilty from time to time of restricting ballot access and redrawing district lines to insure they stay in power. There is also much inconsistency across the counties within our state in how election officials and poll workers are trained to carry out their duties.

As a candidate for Secretary of State, I was polling in January of 2018 at 8%. In October of 2018, a month before the election, I polled at 4%. But many counties failed to count the write-in votes. One of my supporters named Steve Kristoff informed me that he and his wife both voted for me, yet the official election results listed on the website for Franklin County where they live says that I got zero votes. This is just one of several examples I could give. Well over 1000 of our Green Party supporters have said they voted for me. Yet the official count of the votes I received as released by the Secretary of State’s office a week after the election was only 73. The list of write-in candidates was not available at many polling places throughout the state, and poll workers did not know the answers questions on how to write-in names when voting. One voter was even told by a poll worker at an early voting center that “They were not doing write-in votes today.” This person left without having the opportunity to vote for me.

All this results in the loss of public confidence in our electoral system, a low voter turnout, and a general frustration and lack of respect for our political leaders. Indiana is in the lower third of the fifty states in voter turnout, and we have some of the most restrictive ballot access laws. In states like Pennsylvania, the courts have ruled in favor candidates that have challenged such unfair laws. It will be to the advantage of both the Democratic and Republican parties to support grassroots democracy, alleviate the inconsistent voting practices across counties, and make ballot access equal for all political parties and independent candidates.

My experience running for public office taught me many things. I met many wonderful people and realize that everyone in our state is important. But above all, it taught me that listening to voters with our hearts is as important listening with our ears.

Thank you for your attention.

Follow this issue on the Indiana Green Party website.