TEXAS VIEW: Lt. Gov., Texas GOP tried to keep Libertarians off the ballot

THE POINT: The conservative Texas Supreme Court defended democracy.

Voters deserve better options on the ballot, but if the past two election cycles in Texas have taught us anything, partisan politicians will do all they can to keep candidates off the ballot if they don’t conform to a party ideology.

That’s why it was hardly surprising to hear that Texas Republicans were trying to expel Libertarians from the ballot last week.

Thankfully, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court saw through the gimmick employed by leading state GOP politicians, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, U.S. Rep. Pat Fallon, former Collin County Judge Keith Self and state Sen. Angela Paxton, among others.

The court dismissed an emergency petition to remove Libertarians from the ballot that came nearly four months after supposed violations of the Texas election code.

According to the petition, 23 Libertarian candidates allegedly did not pay their filing fees. The court decided that was irrelevant. Even if the candidates did not pay the fees, the request to remove them from the ballot is “not an appropriate remedy at this stage of the election process.”

Not only is it inappropriate, it is a blatant attempt to manipulate the system.

Republicans are hardly alone in trying to limit greater choice on the ballot. In 2020, Democrats were able to get candidates from the Green Party removed. In the same election, Republicans tried and failed to erase 44 Libertarian candidates.

This time, the state Supreme Court dismissed the petition due to untimeliness and the lack of explanation as to why the Republicans waited so long to bring the petition.

“Access to the ballot lies at the very heart of a constitutional republic,” the court wrote.

We couldn’t have said it better, and we are grateful that our state’s conservative justices demonstrated that rule of law and respect for democratic processes are still the order of the day in Texas.

Access to alternatives is especially frightening to partisans these days. As big-party primaries increasingly serve extremist views, middle-of-the-road voters are looking for options where they don’t have to hold their nose in the voting booth.

History tells us just why Republicans are so worked up this time. Patrick won reelection in 2018 by 5 percentage points over Democrat Mike Collier. A Libertarian candidate took 2% of the total vote.

This year, Patrick’s running against Collier again, and it is competitive again, so is there any wonder why he wants to shoo Libertarians?

Third-party candidates too often are too far out there to consider. But it’s becoming increasingly hard to distinguish how big-party candidates are any better. Sometimes they are more extreme.

The presence of third-party candidates on the ballot can serve as moderating influence, especially when it forces major-party candidates to think about appealing to a broader electorate.

That may not have been the Texas Supreme Court’s intent. But it is the consequence. And for that we can be thankful.

But there is something we are even more thankful for. At the end of the day, the court protected democracy against a partisan ploy.

Dallas Morning News