Saturday, October 28, 2006

Is This What Democracy Looks Like?

No wonder voters feel like there's no choice:

Nationwide, more than 30 percent of the roughly 6,100 legislative seats on the ballot already have been decided because the candidates are running unopposed, according to an Associated Press analysis.

In South Carolina, 73 percent of the candidates for state House and Senate have no opponent. In Arkansas, 70 percent. In Georgia, 68 percent. In North Carolina, half. [ . . . ] In 11 states, more than half of the races for state House and Senate are uncontested.

It has to do with districting, of course, but even that boils down, as with so many things, to the money:

Perhaps the biggest reason, experts said, is a system in which legislators draw their own districts, which usually favor themselves and other incumbents. [ . . . ]

Potential candidates often decide it isn't worth the financial hassle to run against an incumbent or in a district that favors one party over the other.

"The cost to play, it weeds out otherwise qualified candidates because either they don't have the means themselves or they're not comfortable with raising the donations," said Bill Bozarth, executive director of Common Cause in Georgia, where 161 of the 236 legislative races are uncontested.

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