turnout has never been worse. Only 50 percent of the ehgiblernvoters cast a ballot in the presidential election in 1988. Turnoutrnin the 1992 presidential primaries was the worst ever for presidentialrnprimaries. The November 1992 election brought a reprieve,rnup to 55 percent, but primaries and elections sincernthen have slumped to new turnout lows. Furthermore, thernsame party, the Democratic Party, has enjoyed uninterruptedrncontrol of the House of Representatives for over 40 years, thernlongest period of one-party rule of either branch of Congress inrnthe nation’s history.rn^^^^^^ he result ofrn^s^M ballot accessrn^^^^ restrictions isrnthat no party, other than the two majorrnparties, has been able to put candidatesrnfor the U.S. House of Representativesrnon the ballot in even W f of the districtsrnsince 1920, when the Socialist Party didrnit for the last time.rnIt should be obvious, then, that creating barriers to the entryrnof new political parties does not help the two-party system.rnThere is no reason for such barriers, except to stifle competition.rnAnd now Congress is about to take another step to discouragernnew parties. The federal campaign spending billrnpassed by the Senate last year creates a discriminatory formularnfor distributing public campaign funds. Any Democratic orrnRepublican candidate for the U.S. Senate will be eligible for arnpublic campaign subsidy of up to 20 times as much money asrnthe candidate raises privately, if he or she has an opponent whorndoes not abide by voluntary spending limits. But any thirdrnparty or independent candidate in the same position could neverrnreceive a subsidy even as large as the amount of money he orrnshe had raised privately.rnAs an example of how this could work, imagine that IndependentrnVermont Congressman Bernie Sanders were runningrnas an Independent for the Senate. Even though Sanders mightrnhave raised $800,000 and the Democrat in the race mightrnhave raised only $60,000, if the Republican in the race hadrnraised $1,620,000 (thus exceeding the voluntary spending caprnof $1,200,000), the Democrat in the race would receivern$800,000 from the U.S. Treasury, whereas Sanders would receivernonly $420,000.rnA Senate employee who worked on this bill was asked whatrnprinciple supported the idea that public funding should be dependentrnon a candidate’s party, rather than on his or her levelrnof support. He answered, “That’s just Senator Ford’s philosophy”rn(referring to Wendell Ford, senator from Kentucky, an architectrnof the bill).rnIn 1990 the United States signed the Document of thernCopenhagen Meeting on Human Rights, pledging itself (alongrnwith the other signatory nations, mostly Europeans) to “respectrnthe right of citizens to seek political or public office, withoutrndiscrimination,” and to “respect the right of individuals andrngroups to establish, in full freedom, their own political partiesrnor other political organizations and provide such political partiesrnand organizations with the necessary legal guarantees to enablernthem to compete with each other on a basis of equal treatmentrnbefore the law.” American policy, however, is veryrndifferent. It pays only lip service to the idea that voters shouldrnbe free to establish new political parties and that the governmentrnshould not discriminate against new parties, and thernmass media refuse to discuss this discrepancy.rnAmerican voters have recently lost voting power in otherrnways as well. Almost half of the states provide for initiatives tornamend state laws, a means by which voters can bypass state legislaturesrnand enact law changes on their own. Initiatives havernexisted in parts of the United States since the turn of the century,rnand laws enacted by initiative are subject to judicial reviewrnby the courts, just as any law enacted by a state legislature is alsornsubject to judicial review.rnBut just in the last year, two state supreme courts have invalidatedrnstate initiatives on a new basis; not that the lawsrnpassed by the voters were unconstitutional, but that the petitionsrnwhich got them on the ballot did not have enough signatures!rnThe first instance was on September 30, 1993, whenrnthe Florida Supreme Court invalidated a Tampa city initiative,rnwhich had been passed almost a year earlier, on the groundsrnthat some of the people who had signed the initiative petitionrnwere on the “inactive” portion of the voter registration rolls.rnThe court ruled that “inactive” voters (those who had notrnvoted in the preceding two years but had voted in the precedingrnfive years) were not eligible to sign initiative petitions,rnmeaning the initiative did not have enough valid signatures ofrnregistered voters and was invalid (the initiative repealed a gayrnrights ordinance). The second decision occurred on May 13,rnl994, when the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the termlimitsrnmeasure that had passed in 1992 also lacked sufficientrnsignatures on its petition. The court ruled that the voters hadrn(unconsciously) voted to change the number of signaturesrnneeded for an initiative back in 1990. That 1990 constitutionalrnamendment, put on the ballot by the legislature, had ostensiblyrndone nothing but require that only registered voters couldrnsign initiative petitions. But, surprise, the court ruled that thern1990 amendment also changed the number of signatures fromrn10 percent of the last vote cast for governor to 10 percent of thernnumber of registered voters… even though another portion ofrnthe state constitution continued to say explicitly that the requirementrnwas 10 percent of the last vote cast!rnRegardless of the arguments about the number of signatures,rnonce an initiative passes, it clearly can be said to have had voterrnsupport. Since the entire purpose of a petition is to showrnvoter support in advance of an election, once the election hasrnbeen held there is no longer any mystery about whether thernidea has voter support; questions about how much support thernpetition had are no longer relevant. Yes, review an initiative afterrnthe election for its constitutionality, if challenged, but dornnot try to fault the petition; it is irrelevant.rnIf you doubt this, imagine someone trying to get a law (thatrnhad been passed by a legislature) thrown out after it had beenrnsigned into law, on the grounds that it did not get enough votesrn28/CHRONICLESrnrnrn