BY MAGGIE TROWE
DES MOINES, Iowa - Nearly two weeks after the editors of the Des Moines Register called for making access to the ballot more difficult, five letters protesting the antidemocratic editorial were printed as the centerpiece of the Sunday Register's full-page letter section.
The September 2 editorial, entitled "A primary for mayor: It's worth asking whether 688 signatures should be enough to get on the ballot," put forward the idea that current ballot requirements that candidates present petition signatures totaling 2 percent of the total vote cast in the last election for the office they are seeking are low. "It's worth asking whether that 2 percent figure should be enough to win a ballot slot," the editors stated.
To back up their case, they pointed out that "Thomas Alter, a 23-year-old Socialist Workers Party member who works in Perry and has lived in Des Moines less than eight months, got the job done. That makes the election a three- way race, meaning a mayoral primary."
The editors expressed concern about the $60,000 cost of holding a primary election, referred to Alter's campaign as "symbolic," and spoke derisively of "giving the longshot candidate access to an open microphone."
The replies to this editorial included a shortened version of a letter sent by Alter and four others, all taking issue with the Register's view.
Jon Torgerson, chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Drake University in Des Moines, pointed out in his letter, "Alter is a member of a union, a friend of citizen and non-citizen Latinos who have a stake in what happens in Des Moines." He went on to advise the editors, "Report what Alter has to say, even if he doesn't say it through an expensive PR campaign, but rather to small groups."
William Johnson wrote, "I don't know Alter, but I believe that he and others outside the mainstream have a right to participate in the political process without arbitrary restrictions based on costs. The Register would do well to reconsider its opinion, unless, of course, the editors have decided that the cost of democracy is too high."
Both Alter and Ardella Blandford, Socialist Workers candidate for City Council At-Large, have been invited to speak at several candidates meetings in the next few weeks. They attended a rally of over 100 union supporters who met in Perry, Iowa, to back up the workers at Wiese who are fighting a company-backed campaign to decertify their recently won right to be in the United Auto Workers, in the same local that Blandford belongs to.
Supporters of the Socialist Workers campaign also got a good response at the September 13 Latinos Unidos march and fiesta, where they distributed campaign literature and sold four subscriptions to Perspectiva Mundial, 10 copies of the Militant, and four Pathfinder books.
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