I voted. I was reminded in doing so of the tremendous damper that our system of ballots puts on true pluralistic democracy. The candidates who don’t make it onto the ballot might as well not exist, from the point of view of the common voter. Out of sight, out of mind. And the two major parties make sure that the barrier to entry is high enough to effectively prevent a meaningful third-party (let alone fourth-party) presence. This year third parties in PA had to collect over 67,000 signatures in order to get on the ballot.
It seems to me that the most egalitarian and democratic system would be to require every candidate to be written in. That would completely avoid the question of how high the barrier to ballot entry should be. And it would finally do away with the impression the current system conveys that democracy is like a restaurant, where you can only order what’s on the menu. Finally, it would keep the most irredeemably lazy and apathetic voters away from the polls, which is probably for the best.
I can imagine some potential objections to this proposal, chiefly being that it puts the illiterate voter at a disadvantage, as well as candidates with long, difficult to spell names. But these are trivially overcome. It would not be too great a burden on a candidate to distribute slips of paper to potential voters, from which to copy the name. In districts with paper ballots they might distribute stickers, sized to fit in the candidate name field on the ballot. And electronic voting machines might even be modified to include a bar-code reader, so that a voter equipped with one of the previously mentioned slips of paper, or with a campaign pamphlet, or even with a sheet printed out from the candidates website, could simply scan it and confirm that the name read is the person they want to cast their vote for.