In his Aug. 12 Ombudsman column, Richard Harwood correctly notes that our "political system is in a state of decay" because so few registered voters bother to vote. Unfortunately, he takes aim in the wrong direction.

It's not that the voters are indifferent; it's because the voting regulations in most states limit ballot access to the two major parties. A choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, where both candidates in their drive to get reelected feel compelled to promise ever more plums to special interests, is not a choice at all. Every voter who stays home is, in effect, voting for neither of the above.

Since Mr. Harwood mentioned Kansas, let's look at the facts. The March 12 issue of "Ballot Access News" (yes, there are many citizens dismayed by voting restrictions) noted that prior to 1965, Kansas allowed on the ballot any party that requested it. In that year, a petition requirement was created. Since 1965, no party has ever succeeded in getting on the ballot by petition in Kansas. To the credit of some Kansas legislators, a bill easing the number of signatures required was initiated last year, but it was defeated 19 to 21 in the state senate.

Closer to home, my vote for a third-party candidate in the last presidential election was not reported in The Post's election tabulations. And of course, it was also ignored by the "News Election Service," when it decided to report only the votes for Republicans and Democrats. Even worse, third-party votes were discarded when percentages were calculated, so the totals for the two dominant parties conveniently added up to 100 percent. Only by searching out the official state computer tabulation was I able to find the actual voter totals and establish that my vote had been recorded.

Although we all rejoice about the recent progress of liberty in Eastern Europe, I hope the people of Eastern Europe won't copy our system in every respect. DAVID W. PENDLETON Mount Vernon