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Louisiana Bill to Allow “Independent” Ballot Label

Louisiana election law allows use of the label “independent” on the ballot for independent presidential candidates, but not independent candidates for other office. However, Representative Jerome Richard has introduced HB 193, to allow “independent” as a ballot label for all independent candidates, not just presidential independents. Current law requires them to use “No party” as a ballot label.

Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed a similar law in 2011, but the Governor’s veto message showed confusion. His veto message said that the bill wasn’t necessary because another law already prevents a party from being named “Independent Party.” But whether a qualified political party can call itself the Independent Party is not the same subject as whether independent candidates can use that label.

5 Responses

  1. Jim Riley

    HB 193 also applies to voter registration, and would replace “no party” on the registration form with “independent”.

    HB 533(2011) made a large number of changes to the election law, but was amended to add the the provision regarding independent candidates. It would not be correct to characterize the two bills being similar.

    It is true that Governor Jindal’s veto message cited the independent provision as the reason for his veto. He didn’t say that the bill was not necessary, but rather that it was in conflict with the law that there could be no “Independent Party”.

    HB 193, by changing the designation of voters who don’t have a party affiliation from “no party” to “independent” reinforces the provision against having an “Independent Party” because it would be confused with “independent”.

    Representative Richard ran in the 2007 Open Primary with the No Party designation against two Democrats and one Republican, receiving 41% of the vote, and then easily won the runoff with 59% of the vote. In 2011, he was re-elected with 78% of the vote against a Republican. This belies the claims of some commentators that independents can not be successful in a Top 2 system.

    • Richard Winger

      I am not aware of any commentator who says independent candidates cannot win in a top-two system. I am aware of research that says a top-two system completely blocks minor party candidates, except when only one major party person runs for that office.

      • Jim Riley

        “Independent and smaller political parties like Greens and Libertarians will be forced off the
        ballot, further reducing choice.”

        That was in the official arguments against Proposition 14.

  2. Richard Winger

    Yes, that is a reference to small political parties, not a reference to independent candidates. It is a reference to the fact that Prop. 14 will cause parties to lose qualified status, by eliminating the 2% vote test in the November election.

    • Jim Riley

      Proposition 14, nor SB 6 forced candidates who preferred smaller parties off the ballot. Maladminstration by Debra Orwell Bowen did.

      (1) Voters have a clear 1st Amendment Right to express a party preference for a non-qualified party. California even maintains a precise count of voters who have done so.

      (2) Applicants must sign their affidavit of voter registration, certifying that the information on it, including party preference, is truthful and correct, subject to possible prosecution for perjury.

      (3) Prior to the June 2010 election at which Proposition 14 was approved, the Secretary of State sent out a memorandum to county election officials clearly explaining the distinction between voters who had Declined To State (DTS), and those who had expressed an intent to affiliate with a non-qualified party.

      (4) Proposition 14 said the intent was to convert all party affiliations to party preferences, and DTS to No Party Preference (NPP). The implementing legislation SB 6 did precisely that; and there is no evidence that the county voter registrars failed to do so.

      (5) Proposition 14 said it intended to conform to the SCOTUS decision on the Washington Top 2 primary, which was predicated on the fact that a candidate’s party preference was a statement of personal political opinion. The federal district court and 9th Circuit later confirmed that a candidate’s party preference would not be confused with a party endorsement.

      (6) SB 6 provided that a candidate for a voter-nominated office could have their party preference as it was stated on their affidavit of voter registration appear on the ballot, or they could have a blank space. California may not coerce speech, and just as candidate may choose not to have an occupational designation on the ballot, they would not be required to have their party preference appear on the ballot. But if they did have it on the ballot, it had to accurately reflect their voter registration. This too is like the occupational designation, which the candidate must demonstrate is accurate.

      (7) The purpose of Proposition 14 was to extirpate the nomination rights of qualified political parties for voter-nominated offices. As such qualification is meaningless. Parties of course may continue to provide support for candidates, but this is a 1st Amendment right, and is just as true for the Coffee and Constitution parties, as it is Libertarian and Democratic parties.

      “Qualification” is a meaningless concept for voter-nominated offices, other than their ability to have candidate endorsements appear in the voter’s pamphlet.

      (8) Debra Bowen misinterpreted the straightforward language of Proposition 14 and SB 6. In so doing she is violating the 1st Amendment rights of candidates to have their political beliefs appear on the ballot.

      Bowen in effect is saying that a candidate may only express their personal opinion if it conforms to a state-approved list of personal lists.

      (9) The modicum of support decisions such as Storer simply do not apply. To be placed on the ballot, a candidate needs 40 or 65 signatures, depending on office. That is their modicum of support. Just because the SCOTUS said 5% is OK, it does not mean that a State must have such extreme limits.

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