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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cliff Finch, the "Workingman's Friend"

When former Congressman John Rarick of Louisiana died recently, Ballot Access News had a piece on him, which morphed into a political junkie's smorgasbord (at this posting, there are 162 comments on that article, which has to be a record for a site of that type).

One of the commenters mentioned that former Mississippi governor Cliff Finch had briefly shown an interest in the American Independent Party's 1980 presidential nomination. Finch, a personal injury lawyer from Batesville, served as governor from 1976 to 1980. Following are excerpts from my remarks about him.

Finch put together a “blackneck/redneck” coalition in his winning 1975 gubernatorial campaign. He ran a “workingman’s campaign,” patterned after Tom Harkin’s 1974 U. S. House race in Iowa. Finch would spend a day performing such jobs as operating a bulldozer, giving haircuts, working on a shrimp boat, bagging groceries, pumping gas, etc. He carried a lunchbox with him, and that was his campaign symbol (he also often wore a hard hat). It was a gimmick that, unfortunately, captured the voters’ imagination. For me, it was surreal.

When the Democrat Jim Eastland retired in 1978, Finch ran for the U. S. Senate and finished second in the Democratic primary. He indirectly attacked Eastland, who endorsed his opponent in the Democratic runoff. Finch said he lost because the people wanted him to complete his term as governor.

In November, Republican congressman Thad Cochran was elected with 45 percent. The Democrat Maurice Dantin of Columbia got 31.8 percent; the independent Charles Evers of Fayette had 22.9 percent; and the independent Henry Kirksey of Jackson received 0.3 percent.

At the end of Finch's administration, there was a story that some of the antique furniture was missing from the governor's mansion. Finch responded, "Me or my family have not stole one thing!"

In 1980, Finch entered nine Democratic presidential primaries. The main thing I remember about his campaign was the overhead shot of him in a heart-shaped bath tub. He drove an 18-wheeler cross country to show his solidarity with working people.

Congressman Trent Lott headed Ronald Reagan’s campaign in Mississippi. I attended a Jackson meeting at which Lott spoke, and he listed the Democratic presidential candidates: “Carter, Kennedy… Finch…” That brought the house down, since Finch was a laughingstock after his disastrous term as governor.

In 1986, Finch was preparing to run again for governor in 1987. He drank 40-50 cups of coffee per day (no joke), and he dropped dead with a heart attack. He was age 59.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Term Limit State and Local Officials

The letter below appeared in The Clarion-Ledger on September 21. At this posting, it has attracted 22 comments there.


I agree with Noel Funchess ("End 'earmarks' with term limits," September 7). We term limit the president, the governor, and the lieutenant governor, but we let other officials hang around as long as they can keep getting elected.

In the recent "stimulus" bill, Congress authorized 9,000-plus pork-barrel projects totaling hundreds of billions of dollars. Future generations are going to love having to pay for those earmarks.

Sadly, in 1995, the U. S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, said that an individual state cannot term limit its congressional delegation.[1] This could only be done by amending the U.S. Constitution.

Dr. Godfrey Garner of Edwards is sponsoring a ballot initiative for term limits. The state attorney general will presumably change this proposal to include only state and local officials.


[1] U. S. Term Limits v. Thornton

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jonathan Alter Favors the "Open Primary"

UPDATE: Richard Winger, publisher of Ballot Access News, has this op-ed on California's "top two" proposal in the Sacramento Bee.


In June 2010, California will have a ballot measure for a Louisiana-style "top two" election system, popularly known hereabouts as the "open primary." This proposal is already drawing attention, and, amazingly, Jonathan Alter has endorsed the concept in a Newsweek column. Here's an expanded version of the comment that I posted at the magazine's Web site:

Regarding your last paragraph: The so-called "open primary" is actually a nonpartisan general election with a runoff; Washington state calls it by the more accurate name, "top two."

It's interesting that you didn't mention Louisiana, the only other state that uses this monstrosity to elect all of its state officials (Washington alone uses it for its congressional elections). Louisiana's system certainly has not produced moderates. In the 1991 governor's race, for example, the runoff featured a candidate who had been tried for fraud versus a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. In 1995, the runoff for governor was between a white conservative Republican and a black liberal Democrat (now-U. S. senator Mary Landrieu had finished third).

This "top two" system forces the top two vote-getters to conduct TWO general election campaigns, which makes campaigns more expensive and discourages candidates from running. In recent years, two former Louisiana governors considered running again but decided not to. If the Bayou State had party primaries, they likely would have run, giving the voters more choices.

In November 2004, California voters defeated Proposition 62, a ballot initiative for a "top two" system; it lost in 51 of the state's 58 counties. In 2008, nearly 66 percent of Oregon voters said "no" to M65, a similar ballot measure.

The "top two" also has a devastating effect on independent and minor party candidates, as those candidates almost never make the runoff. If a minor party's message is kept out of the campaign for the final, deciding election, the party loses its main reason for existing.

Why should the voters be limited to just two choices in the final, deciding election?

NOTE: The Louisiana system does not apply to congressional elections; when a candidate there gets 50-plus percent in the first round, there is no runoff. The California proposal, on the other hand, is similar to the system that Washington state used for the first time in 2008: It applies to congressional as well as state elections, and there is always a second round of voting, even if one candidate receives 50-plus percent in the first round.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Socialist Candidate Suing Mississippi

The Natural Law Party is no longer a national party, but it is still a qualified party in Mississippi. Last year, Brian Moore, a Florida resident who was the Socialist Party's presidential nominee, contacted the NLP about their ballot line in Mississippi (the Socialist Party is not qualified here, and it would have been more difficult to qualify as an independent). The NLP's state executive committee, through a conference call, nominated Moore. ~~ SR


From Ballot Access News:

The Fifth Circuit will hear oral arguments in Moore v Hosemann in New Orleans, the week of November 2-6. The case concerns the Mississippi Secretary of State’s refusal to accept presidential elector paperwork for Brian Moore, the 2008 Socialist Party presidential candidate. The Secretary of State said the paperwork arrived ten minutes too late. However, the Mississippi law setting the deadline does not specify any particular hour for receiving such paperwork. Certain other election-related deadlines do specify 5 p.m. in the election law, but this deadline doesn’t.

Moore also argues that if the Secretary of State says he had administratively set the closing deadline at 5 p.m., that would have violated Article II of the U.S. Constitution, because that part of the Constitution, setting forth rules for presidential elector selection, says only state legislatures can set forth rules for that topic.

A somewhat similar case is pending in the 5th Circuit against Louisiana, concerning the Libertarian Party, but no oral argument date has been set for that case, called Libertarian Party v Dardenne.

Indiana Voter ID Law Struck Down

From Ballot Access News:

On September 17, the Indiana State Court of Appeals struck down the 2005 law that requires voters at the polls to show government photo-ID with an expiration date. The vote was 3-0. Here is the 29-page decision. The case is League of Women Voters of Indiana v Rokita, 49A02-0901-cv-40.

The basis for the decision is the Indiana Constitution, which says “The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities which upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.” The Court found that the voter ID law violates that equal protection clause in two ways: (1) absentee voters don’t need to prove their identity, so the law discriminates against voters who vote at the polls; (2) the law gives an exemption to voters who live in a state licensed care facility when that licensed care facility is the location of the polling place for that precinct, so those voters are being treated better than voters who don’t happen to live in the building that houses the polling place.

It is considered inevitable that the Indiana Secretary of State will appeal to the State Supreme Court. This decision, if it survives, is a good model for the... North Carolina ballot access case, now pending in North Carolina’s State Court of Appeals. Both cases are similar in that federal courts had already upheld the challenged regulations, and the plaintiffs are depending on greater protections found in State Constitutions than in the U.S. Constitution.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

South Carolina Open Primary Lawsuit Dropped

Back in April, the Republican Party of Greenville County brought a federal lawsuit against South Carolina's state-mandated open primary, in which each voter picks a party on primary day. The party had wanted to be able to block Democrats from voting in GOP primaries. On August 14, however, the party voluntarily dropped the suit.

I have not been able to find any articles on this from the South Carolina press. Anyone who files a lawsuit like this usually catches a lot of flak from the voters, the other major party, and even some members of his own party. U. S. senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, had issued a statement criticizing the suit. Also, Samuel Harms, who filed the suit, was ousted in May from his post as county GOP chairman.

The suit in which the Idaho Republican Party is challenging that state's compulsory open primary system is going forward. There will soon be a trial in U. S. district court there (Idaho Republican Party v. Ysursa).

There is also a movement among Hawaii's Republicans against the Aloha State's open primary law.

In 2007, in a suit brought by a local unit of the Virginia Republican Party, the 4th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, when a party is forced to hold a primary, the party-- not the state-- decides who is eligible to vote in that primary (Miller v. Cunningham).

I still believe that, when a case involving a state-mandated open primary reaches the U. S. Supreme Court, the high court will declare it unconstitutional.

Thanks to Ballot Access News.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

California Closed Primary Proposal Withdrawn

Next June, California will have a measure on the ballots to change to a Louisiana-style "top two" election system (popularly called the "open primary" in Mississippi). With more independents now likely to be voting, this measure may have a better chance of winning. ~~ SR


by Neil Stevens | REDSTATE

[Last night] on his site Flash Report, which is a nice source of California Republican political news, Jon Fleischman announced that he is pulling the proposal to close our state’s Republican primaries.

Right now, anyone who Declines To State a party preference is allowed to vote in our primaries, with the exception of Presidential primaries. But Fleischman had made a proposal, which the party was set to vote on in Indian Wells late this month, that would deny non-Republicans the chance to vote in our primaries. People would have to join our party to have a say in who represents our party.

However [last night] he wrote this:

"After consultation with many fellow supporters of my proposed change in the California Republican Party Bylaws, I made the very difficult decision just a few minutes ago to withdraw the change.

"To make a long story short, while I am confident that the votes were there to pass the change at the convention, the matter was becoming extremely divisive due to a lot of misinformation being spread about the proposal, and its effects."

I am disappointed to hear this, and I hope that we don’t pay for it in June.

Click here to see the numerous comments.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Which Party Do You Prefer?

The following are excerpts from my comments at Ballot Access News about the Idaho Republican Party's suit against the state-mandated open primary and related issues:

Party registration is the most practical way of identifying voters’ party preferences. The state compels parties to nominate by primary, so it’s reasonable for the state to register voters by party. This is often done to enable parties to block some voters from their primaries, but not always.

Iowa, Utah, and Alaska, for example, all have party registration. Both of Iowa’s major parties have open primaries.[1] In Utah, the Democrats have an open primary, and the Republicans invite independents into their primary. Alaska’s Democrats have joined the minor parties in listing their candidates on a single primary ballot, and ANY registered voter may participate. Independents are the only non-members who can vote in Alaska's Republican primary.

Assuming that the courts strike down the state-mandated open primary: Absent party registration, the Idaho Republicans-- and any other party--could require any voter requesting the party's primary ballot to sign an oath of affiliation at the polling place. This wouldn’t work, however, if a party wanted to let independents vote in its primary.

The Republicans– and/or any other party– could conduct a statewide poll to ask each voter his or her party preference. Or a party could invite registered voters to enroll as members at the party’s headquarters or by mail. But it would be much simpler– and far less expensive– for the state to simply add a “party preference” box to the voter registration form.

The state could adopt a system of party registration like the one that Rhode Island and Utah fairly recently implemented. All currently registered voters would be deemed to be independents, and the only ones who would need to re-register would be those who wanted to affiliate with a party.

The U. S. Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Board of Elections v. Lopez Torres (2008) does not bode well for the state-mandated open primary: “A political party has a First Amendment right to limit its membership as it wishes and to choose a candidate-selection process that will in its view produce the nominee who best represents its political platform.”


{1} When a party has an open primary, ALL voters are eligible to participate. In Iowa, a registered Democrat who wants to vote in the Republican primary can change his registration at the polling place on primary day. The same is true of a registered Republican who wants to vote in the Democratic primary.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The War for the California Republican Party

California registers voters by party, and since the 2002 elections, the Republicans have invited independents ("decline to state") to vote in their primaries.[1] At the upcoming state GOP convention, there will be an effort to change the rule and restore closed GOP primaries.

What the columnist below calls an "open" primary is actually a semi-closed primary, in which independents are the only non-members eligible to vote.

California voters have until 15 days before a primary to change their registration. ~~ SR


by Neil Stevens | REDSTATE | September 6, 2009

At our next Republican Convention [September 27] here in California, the most important vote we take may be the vote to close our primary elections, ensuring that people are Republicans before they can choose who will represent our party on the ballot. Since... we opened our primaries to those who do not join a party, we have had no noteworthy statewide electoral success from primary-nominated Republicans (our dear Governor Schwarzenegger, remember, bypassed the primary process in the recall of Governor Gray Davis).

So the benefits of the [semi-closed] primary have been shown to be minimal. Yet a certain coalition of Republicans will be fighting hard to keep our primaries open [to independents]. Notable in that coalition are the backers of Meg “I’m a huge fan of Van Jones” Whitman, candidate for Governor; Carly “The fundamental objective [of HP is] to be a good international citizen” Fiorina, candidate for Senate; and of course Governor Arnold “Right-wing crazies” Schwarzenegger. See a pattern?

This is what I’ve been saying all along about the Chuck DeVore/Carly Fiorina primary race for Senate. This is about more than who’s going to be the sacrifice on the ballot this time around. This is about what our party will stand for, and who will get to claim the mantle of speaking for the party the next time our legislative conservatives obstruct Democrat tax hikes.

And I’m perfectly willing to concede our two US Senate seats and Governor’s chair in exchange for strong Assembly and state Senate caucuses, as well as strong conservatives in the US House, free of undermining influences from said Senate nominees and Governor’s offices. We’re not going to win the statewide offices anyway, because if push came to shove the unions and their allies would start running ads with as many lies as it took to win, or to raise the money it took to run those ads, just as the pro-abort forces did to beat back Parental Notification last year.

Just look at the record: We did no better containing spending under Schwarzenegger than under Davis*, this despite his big talk on taxes and spending. As usual, the squish on social policy turned out to be a squish on fiscal policy as well, failing to use the line-item veto to bring the budget under control, instead letting the spending grow until it became a crisis, and then supporting tax hikes and accounting shell games to pretend to fix the crisis.

Outside of the obscure technical offices like Secretary of State or Insurance Commissioner, or the recall fluke which bypassed the base**, with or without Independents in our primaries we haven’t been able to do anything statewide since... Read more>>>>


[1] The 2008 Republican presidential primary was closed, whereas the Democratic and American Independent parties invited independents into their presidential primaries. In state and congressional elections, independents now have their choice of the Democratic, Republican, or American Independent primary. California's county and municipal elections are nonpartisan: All voters receive the same ballot, which lists all the candidates for each office.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Ruling on Mississippi-Style Primary System

Ballot Access News is reporting that a federal district judge has ordered a trial in the Idaho Republican Party's lawsuit against the state-mandated open primary.[1] The party wants to be able to enforce its rule that says only party members may vote in GOP primaries.

"The trial is needed to determine if 'the open primary subjects the Republican Party’s candidate-selection process to persons wholly unaffiliated with the party.'"

"Idaho is one of the 21 states [including Mississippi] in which the voter registration form does not ask voters to choose a party."

The Associated Press says: "The decision could affect the 2010 Legislative session and the primary election, so [Judge B. Lynn] Winmill said he would move the case forward as quickly as possible."

The judge certainly has not moved the case quickly thus far. He heard oral arguments last February, and one would think that, if he was going to order a trial, he would have done so months ago. Regardless of how Winmill rules, there will likely be an appeal to the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If he declares the open primary law unconstitutional, don't be surprised if the ruling is stayed, thus allowing next year's primaries to be conducted under the current setup.

"The Idaho GOP has... argued that the open primary system violates the First Amendment right to free association because it forces Republican Party members to associate with nonmember voters."

Almost all of the U. S. Supreme Court's (SCOTUS's) reasoning in California Democratic Party v. Jones (2000), which the Idaho GOP cited, also applies to the state-mandated open primary. For example: Political parties have "the freedom to identify the people who constitute the association, and to limit the association to those people only."

One of the attorneys opposing the Republicans said, "... the position the Republican Party took in this litigation is that the mere existence of an open primary in and of itself violates their rights. What the judge is saying is, 'Until you can come forward with some actual proof that you've been harmed by the open primary in Idaho, I'm not going to grant that...'

That's certainly not the stance that the SCOTUS took in the California case. The high court said that one election under that primary system could do significant damage to a party.

I'm wondering whether the Idaho Republicans also cited Miller v. Cunningham (2007), which was brought by a local unit of the Virginia Republican Party against the state-mandated open primary. In that case, the 4th Circuit ruled that, when a party is forced to nominate by primary, the party-- not the state-- decides which voters are eligible to participate in that primary.

Washington state, like Idaho, does not register voters by party. In the California case, evidence was presented regarding crossover voting in Washington. The Idaho Republicans will presumably be able to furnish such evidence as well (Reed v. Democratic Party of Washington State [2004] followed the California precedent in striking down Washington's similar primary system).[2]

Betsy Russell has interesting posts on today's ruling here and here in the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Washington.

Click here to see Judge Winmill's decision.


[1] The state requires any party holding a primary to let any voter participate in it. Each voter picks a party on primary day.

[2] Winmill does not mention either Miller v. Cunningham or Reed v. Democratic Party of Washington State in his decision.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

How Many Slaves Do You Own?

Henry Louis Gates Jr., of course, is the Harvard professor who recently had the misunderstanding with the Cambridge police. Wonder if Fred Reed will be invited to the next Beer Summit at the White House... ~~ SR


by Fred Reed

Oh, Lord. I'd pull my hair out, if I had more.

On the Web I find that Henry Louis Gates Jr., the chairman of Afro-American Studies at Harvard, is demanding that whites pay reparations to blacks. It's because of slavery, see. He is joined in this endeavor by a gaggle of other professional blacks. I guess he'll send me a bill.

Huh? I feel like saying, Let me get this straight, Hank. I'm slow. Be patient. You want free money because of slavery, right?

I don't blame you. I'd like free money too.

Tell you what. I believe in justice. I'll give you a million dollars for every slave I own, and another million for every year you were a slave. Fair enough? But tell me, how many slaves do you suppose I have? In round numbers, I mean. Say to the nearest dozen. And how long were you a slave?


In other words, I owe you reparations for something that I didn't do and didn't happen to you. That makes sense. Like lug nuts on a birthday cake.

Personally, I think you owe me reparations for things you didn't do and never happened to me. I've never been coated in Dutch chocolate and thrown from the Eiffel Tower. I'll bet you've never done it to anyone.

I want reparations.

Kinda silly, isn't it?

But if we're going to talk about reparations, that's a street that runs in two directions. You want money from me for what some other whites did to some other blacks in another century. How about you guys paying whites reparations for current expenses caused by blacks? Not long ago blacks burned down half of Los Angeles, a city in my country. Cities are expensive, Hank. Build one sometime and you'll see what I mean. Whites had to pay taxes to repair Los Angeles for you. You can send me a check.

Now, yes, I know you burned LA because... Read more>>>>

Robert D. Novak, 1931-2009

by Rupert Cornwell | The Independent | September 2, 2009

Today's top-tier Washington political reporter tends to be smooth and Ivy League, as much a member of the city's establishment as the politicians he writes about. Well before the end of a career that spanned half a century, Bob Novak, too, was a pillar of that establishment. He was one of the most influential journalists in town, whose columns at one point were syndicated in more than 300 newspapers, and whose pugnacious conservatism made him a natural for the shout shows of cable television.

At bottom though, he was an old-fashioned shoe-leather reporter: a small-town boy from the Midwest who had cut his teeth with the Associated Press in Nebraska and Indiana, and who in his own words always was "looking for trouble". And of trouble, Novak found and made plenty - not least with the later column for which he is best remembered, in which he revealed, in July 2003, the name of the CIA operative Valerie Plame.

The CIA-leak imbroglio is too complicated to explain here. But it became one of the most venomous domestic sideshows of the Iraq war, leading ultimately to the conviction of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff of then vice-President Dick Cheney, for lying to a grand jury. The affair dragged on for four years, but Novak, the man who had started it, somehow floated above the fray, even as Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter who had also learnt of Ms Plame's identity, spent three months in jail for refusing to reveal her source.

Only when the dust settled did it emerge that Novak had originally been tipped off not by Libby, but by the former deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. At Libby's trial, several leading Washington journalists were hauled into the witness box to testify, but to the astonishment and chagrin of many liberals, Novak was not among them.

In reality, the Plame affair was hardly one of Novak's biggest scoops, most of which came in the column he wrote for more than four decades, first in partnership with Rowland Evans, and then solo after Evans's retirement in 1993. In its Seventies and Eighties heyday, the "Evans and Novak Report" was a virtual bulletin board for the inner councils and rivalries of the Republican party. But its reach stretched much further. One consequential column was a 1978 interview with Den Xiaoping that helped pave the way for closer US/Chinese relations.

But even that paled beside the 1972 column in which Novak... Read more>>>>

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

French Socialists to Hold Presidential Primary

The direct primary election-- or party primary-- had its beginnings with the Democratic Party of Crawford County, Pennsylvania in 1842. In the early 1900s, states began requiring parties to hold primaries to nominate their candidates. Mississippi first used the party primary statewide in 1903; that was the Democratic primary, since that was then the only party that really mattered here.

For many years, the party primary was exclusive to the United States. In the other democracies, candidates were chosen by the party leaders, the party activists, and the parties' officeholders in government. Recently, however, some parties in other countries have begun experimenting with versions of primaries.

The British Conservative Party is trying a vote-by-mail open primary, and there's a movement in the party to expand that method of nomination. I'll be writing more about that later.

The Socialist Party of France will likely hold a primary to choose its nominee for the presidential election of 2012.

"On the eve of a three-day congress in La Rochelle, the party's leader, Martine Aubry, 59, was strong-armed into dropping her opposition to the idea.

"Writing in Le Monde, she said: 'Reinventing democracy means radically changing the political rules within our party... in particular by holding an open primary to choose our candidate.'"

Ah yes... that sexy term, "open primary." I am continually amazed at the various election systems to which that term is applied. Since the Socialists won't invite ALL French voters to participate, it won't be an open primary. If some non-Socialists are eligible, it will be a semi-closed primary.[1]

"'If the Socialists can agree on this, it will change not only the way the party works, but ultimately the whole left, and even our political system.'"

The article fails to mention that the Socialists conducted a primary to choose their nominee for the 2007 presidential election. The polls were open from 4:00 p. m. until 10:00 p. m.

50-plus percent was required to win, and since Segolene Royal got more votes than her two male opponents combined, no runoff was necessary.

Thanks to Ballot Access News for the link.


[1] In a semi-closed primary, some non-members are invited to participate and other non-members are excluded. In practice in the U. S., it is independents who are invited and members of opposing parties who are excluded.