Early Deadlines Unfair to Independents
This appeared as a letter to the editor of The Clarion-Ledger on January 16, 2011.
Both Clarion-Ledger Editorial Director David Hampton and the Enterprise-Journal of McComb wrote about this year's ludicrous March 1 qualifying deadline for candidates for all offices except the legislature ("Time is now to consider running," Hampton, Jan.2; "Qualifying deadline should be moved to June 1," Enterprise-Journal, Jan. 1). This premature date is definitely a prophylactic for incumbents. Even more outrageous is the January deadline in presidential election years. That's some ten months before the general election, the only election in which independents run.
For years, Mississippi had a September qualifying deadline for independents. If anyone was dissatisfied with the choices produced by the August party primaries, one or more independent candidates could still get on the November ballot. But this was a big inconvenience for party candidates-- especially incumbents-- so in the 1980s, the Legislature made the deadline for independents the same as that for party candidates.
I wish that someone would file suit against the early deadlines, as numerous courts in other states have ruled that January, March, and even some later dates are unconstitutional for independent candidates.
Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman was reelected in 2006 as an independent after losing the Democratic primary. In 2010, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski was reelected as a write-in candidate after losing the Republican primary. While I do not advocate letting candidates who lose party primaries keep on running, I would like to see Mississippi make ballot access easier for independents and write-in candidates.
Elections should be about more choices for the voters, not about less competition for incumbents.