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Free Citizen

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

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Monday, February 28, 2011

This Kid Gets An A-plus

Since the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord's Prayer are not allowed in most public schools anymore, because the word 'God' is mentioned, a kid in Arizona wrote the following:

Now I sit me down in school,
Where praying is against the rule,
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd.

If scripture now the class recites,
It violates the Bill of Rights.
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a federal matter now.

Our hair can be purple, orange or green,
That's no offense; it's a freedom scene.
The law is specific, the law is precise.
Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.

For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all.
In silence alone we must meditate,
God's name is prohibited by the state.

We're allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
They've outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.
To quote the Good Book makes me liable.

We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
And the 'unwed daddy,' our Senior King.
It's 'inappropriate' to teach right from wrong,
We're taught that such 'judgments' do not belong.

We can get our condoms and birth controls,
Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles.
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
No word of God must reach this crowd.

It's scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns the school's a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make:
Should I be shot; My soul please take!


Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Open Primaries" for Local Elections

Nebraska has nonpartisan elections-- popularly called "open primaries"[1] in many places-- for its one-house legislature. The state lets municipalities decide whether to have party primaries or nonpartisan elections for their own city officials. Currently, the largest city that has party primaries is Fremont, but the city council there is considering changing to nonpartisan elections.

Ballot Access News reports that LB 214 has been introduced in the Nebraska legislature. It would mandate nonpartisan elections for all municipal and county offices.

Mississippi, of course, still has party primaries for municipal[2] and county elections. Since most of our counties decide their elections for county officials in one party's primary, many voters this August will have to choose between voting for state officials or county officials.

This situation could be remedied by the Magnolia State eliminating party primaries for county offices and having all county candidates run in the same election. In each county, all the candidates for county offices would be listed on both the Republican and the Democratic primary ballots. Then, regardless of which party's primary ballot the voter picked for state offices, he would also be able to choose among all the candidates for county offices.

Since the Mississippi legislature is very unlikely to make this change, we citizens will have to do it through a ballot initiative. Hopefully, we will get it accomplished in time for the 2015 state and county elections.


[1] All candidates, including independents, run in the same election. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the runoff.

[2] Some of Mississippi's smaller municipalities do not hold party primaries in electing their own officials. Rather, all candidates run in the general election, which is a one-round, first-past-the-post election. Thus some officials are elected with less than 50 percent of the vote.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Will McMillin Run as an Independent?

UPDATE - 2/26/2011 - WLBT-Channel 3 reports that both Malcolm McMillin and Tyrone Lewis qualified for sheriff as Democrats on Friday, February 25. This sets up a rematch of their 2007 primary battle.


Mississippi will elect its state and county officials this year, and March 1 is the qualifying deadline for all offices except the legislature. The Democrats thus far are fielding candidates for just two of the eight statewide offices-- governor and attorney general. Moreover, the governorship looks to be the only contested statewide race in the August Democratic primary, as attorney general Jim Hood has no primary opposition. If this holds up, of course, the elections for the other six statewide offices will be determined in the Republican primary.[1]

Here in Hinds County, the most populous county and seat of the state capital, elections for county officials have for years been decided in the Democratic primary. Veteran sheriff Malcolm McMillin, one of only a few white county officeholders here, has announced that he will seek a sixth term; however-- interestingly-- he has not yet filed qualifying papers. In fact, just one candidate, a Democrat, has so far filed for sheriff. While I certainly am not privy to McMillin's thinking, I suspect that he may be contemplating running as an independent instead of as a Democrat. Here are some reasons why the sheriff, a very shrewd politician, may consider this to be his best route to victory this year:

~~ If the races for the six statewide offices are indeed decided in the August Republican primary, many whites will vote GOP and will thus be unable to vote for McMillin if he runs in the Democratic primary. Republican primary voters will be eligible to vote for him, however, if he runs as an independent, since the November general election is the only election in which independents are on the ballot.

~~ Johnny Dupree, the black mayor of Hattiesburg, promises to run a vigorous campaign for governor in the Democratic primary. This will presumably increase the black turnout in that primary. While Sheriff McMillin has a large following among blacks, a huge black turnout in the primary would seem to work against him overall (remember that Tyrone Lewis, who is black, gave the sheriff a tough contest in the 2007 Democratic primary).

~~ 50-plus percent is required to win a party primary, but a candidate can win the November general election with less than 50 percent.[2] With McMillin running as an independent, the winner of the Democratic primary would certainly be black. And if one or more black independents also run, that would split the anti-McMillin vote.

There are also potential downsides to an independent candidacy for McMillin:

~~ His longtime ally, Congressman Bennie Thompson of Bolton, is a diehard Democrat and would likely be reluctant to back a white independent against the winner of the Democratic primary, who would be black.

~~ Most black voters are accustomed to voting a straight Democratic ticket in November. Despite McMillin's support among blacks, many of them may find it difficult to choose a white independent over a Democratic nominee who is black. And many may think that it's high time that black-majority Hinds County elected a black sheriff.

We'll have some answers by next Tuesday.


[1] It's always possible, to be sure, that there will be independent and/or minor party candidates.

[2] This is true of all partisan offices except for statewide state offices.

Friday, February 11, 2011

5th Circuit Did Not Reject Voter ID

The Clarion-Ledger ran an edited version of this letter to the editor on January 18, 2011.


In her column on voter ID ("Referendum vote could end lengthy voter ID debate," Jan. 11), Associated Press writer Shelia Byrd mentioned the lawsuit brought in 2006 by the Mississippi Democratic Party, the purpose of which was for the party to gain the ability to block non-Democrats from voting in Democratic primaries. Byrd made it sound as though that suit's dismissal by the 5th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008 was a rejection of voter ID. That's absolutely false.

U. S. district Judge Allen Pepper, ruling in favor of the Democrats, had declared our state primary election law unconstitutional. He also went further and injected voter ID and voter registration by party into the case-- erroneously, in my view. The 5th Circuit threw out the suit on procedural grounds[1], which had nothing at all to do with the issues in the case (Mississippi Democratic Party v. Barbour, 07-60667).

At the time of Pepper's ruling in 2007, twenty-four states already had some type of voter ID.

This has nothing to do with voter ID, but Idaho's Republicans and South Carolina's Republicans subsequently filed federal lawsuits similar to the Mississippi Democrats' suit. A decision is expected any time now in the Idaho case (Idaho Republican Party v. Ysursa, 08-cv-165).


[1] The Democrats had not adopted a party rule for a closed primary.

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.