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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

State laws create roadblock to ballot access

Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Press Register-Washington Bureau

Loretta Nall is running for governor this year, but voters won't find her name on the November ballot.

As a third-party contender, the Libertarian from Alexander City was unable to clear some of the nation's highest hurdles to get on that ballot. Instead, she has had to stake her hopes on a write-in bid.

"It's a huge obstacle," Nall said, referring to Alabama's requirement that third-party or independent candidates running statewide this year collect more than 41,000 signatures.

As of Tuesday, a half-dozen independent and third-party candidates are certified for the Nov. 7 ballot, according to the Secretary of State's office, and all are running for local posts or the Legislature.

Alabama is just one of four states this year -- New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and New Mexico are the others -- that have no such candidates seeking statewide office, said Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, a California-based publication that tracks legal developments in that arena.

In Mississippi, where the rules are far less restrictive, three third-party candidates ran in the state's last gubernatorial election in 2003, and at least six more were on the ballot for other statewide offices.

Although they rarely pose an electoral threat, such candidates contribute "to the free flow of ideas, which is important in a democracy," said William Stewart, a University of Alabama political scientist.

To get on the ballot in Alabama, a 1995 law requires all independent and third-party contenders -- except independents seeking the presidency -- to collect signatures of registered voters equal to 3 percent of the number who cast ballots in the previous governor's race.

For a statewide election this year, that translates into more than 41,000 signatures. Such a candidate seeking to represent the six-county 1st Congressional District in south Alabama would have to gather some 5,500 signatures

Those obstacles don't appear to be a pressing concern for either Democratic or Republican lawmakers.

"Parties seem to have some self-serving interest, and I guess it would be logical" to try to muffle potential competition, said state Sen. Wendell Mitchell, a Luverne Democrat who chairs the Senate's elections committee.

(The politicians are there to "serve the people" not themselves.)

"I don't think it ought to be easy to gain access," said state Sen. Steve French, R-Birmingham, who also sits on the same panel.

(Of course you don't. However, Senator French, YOU have never had to lift one finger to gain ballot access. It's easy to make rules you don't have to follow yourself. You, because you aligned with the Republican party, were granted automatic ballot access and, in my book, that certainly qualifies as EASY! If you really believed what you were saying then you would work to make ballot access requirements the SAME for all political parties. Since you won't do that you obviously have some double standards and you lack the courage of your convictions in both ballot access and your platforms. If I am no threat then why am I excluded?)

Here my fellow Alabamians are two Senators who believe it is perfectly alright to send your children off to die in Iraq fighting to bring 'Democracy and fair and free elections' when they will not allow them everything in their power, in fact, to keep elections from being fair and free in Alabama. Remember that Iraq had 75 political parties and 111 candidates in their last election.....our soldiers fought and died to ensure that Iraqi's would have that many choices...Yet, you only have two.

I just sent this letter to the editor of the Press Register. I'd like to suggest that you do the same.

Dear Editor,

I’d like the opportunity to respond to the comments made by Senators Wendell Mitchell (D)- Luverne and Steve French ( R ) – BHAM, in the article by Sean Riley “State Law Creates Roadblock to Ballot” (9/20/06)

Senator Mitchell stated that it makes sense for politicians to stifle competition in their own self-interest. But aren’t elected officials supposed to serve the interest of the people and not themselves?

Senator French stated that he didn’t think it should be easy to gain ballot access, yet he never had to lift a finger to get his name listed on the ballot because he aligned with one of the two major parties.

It's easy for Republicans and Democrats to make rules that they themselves don't have to follow. If Sen. French really believed what he said then he would work to make ballot access requirements the SAME for all political parties. Since he won't do that then he obviously has some double standards and he lacks the courage of his convictions.

Alabama’s ballot access laws are an insult to every voter in this state. To stifle the free exchange of ideas by having such strict ballot access requirements means that Republicans and Democrats fear allowing voters access to all information because they think voters are too stupid to make the choice for themselves.

If Democrats and Republicans believed in their policies then they would never seek to limit an opposing view. After all, if they are as right as they claim then they have nothing to fear from me, right? If they believed in the ability of Alabamians to hear all possible options and make a choice on election day then ballot access would not be an issue. But, they neither believe in their own policies nor in the ability of citizens they are asking for their vote to make a choice so they must pass laws that take away a citizens right to vote for someone other than them.

Alabama’s ballot access restrictions amount to nothing more than state-sanctioned hand-holding.

What an insult to Alabama voters.

Respectfully Submitted,
Loretta Nall
Libertarian Candidate for Governor (Write-in)
4633 Pearson Chapel Rd
Alexander City, AL



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