Independent Candidate in Alabama Denied Ballot Access in Special Election

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Congressman Jo Bonner, who represented Alabama’s first congressional district, resigned from office on August 2 to take a position in the state’s university system. Governor Robert Bentley announced a special election would be held on December 17 to choose Bonner’s successor.

Burton LeFlore won the Democratic Primary and Bradley Byrne won the Republican Primary after a close runoff election against tea party-backed Dean Young. On December 17, voters in Alabama CD-1 will receive ballots with LeFlore and Byrne’s names on it, but they aren’t the only ones pursuing the seat.

James Hall, 38, is a Marine veteran and a businessman currently employed as a production supervisor at Cintas Corporation in Mobile. Politically, Hall describes himself as a conservative and has voted Republican most of his life, but it was only last year that he became seriously interested in politics.

Hall heard Bonner’s resignation announcement on the radio in May and decided then that he should run for office.

“Some people say I would be a perfect tea party candidate or Constitution Party candidate, but I’m not much into labels,” said Hall. “As I’ve gotten older and paid more attention, I feel the GOP isn’t representative of us and true conservatives, which I define as simply saying ‘we want to be left alone and follow common sense.’ The two parties create an establishment of career politicians.”

Hall believes that working within a party system forces politicians to put party above people.

“I have no interest in helping a party,” he remarked. “I have an interest in helping the people of our district and the state of Alabama.”

"Some people say I would be a perfect tea party candidate or Constitution Party candidate, but I’m not much into labels."James Hall
Thus, he declared himself as an independent candidate.

According to Alabama’s ballot access laws, independent candidates must collect signatures from at least 3 percent of the registered voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election. For Hall, that meant he had to collect 5,938 signatures.

“Three percent is not exorbitant,” he said. “From my experience, the number is not too high,”

However, that’s assuming, as the law does, that the independent candidate has approximately 20 months to do it. Hall had 106 days.

Aware of the truncated election schedule, Hall contacted the Alabama Secretary of State’s office in June to ask if the requirement could be adjusted to correspond with the shortened time frame. While they allowed him to get a head start in collecting signatures (the governor had not yet announced the date of the election, which must be displayed on the petition), they told Hall that nothing could be done to lower the required amount of signatures to appear on the ballot.

 

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“Our job is to execute the laws as they are written,” said Will Sutton, elections attorney in the office of Alabama’s secretary of state. In order for any exception to be made, he said, the laws would have to be rewritten.

Ed Packard, the director of the Elections Division, confirmed Sutton’s remarks.

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“The laws are statutory so any change would require action by the legislature,” Packard explained. “There’s no authority for the secretary of state to unilaterally change the signature requirement or the deadline.”

Mr. Packard is unaware of any movement in the legislature to examine or change the current laws.

For Hall, who has a full-time job and a family, the law as it stands does not make sense and is unfair. Reluctantly, he filed a lawsuit against the state on September 16, 8 days before the petition deadline. His case went to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

On November 13, Judge Mark Fuller ruled that the special election should move forward as planned without Hall’s name on the ballot. The court has yet to decide whether Alabama’s ballot access laws, when applied to special elections, are unconstitutional.

Hall’s attorney filed an emergency appeal to the 11th Circuit Court, but it is unlikely that a decision will be made before the special election or even by the end of the year.

As it stands, the only way Hall can make it onto the ballot is as a write-in candidate. However, the winner of the special election will be up for re-election in one year. When asked if he will try again, Hall said he made his decision, but will not announce it at this time.

Photo Credit: esfera / shutterstock.com

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36 comments
DougGoodman
DougGoodman

Joshua,

The current law in Alabama may not be ideal, but until the law is changed, it is what all candidates must comply with. From a campaign perspective, Hall would probably be better served by building support for the 2014 election. Following that campaign, he can use his organization to push for changes in the candidate qualification statutes.

John McClure
John McClure

Hell no! He knew the rules before he decided to rum, OK!

Dalton Luffey
Dalton Luffey

it should be, collect say 7,000 signatures of registered voters regardless of what election they previous voted in as long as they are registered. I think that should qualify someone for ballot access in the great state of Alabama.

Wes Alderson
Wes Alderson

It would be important to take this to the Federal Appeals Court for a decision.

Rene Gautreau
Rene Gautreau

Alabama proving once again you can not fix stupid

snertly
snertly

AL GOP would rather not have Democrats on the ballot, much less any third party candidate.  Finding someone who was neither Republican nor Democrat would probably stir up all sorts of uncomfortable questions.

Dave Thompson
Dave Thompson

In the old confederacy they oove denying people the right to vote...it's no suprise they'd love to deny people the right to run for office as well.

Scott M Darrah
Scott M Darrah

This is wrong! It's time to allow more free thinking independents into office.

JoshSmith2
JoshSmith2

While I, as a member of the Socialist Alternative Party, don't agree at all with the candidate's politics or those of the two party establishment, it's very regrettable that it's so difficult for independent candidates to get on the ballot. 6,000 signatures is a bit extreme, especially in such a short time period. 

Josh Smith
Josh Smith

Alabama's a crap hole, that's why. :/ Hate muh state.

Conrad Gosciminski
Conrad Gosciminski

Did they fail to teach you in school that with the two party system the way it is setup, a independent can not set on or vote in a committee without the permission of one of the major party giving permission to do so. The vote in Virginia should also let you understand how the Democrats setup a so called independent candidate to split the vote in their favor.

Rebecca Rose Howe Schwarz
Rebecca Rose Howe Schwarz

Ballot access should be open to anyone, not just the two-parties that have screwed this country beyond recognition.

David Lamb
David Lamb

Yes, regardless of views or agenda.

Sammi De La Cruz
Sammi De La Cruz

It should be any registered voter not just the ones who voted in the last election. Then they might have a chance. But better yet you should just have to register your self and pay a small fee, oh lets say $50.00, and you are on the ballot.

Terry Trott
Terry Trott

There's a reason why the two parties do not want a third party! What are they scared of? I'm a Libertarian and believe in term limits and no corporations in ANY branch of the government! That alone is a threat to the two party crooks!

Anthony Carbo
Anthony Carbo

time to get rid of the party system period, vote the person not the party

Cassie Swartwout
Cassie Swartwout

If Republicans and Democrats don't have to get signatures then why do other parties? Seems to me like this is just a way to keep 3rd parties from even getting on the ballot. He should sue and get this law taken to the courts.

Steve Stratton
Steve Stratton

Yes, if you decrease the time allowed to collect signatures you should also decrease the number of signatures required. But then we all know that the Dems and GOPs don't want third party candidates to appear on ballots.

Tammy Christian Savage
Tammy Christian Savage

OUR GOVT TODAY IS NOT PROTECTING US FROM GANGS.....gangs we have to rely on just work, live and get around.....THEY BELONG IN JAIL not on top of the ENTIRE WORLD. When you learn how many they've hurt for their own selfish designs you GET SICK. SICK SICK SICK. All the primary owners are branches of European establishments. Foreigners, almost entirely Jewish, control the United States Money supply. They literally own exclusive rights to the dollar and simply enter dollars into their banks books to make money which they then lend back to us at a profit. For them money does not grow on trees, it is simply a data entry into their account. Clearly the private ownership of the U.S. Dollar is by far The Greatest Crime of the Century. The owners of this bank have been responsible for instigating all the major wars and depressions in the last 100 years. They own the bank, they own the dollar and they own all the major media channels, the military industrial complex and most politicians, judges and cops. http://www.silverbearcafe.com/private/07.10/gangsters.html

Randee Head
Randee Head

It seems reasonable that reducing the time should result in reducing the percentage. It's simple match. In this case, the time has been substantially reduced, so it is probably fair to reduce the number of signatures to 1%.

Chase Morris
Chase Morris

You shouldn't have to get signatures. The only reason for his law is so that 3rd party's and independents have to spend half of their budget just achieving ballot access

Chuck Sweeney
Chuck Sweeney

It's a two party system and that's the way those two parties want to keep it

Gerry Barto
Gerry Barto

Good. Every time an independent or libertarian runs a democrat wins. Look what just happened in VA

RayH
RayH

Alex-this is a test on my wife's MAC 

Alex_G
Alex_G moderator

"we want to be left alone and follow common sense" sounds better than the platforms of most candidates

RichardWinger
RichardWinger

This is a good article, but it omits that Alabama is in the 11th circuit, and in 1982 the 11th circuit ruled in Citizens Party of Georgia v Poythress that when the petitioning period is sharply curtailed, either the deadline should be extended or the number of signatures should be reduced.  It was wrong for the U.S. District Court not to follow the Citizens Party precedent.  Another thing the article doesn't have quite right is the number of signatures in neighbor states.  Georgia doesn't require any signatures whatsoever, for any candidate in a special election for Congress or state office.

Alex_G
Alex_G moderator

@RayH  Looks like it's working!

JoshuaAlvarez
JoshuaAlvarez

@RichardWinger Hi, Richard. Thank you for your comments. Regarding Georgia's requirements for an independent candidate wanting to appear on a ballot for a U.S. House seat, I checked back on my sources and reconfirmed that Georgia requires that he/she must collect 5% of the registered voters eligible to vote in the last election. Here's one of my sources: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/news/0691.html, it reads:

 "Now, what about non-statewide races? For any jurisdiction that is not statewide [such as a county, US congressional district, State House district, State Senate district], a candidate wishing to run as an independent or political body candidate must collect signatures from at least 5 percent of the registered voters eligible to vote in the last election in that jurisdiction."

Shawn M Griffiths
Shawn M Griffiths moderator

@RichardWinger Thank for the clarification, Richard. I think the chart is meant more for congressional races in general and does not specifically point to special elections only. Also, the 11th circuit is mentioned briefly, but that is an important piece of information to consider about Georgia v. Poythress. Thanks, Richard!

RichardWinger
RichardWinger

Georgia does not require anyone to collect signatures in special elections.  Candidates just pay the filing fee.  The reference you show does not relate to special elections.