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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.




“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.

“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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