Jul 02 2011

Louisiana Governor Vetoes Bill to Let Independent Candidates Have Ballot Label “Independent”

Source: Ballot Access News

On July 1, Louisiana Goveror Bobby Jindal vetoed HB 533, an omnibus election law bill, entirely because one small part of the bill lets independent candidates have “independent” as their ballot label. See this story, which contains the Governor’s veto letters (scroll down to find HB 533).

The veto message displays surprising ignorance. Governor Jindal says there is another already-existing section of the election law that bans any party from calling itself the Independent Party. This is true. However, the Governor doesn’t seem to understand that the U.S. Constitution requires all states to provide ballot access procedures for independent candidates, separately and distinct from members of political parties. See Storer v Brown, 415 US 724, at page 745-746. The Court said, “Must the independent candidate necessarily choose the political party route if he wants to appear on the ballot in the general election? We think not.” The fact that the state doesn’t want any political party to call itself “Independent Party” has nothing to do with ballot labels for independent candidates. Furthermore, the label “independent” is so generic and so essential that the State Supreme Courts of Massachusetts and Minnesota have each ruled that the state may not ban that label for independent candidates.

Even more surprisingly, Louisiana has always permitted independent presidential candidate to use a ballot label of “independent.” For example, in November 2008, Ralph Nader appeared on the Louisiana ballot with the label “independent.” Governor Jindal obviously doesn’t know this.

It is unfortunate that the bill was vetoed, because the bill contains another common-sense reform. It provides that the names of presidential elector candidates should no longer be printed on the ballot. The Louisiana November 2008 ballot includes the names of 81 candidates for presidential elector. That occupied lots of space on the ballot and didn’t contribute much useful information. Thanks to Randall Hayes for the link.

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