LA: Jindal Vetoes Bill for Allowing Independent Candidates on Ballot

Stories on the wave of newly-declared independent candidates in China's ongoing local elections continue to ripple through the western media.  Reading a recent article on the elections in the Toronto Sun, I couldn't help but chuckle.  Excerpt:
By his own admission, charismatic 43-year-old Chinese businessman Cao Tian has always been a dreamer.  Some of his friends, however, say the colourful Cao is actually insane.  But there’s no disputing this: Cao Tian is nobody’s fool. A self-made millionaire, he rose from poverty to become a major developer in this gritty industrial city of eight million in central China.

Now he wants to run for mayor — as an independent candidate.  In any Western country, running as an independent candidate wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.  But this is China — and the all-powerful, ruling Communist Party says independents aren’t allowed.  [Emphasis added.]
The reporter from The Star's Asia Bureau clearly isn't very familiar with the repressive character of party government in the United States.  Running for office as an Independent candidate in the United States can not only raise eyebrows, in Louisiana it has spurred Republican Governor Bobby Jindal to pick up the veto pen.  Jindal has vetoed an omnibus election bill because it contained a measure that would allow candidates who are not affiliated with any party to be listed as "Independent" on the ballot.  The Bayou Buzz reprints Jindal's veto letter in its entirety, via Ballot Access News:
Re: House Bill No. 533 by Representative Gallot

Dear Mr. Speer:

House Bill No. 533 by Representative Gallot makes various changes to the election code. While I am not concerned with these updates to the election code, this bill was amended to also change the designation of candidates on election ballots who are not members of any recognized party. This amendment is problematic.

House Bill No. 533 provides that a candidate who is neither a Republican nor a Democrat and who does not belong to any other unrecognized party shall be listed as “Independent” on an election ballot rather than “No Party” as is current law. La. R.S. 18:441(B)(4) states, in pertinent part, “no political party shall be recognized in this state which declares its name solely to be "Independent" or "the Independent Party".” Therefore, this provision in House Bill No. 533 is in conflict with current law.

For this reason, I have vetoed House Bill No. 533 and hereby return it to the House.

Bobby Jindal
At Ballot Access News, Richard Winger is surprised by Jindal's abject ignorance of election law.  Excerpt:
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.
Louisiana is not the only state which is actively blocking Independent candidates from appearing on American ballots.  In California, for instance, the Secretary of State has expressly forbidden any candidate from describing him- or herself as an Independent on the ballot.  In this regard, the similarities between the US two-party state and China's one-party state are too obvious to be overlooked. Consider this report from The Washington Times:
The [Independent] movement has been so strong that the state-run Xinhua News Agency declared at the beginning of June that “independent candidates” are not recognized by Chinese law. It added that all candidates must clear a series of procedures to run for office. . . .

The Chinese Constitution guarantees all citizens 18 or older the right to vote and run in the county- and township-level elections.  In practice, however, the process is tightly controlled by the Communist Party. Most of the time, only party-approved candidates get onto the ballots.  “The biggest obstacle is the procedure,” said Mr. Yao. “If you don’t have confirmation, it’s easy for the government to … just bump off the ones they don’t like [from the ballots].”
In China, as in the United States, Independent candidates must face down outright opposition from the ruling party, overcome absurd procedural hurdles, and then they can still be purged from the ballot by party activists.  The condescension and derision that is clearly apparent in US media reports on the Chinese government's opposition to Independent candidates is matched only by their cowardly acquiescence to the suppression of Independent candidates by party government here in the United States.


Samuel Wilson said...

The funny thing is, I'd like to think that "No Party" might actually become the more attractive label at some point. To be more serious, the reason for the double standard for media coverage of electoral politics here and abroad may be twofold. First, I imagine that most Americans, including the media, assume that the Republicans and Democrats have earned their standing in a way the dictatorial Communists never can. Second, I suspect that on some level many Americans agree with your own reasoning that the only thing necessary for third-party success is the mass will to vote for one. But from the failure of that to emerge they most likely infer that all third parties are losers who want "special privileges" from government to make up for their lack of competitiveness. As a rule, isn't it hard for Americans to admit that not every playing field here is level?

Solom said...

I think this may be one of the silver linings of the Tea Party Movement... since a lot of them aren't registered independents, this may cause partisans on the right to be less likely to pass legislation that makes it harder for indies to participate... hopefully will even lead to some pushback.

Solomon Kleinsmith said...

Pushed enter on accident. The above comment was from me.

d.eris said...

That's an interesting take Sol, but I dunno, it seems like the media narrative that Tea Partiers are just a brand of Republicans is pretty well set at this point, and is made even worse by the fact that lots of TPers seem to agree.

d.eris said...

"As a rule, isn't it hard for Americans to admit that not every playing field here is level?"

I think I'd have to answer in the negative. Lots of Americans understand that the deck is stacked, the table is tilted, the dice are loaded, and not in the people's favor. In this case, it's almost as if people feel like the playing field is so uneven that they throw up their hands and basically just acquiesce to the powers that be, overwhelmed by a feeling of powerlessness. I think it's here that we find folks saying things like, "third party or indy candidates would be great, but first we must implement this major series of reforms, before we can support anyone other than D's and R's."