Barbour says parties not following state election law

Published 4:11 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gov. Haley Barbour says Mississippi should begin enforcing a state law that requires political parties to do a little leg work before certifying someone as a candidate for office.

Under the state law, a political party cannot certify a candidate as its nominee until that person files all of their campaign finance documents with the secretary of state’s office.

“That’s something that isn’t being done,” Barbour said. “We’re going to go forward and make it plain that we’re not going to certify someone as the nominee until the party has done what they’re supposed to do.”

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Barbour also wants sanctions against parties that violate the law, said his spokesman Pete Smith.

Barbour, Attorney General Jim Hood and Secretary of State Eric Clark, who make up the Board of Election Commissioners, met Tuesday to approve the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election.

Barbour’s comments came after the board discussed whether to take the name of Green Party candidate Melvin Brown off the ballot.

Brown, of Tupelo, is a candidate for the House District 16 seat. The other candidates for the seat are incumbent Democrat state Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville and Republican J. Everett Dutschke of Tupelo.

Clark had recommended removing Brown’s name from the ballot because the office had not received Brown’s statement of intent. Election laws require that the political party forward the candidate’s statement of intent to Clark’s office.

Jan Hillegas, a member of the executive committee of the Green Party of Mississippi, gave the board copies of e-mails that indicated that Brown’s statement had been received by the party, but apparently the party had failed to forward the information to Clark.

Clark said he was reluctant to set a bad precedent by leaving Brown’s name on the ballot. Barbour argued that it wasn’t Brown’s fault that the Green Party had dropped the ball.

“I am loathe to punish this guy because the party screwed up,” Barbour said. “I’m satisfied that the guy filed.”

The board voted unanimously to keep Brown’s name on the ballot. They also approved the sample ballot, subject to review.

Before the meeting began, Paul Leslie Riley, a Constitution Party candidate for state commissioner of agriculture and commerce, was informed that a question about his residency had been resolved.

“Well praise the Lord for that,” said Riley, who had traveled from Pontotoc County to Jackson with his wife and nine children.

Clark’s office sent Riley a letter last week that said he would be disqualified as a candidate because he was not a legal resident of Pontotoc County. Clark said the situation had been remedied when Riley registered to vote in the county.

Riley said he moved his family from Chickasaw County to Pontotoc County in December, but had not registered to vote by March when he filed his qualifying papers.

The other candidates for agriculture commissioner are Republican incumbent Lester Spell of Richland and Democrat Rickey Cole of Jackson.