RR: Election legislation, restricting issue criticism of candidates

January 29th, 2009 by Perry

There are 72 bills pending before the House Apportionment and Elections Committee, and 46 bills before the Senate Elections Committee. These measures range from the quirky to the noble, from election reforms to election deforms. This week Reasonably Right looks at four of those measures.

Representative Bill Denny (R-Jackson) introduced a measure (HB 318) to repeal the Nonpartisan Judicial Election Act which prohibits judicial candidates from running as Democrats or Republicans. Senator David Jordan (D-Greenwood) has a measure (SB 2889) to apportion Mississippi’s presidential Electoral Votes one per congressional district and two at large. And while there are various voter ID measures, I note that Senator Joey Fillingane (R-Sumrall) seeks to conduct a statewide initiative to collect the necessary signatures to force voter ID onto the ballot for voters to make their own decision. Republican Party Chairman Brad White has committed resources to assist Fillingane. Here are Fillingane and White on WAPT on Monday to discuss the matter.

House Apportionment and Election Chairman Tommy Reynolds (D-Charleston) introduced legislation (HB 650) that really sticks in my crawl, as a challenge to freeĀ political speech.

Currently, no person may attack a candidate for any reason “reflecting upon the honesty, integrity, or moral character” pertaining to his private life, unless it is true. Even if true, these charges can’t be made within the final five days of the election (beginning the Friday before the election).

Reynolds’ bill changes the whole meaning of the section by removing the context of private life and including provisions like “past practice” and “voting record.” He then extends the time period from five days to fifteen days. Whereas now you cannot attack a candidate’s private life within five days of the election, Reynolds would prohibit even truthful criticisms of a candidate’s voting record up to two weeks before the election. Effectively, any truthful criticism of an incumbent within 15 days of the election would be illegal. This would dampen many of our state’s editorials, but would also prohibit you from criticizing a candidate’s vote in an e-mail to a friend.

You can read the full column at the Madison County Journal: PERRY/Election reform

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