Sunday, February 11, 2007

Missouri independent leader Kim Wright speaks out on SB 409

An Independent Response to Proposed Senate Bill 409

by Kim Wright

Is anyone surprised that Senator Gary Nodler, with the support of Senator Delbert Scott, has introduced legislation to change the election process for independent candidates in Missouri? Senate Bill 409 would require that any person considering a non-partisan run for office file a written declaration of intent to run prior to the primary election. While this legislation may seem benign, it will make a big difference.

In 1976, a three-judge U. S. District Court struck down Missouri’s old law that said independent candidates petitions were due in April. So why now would Mr. Nodler want to require a Declaration of Intent well before the primary or general election?

Independent candidates offer voters a choice. This new bill will significantly restrict voters’ choices in future elections. When one party candidate is running unopposed by another party candidate, voters are not afforded a voice. An unopposed candidate does not have to present a political platform, nor does he (she) have to listen to or even represent voters. As voters we generally support the candidate whose values parallel our own. Should that candidate be defeated in the primary election, an Independent candidate with similar values might provide a better choice than the competing Democrat or Republican.

Independents do not have the status or support of an organized party. Often independent candidates choose to run at the request of local voters who want a voice in their government. Sometimes they run in response to having undesirable candidates in the two major parties. Senate Bill 409 will likely limit voter choices in upcoming elections.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 42% of Americans are identifying themselves as independents. This must be alarming to both political parties. In November election, there were 20,198 voters in District 32 and 27,128 voters in District 28 who cast ballots for independent candidates. These voters would not have had that option had SB 409 been in place. I can think of only two people who wish this bill had been introduced in 2004.

This bill goes to the Senate Finance and Government Organization and Elections Committee (Delbert Scott, Chair on Monday, February 12th. Perhaps Mr. Nodler has a good explanation for “why now?”. I plan to call him (573-751-2306 ) to ask. I hope you will call, too.

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