Party labeling on the ballot | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Party labeling on the ballot

Posted By on Thu, Sep 9, 2010 at 2:49 PM

Jason Tolbert reports on the effort by candidates for non-partisan offices in Saline County to add "Republican" to their names on the election ballot.

Here's what state law says about ballot names. You can use up to three "given" names, including a nickname, but no professional or honorary titles are allowed. The Saline County Election Commission has turned down the partisan labeling in non-partisan races for Bryant mayor and city clerk. One of the candidates — mayoral candidate "Republican" Jill Dabbs — has sued and the other says she may pitch in. Read as a whole, with what the legal dictionary has to say about names, the law to me makes the suit a long-shot. But it is Saline County. Meanwhile, all the free media will establish firmly enough that they are Republicans, which is the point.

This is kind of silly in the context. Does anybody really think the Bryant candidate's nickname is "Republican"? Do people really stop her in the Kroger and say, "Hey, Republican, how's it hanging?"

The issue brings to mind the often changing desires to have races be partisan or non-partisan. Once, Republicans wanted judicial elections to be non-partisan because of the assumed statewide preferences for Democrats. Now, with changing times, many are anxious to let it be known they are Republican, such as the candidate who used Mike Huckabee for robocall testimonials this year. Federal court cases may soon put an end to Arkansas judicial ethics rules that limit speech by judicial candidates and judicial races will become, in practice, if not law, partisan-colored once again.

But that is still a separate question from use of the name line on a ballot to send partisan messages. It also transcends party, despite what the Bryant candidates assert. If they are allowed to identify themselves by the name Republican, then why not Pro-Life Mary Smith, or Gun Nut Joe Jones or Fair Tax Gomer Grubbs? No difference. (Churchly labels would also prove popular.)

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