Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dual Redundancy

Earlier this month Jeffrey at Library Chronicles wondered whether U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson might “pull a Lieberman” and run for the Second District House seat as an independent if he failed to win the Democratic primary. It’s too late for that to happen since the qualifying period for both those options ended on July 11, but Jeffrey’s question lead me to another one: Could Jefferson have qualified as a candidate in the September 6 Democratic primary and as an independent candidate in the November 4 general election?

Louisiana has a law which bans dual candidacy:

RS 18:453 Dual candidacy

A. General prohibitions. A person shall not become a candidate in any primary, first party or second party primary or general election for more than one office unless one of the offices is membership on a political party committee, nor shall a person be a candidate at the same time for two or more different offices to be filled at separate elections.

B. Unexpired and succeeding term of office. A person may become a candidate in a primary or first or second party primary election or general election for the unexpired and the succeeding term of an office when both terms are to be filled at the same election.

C. Political party committees. A person may become a candidate in any primary or general election for membership on more than one committee of a political party, but a person may only become a candidate for one position, either at-large or from a political subdivision, on the same committee of a political party.

First, this law does not really apply to the Bill Jefferson dual Democrat/independent scenario described above, unless the Democratic nomination and the office of U.S. Representative are two different offices.

Second, I’m not sure that law could apply to candidates for federal offices. If it would add a substantive qualification to those that appear in the Qualification Clauses of the U.S. Constitution, then it could not be applied.

However, two other state laws that deal specifically with qualifying for Congressional elections would probably make the above scenario impossible.

RS 18:1275.3(B) says, "A person who desires to become a candidate in the first party primary election must be affiliated with a recognized political party. A person may qualify as a candidate only in the first party primary election of the party with which he is affiliated as shown on his voter registration."

RS 18:1275.17(A) says, "Any person desiring to become a candidate in a general election who is not registered as being affiliated with a recognized political party shall file his notice of candidacy which shall be accompanied by either a ballot access petition or by the qualifying fee required for state candidates as provided in R.S. 18:464."

Since Jefferson would have to be a registered Democrat to qualify for the Democratic primary and "not registered as being affiliated with a recognized political party" to qualify directly for the general election, I guess I shouldn't get my hopes up for an incredibly bizarre 2010 election.

However, if Jefferson is still around then and wants some electoral insurance and/or a place in election law history, he could argue that when 18:1275.17 says "a candidate in a general election who is not registered as being affiliated with a recognized political party," it refers only to the candidate's desired partisan label on the ballot, not to the voter affiliation of the person who is running. (I doubt that argument would win, but I like throwing in every argument that has any chance at all.)

For a less surreal (though, probably, less likely) scenario that could challenge Louisiana's dual candidacy law's application to federal candidates, let us ask what would happen if Barack Obama chose Mary Landrieu as his vice presidential running mate. Would Louisiana’s law against dual candidacy mean that she would have to withdraw from this year’s U.S. Senate race in order to appear elsewhere on the November 4 ballot as a vice presidential candidate? Does a state have the power to restrict federal candidacies in that way?

Even if the courts allowed Louisiana’s dual candidacy ban to be applied to federal elections, Landrieu could argue that a presidential or vice presidential candidate is not really a “candidate” for purposes of the Louisiana law, since the voters are actually electing a slate of presidential electors.

That interpretation, though, raises another question: Could a Louisianan run for Congress and for presidential elector at the same time? (I know that the U.S. Constitution says that “no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector,” but it does not say that a person who has been elected to one of those Congressional offices but has not yet taken office cannot serve as a presidential elector.)

I suppose you could claim that the position of presidential elector is not really an "office" since it is so temporary.

In that case, what if someone wanted to run for U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative at the same time? Could state law stop that?

What if a person wanted to run for two different U.S. House seats at the same time?

What if he wanted to run for all of his state's U.S. House seats at the same time?

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