Legislature: House panel OKs election law changes

By By Jim Beam / American Press

BATON ROUGE — A couple of changes to the state’s election laws gained a favorable nod from a House committee Wednesday, but

two bills making more serious revisions were voluntarily deferred.

The author of a fifth measure that would allow citizens to register as independent voters wasn’t there for a hearing before

the House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs.

Bills that were approved move to the House floor for debate.

Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, got a favorable vote on House Bill 226, which would fix a situation when no one qualifies for

a municipal office or enough people don’t qualify to fill all of the openings in that municipality.

Current law says the three-day qualifying period has to be reopened the following week when that happens. However, Danahay

said qualification in one jurisdiction had to be reopened for seven elections.

The process causes delays that affect the printing of ballots and early and absentee ballots, he said. A representative from

the Secretary of State’s Office said the problem occurs often in small municipalities.

Danahay’s bill removes the requirement that qualifying be reopened. Under the bill, the person or people holding those offices

would continue to serve until a special election is held.

Rep. Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, got the committee to approve H.B. 428, which is aimed at discouraging people from filing

for more than one office in the same election.

Current law says that when a person qualifies for multiple offices he is disqualified from all but the last one for which

he filed. And his qualifying fees for the other offices have to be refunded.

Barras’ measure repeals the part of the law that requires refunds.

Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, chairman of the committee, said Barras is making it financially risky for anyone to qualify

for more than one office.

The bills that were voluntarily deferred, which means they are still alive, would provide for voter registration at age 16

and require early voting on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m., which isn’t possible under current law.

Rep. Dee Richard, I-Thibodaux, wants to eliminate the “no-party” voter registration category and allow those people to register

as independents. He wasn’t present for the hearing, but his measure can come up again before the committee.

H.B. 193 says a voter applicant doesn’t have to be a member of a political party or declare a party affiliation, but in those

cases they can register as an independent instead of no-party.

Here is what Richard’s proposal says about candidates:

“If a candidate is affiliated with a political party, but such party is not a recognized political party, the word ‘other’

shall be placed after his name. If a candidate is not affiliated with any political party, the word ‘independent’ shall be

placed after his name.”