By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, October 5, 2016, Constitution Party candidate for the Lee County Commission, Ken Busby issued a statement highly critical of Alabama’s ballot access laws which he says limits choices for voters and the rights of candidates to participate in the political process.
Busby said that Lee County has had two third party candidates run for offices, with zero major party opposition to the incumbent, fail to meet the ballot access requirements, which Busby described as extremely challenging.
Ken Busby attempt to gain ballot access failed after collecting more than 500 county wide signatures however only 99 of those were certified as being registered voters residing within the First District where he is running as a candidate. Failure to collect the necessary number of valid signatures relegated Busby to running as a write in candidate in the general election.
Libertarian Gage Fenwick recently also attempted to run for the state House seat formerly held by disgraced Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn). Fenwick failed to gain ballot access after his 300+ signed petitions fell short of the 276 registered voters required for certification by the Secretary of State’s Office. Secretary of State John Merrill (R) then certified Republican Primary winner Joe Lovvorn as the winner and cancelled the special general election because no other candidate had qualified for ballot access. The Democrats were unable to recruit a candidate in the Republican dominated Lee County District.
On September 30, 2016, US District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that Alabama’s demand that independent candidates, and minor party candidates get signatures from three percent of the registered voters in a district for ballot access in a special election, where candidates often have less than 60 days to organize and complete the petition drive was not reasonable.
Busy said that if this ruling had this been handed down before Lovvorn was certified, then Gage Fenwick could have been on the ballot.
Busby said, “These two candidates would have provided another choice for the people of Lee County to choose from. They COULD have given a voice for all those who choose not to vote feeling unrepresented by those on the ballot. Restricting ballot access oppresses citizen’s first amendment rights and should be fair for all who wish to run for office. The current law heavily favors the two major party duopoly and makes it nearly impossible for others to gain access. If all candidates had to go through the same process we would have many elections with no one running for office. Which isn’t much different to now with the high percentage of elections decided in a primary where the winners go on to face no one in the general elections.”
Busby said that with the September 30th ruling by Judge Thompson effectively eliminating the petition requirement for special elections. Only the requirements for the general election remains.
The Alabama Political Reporter asked the Secretary of State’s office how this ruling would affect future special elections and what the new ballot access requirements might be. We also asked in Sec. Merrill planned on appealing the Thompson ruling in Hall versus Merrill. We were told that the Secretary of State’s office was still reviewing this with their attorneys.
In House District 41 in Shelby County independent and third party candidates have until October 18 to qualify for ballot access or their special general election will likely also be cancelled. Their Republican Shelby County Commissioner Corley Ellis of Columbiana was the only major party candidate to qualify thus there was not even a primary.
Busby wrote that “Ballot access for qualified candidates is a right as a citizen and should be protected as such. Ballot access laws in Alabama are the toughest in the nation with requirements that far exceed the nearest rival. Take Alabama’s 20 percent retention requirement that requires a party retain 20 percent of the vote to be considered a major party. The next highest is VA, OK, & NJ with 10 percent and the majority of the rest falling below 5 percent. Ballot access should be open for all qualified candidates or at least the law should be fair and applied to all not favoring one group over another.”
Busby said, “The time has come for all those who decide to run for office are able to exercise their right to run without the barrier of gathering petitions or meet any other unnecessary (non-uniform) requirements in order to qualify for the office they express interest in pursuing.”
Busby said that each candidate should pay the same marginal cost to be on the ballot instead of requiring that independent and third party candidates get signatures which, “Taxpayers must then waste money on verifying.”
Busby is asking citizens to contact their legislators and demand change to the Alabama ballot access laws. Busby said that, “One or two party’s restricted process alone should not dictate who runs for office. Our system was designed for the people to elect those in office not the party primary. Without the public’s support this will never be fixed and every election will continue to impede us toward the observed results of no choice, no competition, and no freedom.”
Ken was raised in North Alabama and graduated from Valley Head High School. Busby is a US Army veteran who was deployed to both Kosovo and Iraq with the 1st Infantry Division. He has been married to his wife, Stephanie, for 12 years and they have two children. The Busby’s have resided in Auburn for ten years. Ken is a GIS Specialist 3 for DeKalb County, GA. Ken says that he supports Constitutional government and opposes the further expansion of the federal or state governments. Busby also vowed to, “Fight to eliminate the culture of corruption that is plaguing our government.”
The election is on November 8. Busby is running as a write in candidate for Lee County Commission District 1. Sheila H. Eckman is the incumbent commissioner.