By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) is one of the wealthiest men in the State Legislature. He wants to raise the primary elections fees to ensure that only the wealthiest Alabamians or incumbents will be among the ranks of those who serve in public office.
In a scheme that will raise money for the political parties and discourage the average citizen from seeking public office, Marsh has proposed SB434, which will raise qualifying fees from 2 percent of the position’s annual salary to 5 percent.
For example: Currently, if a citizen wants to run for Alabama Secretary of State, they would pay a $1,430 for the filing fee which is 2 percent of the office’s $71,500 annual salary. Under Marsh’s plan the fee would be one and a half-times greater at $3,575.
This may be good for the Republican and Democrat parties, but it would discourage most citizens from running for the office and give a clear advantage to those who already hold it.
To run for the office of Secretary of State an individual needs only to be 25 years of age, a resident of the State for 5 years, a citizen of the US for only 7 years and be a registered voter.
These are not overreaching qualifications for a position that oversees.
According to the Secretary of State’s website, “ State law gives the Secretary of State more than 1,000 different duties and virtually all of them involve processing and filing documents that are public records. Many of the documents must have the Great Seal of Alabama affixed in order to make them official.”
Alabama’s 1901 Constitution set a very low bar to attain the high office of Secretary of State. However, Marsh will raise the bar on who can seek the office by placing the filing fees outside of most Alabamians ready cash reserves.
Last year, Secretary of State Beth Chapman resigned her position to take a six figure job with the political arm of ALFA, citing a need for more income.
If SB434 is enacted into law, the State can expect only the privilege class seeking public office with the possible hopes of increasing their fortunes like Mrs. Chapman.
The Bill passed out of committee on Tuesday and is headed to the full Senate for consideration.