Independent designation stalls

A north Louisiana state senator ran into trouble Tuesday with a proposal to allow candidates to run as “Independents” on the state election ballot.

The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee deadlocked on a 4-4 vote on the proposal, Senate Bill 60, sponsored by state Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston.

First Assistant Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said the moniker would create confusion among voters, plus logistically, it could not be implemented by fall elections.

After the meeting, Gallot sought Ardoin out to see what could be done to alleviate the elections office’s concerns.

Similar legislation made it through the Legislature in 2011 only to be vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Gallot said the potential conflicts Jindal pointed to when he scrapped the bill had been fixed.

Gallot said candidates who are not affiliated with any political party now have to be on the ballot as “No Party.”

“These folks generally represent themselves to the public as I’m an Independent,” Gallot said. He said they should be allowed to do so.

Eric Sunstrom, of Baton Rouge, testified that he would change voter registration to Independent if there was such a classification. “It’s hard to identify with either of the parties (Republican or Democrat) … as they are moving to the extreme,” he said.

But Ardoin wondered what the state would be telling voters if Independent was put behind a candidate’s name.

“With the political situation in Washington, it’s not popular to be Republican or Democrat,” Ardoin said. He acknowledged that the number of “No Party” voters is rising.

“If the Legislature is going to create the Independent party, we need to make certain that individuals understand … it’s not necessarily the Independent Party, that they are independent of a political party,” Ardoin said.

“We want to make sure that voters are not confused,” he added.

There are five recognized political parties in the state: Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green and Reform.

Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe, said the legislation would in effect create an Independent party where none exists today.

“There is no independent party,” said Kostelka, who objected to committee passage.

Voting for the measure were committee Chairman Jody Amedee, R-Gonzales, and Sens. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans; Jonathan Perry, R-Kaplan; and Greg Tarver, D-Shreveport.

Voting against passage were Sens. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe; Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville; Neil Riser, R-Columbia; and Kostelka.