Panolian Editorial

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 26, 2010

Next year’s candidates could face unreasonably early qualifying deadline

The dust from the politics of the special election runoff will hardly have time to settle before the next election — another special election — January 11 to fill the Highway Commissioner Northern District post left vacant with the Nov. 1 death of Bill Minor.

But the real politicking comes with next year when Mississippi’s four year election cycle for state and county office holders begins anew.

Here’s the quandary: candidates who want to seek election for those offices must qualify for their party’s August 2 primary by Tuesday, March 1. That long lead time was adopted some years ago by the legislature to discourage challenges to incumbents. When the campaign season stretches to a five-month minimum, it increases the cost for a candidate to mount a campaign for office.

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This year, with the 2010 decennial census just completed and redistricting required at every level to make sure that political subdivisions comply with the “one-man, one-vote” principle, the qualifying deadline may be moved to June 1 if the governor has not received the census by January 1.

June 1 would be a more realistic and practical deadline for all candidates seeking election in August primaries of any election year. The 2011 Mississippi legislative session would be a good opportunity to made that change permanent.

Just as Panola County can take from this year’s special elections and learn how to make next year’s election smoother and more consistent with state law at the precinct level, the legislature has the opportunity next year to remove the onerous and self-serving early deadline once and for all.