Independent status must be #8216;good faith#8217;

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 28, 2008

The old clich/ is that if something walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it must be a duck. That same theory should apply to Republicans and Democrats.

That is ultimately what the Lawrence County Board of Elections will have to decide.

At issue is the candidacy of Russell Bennett. The Chesapeake resident filed as an Independent candidate for Lawrence County Sheriff but some have raised some concern about the legitimacy of his non-party affiliation.

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Ultimately, candidates should not be allowed to manipulate the party system for their own political gain. That appears the case in this situation and we hope the Board of Elections denies Bennett’s bid to run as an Independent. At this stage, his best bet would be to run as a write-in candidate.

At issue is Ohio law and a 2006 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that says independent candidates must truly be unaffiliated and must be making that claim “in good faith.”

While we would like to see the Ohio Legislature further define the laws regarding this, we don’t feel Bennett’s non-affiliation meets these standards.

In addition to being a long-time Democrat who was even recently a member of the Democrat Central Committee, the biggest issue is that Bennett actually filed to be on the March primary ballot as a Democrat.

Bennett only filed as an Independent after his petition was rejected for procedural violations tied to having a current background check.

In our opinion, this would not constitute a “good faith” filing because it appears that the motivation is solely tied to getting on the ballot and side-stepping the rules.

Ohio voters and political candidates are certainly entitled to switch party affiliations at any time. But doing so at the 11th hour before an election — or after failing to get on the ballot on an earlier election — seems to violate the spirit of the Ohio Revised Code and the interpretation of it.

We hope the Board of Elections see this attempt for the political ploy that it is.