By Fred Woods
All Kenneth Busby wants to do is run for a Lee County Commission seat. Specifically, he wants to run against incumbent Sheila Eckman for the District 1 slot. Busby is a registered voter who lives in district 1, the principle requirement. He is a member of the Constitution Party, a minor political party in Alabama, so he had to follow a different route than if he had been a Democrat or a Republican. Since his party did not receive 20 percent of the votes cast in the last governor’s election, he had to collect a petition containing the signatures of three percent of the voters in the last governor’s election “… in the relevant jurisdiction,” which is, of course, Lee County’s Commission District 1.
As required by Alabama law, the Constitution Party of Alabama filed the necessary documents nominating Busby as their party’s candidate and indicating Busby’s acceptance of the nomination. They also, since at the time there was some uncertainty as to the exact numbers of voter signatures required, filed a petition with just more than 500 signatures. All these documents were filed with the Lee County Probate Office, as specified by law.
But as of Aug. 23, Busby’s candidacy is in limbo because Lee County Probate Judge Bill English has still not certified Busby’s voter petition as valid.There is some ambiguity in the law as to the number of voter signatures required and the exact jurisdiction of the voters. So on March 9, English wrote to the Attorney General seeking an official opinion on the validity of Busby’s filings, including the number of voter signatures required on his petition. The Attorney General’s opinion, which was not issued until Aug. 1, was very clear: all of Busby’s (and the Constitution Party’s) filings were in order and at least 159 qualified voter signatures from Lee County Commission District 1 must be on his petition.
What’s the problem? Busby has received no official notification of any action on his candidacy from the Lee County Probate office. He discovered that the Attorney General’s opinion had been issued by accident on Aug. 16 when he contacted the Alabama Secretary of State’s office seeking their advice on what he could do about his candidacy.
Busby said he is relatively certain that he has the required voter signatures on his petition, as he collected more than 200 of the 500 on his petition by going door-to-door in District 1 over last winter – but English still has to officially verify them.
English, on his part, said, on Aug. 22, that he saw no need to notify Busby until the petition signatures had been verified. English is in the process of verifying those signatures now and was not willing to give an exact date when he would complete this task. He says as soon as he can.
As of this date Busby is still not an official candidate, cannot officially form any campaign organization or solicit any funds. All these things his opponent has been able to do since March 2. Well, maybe not, because she still officially has no opponent and may not be aware that one is in the offing.
Judge English assures, however, that, provided the petition has at least 159 verifiable voter signatures, Ken Busby will be certified as a candidate soon and have ample time for campaigning before the November election.