The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 3, 2014

Some Alabama candidates must qualify month earlier

The News Courier

— The deadline for Democratic and Republican party candidates to qualify to run for the 2014 elections will come about a month earlier this year.

Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett said Thursday the close of qualifying for major party candidates in the 2014 election cycle will be at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7.

This is much earlier than usual because Bennett’s office is working to comply with federal laws governing military and overseas voters. This change is part of ongoing litigation with the Department of Justice over military and overseas voting deadlines.

The original date for the end of qualifying for major party candidates would have been April 4. This change will not affect the June 3 qualifying deadlines for independent candidates and candidates of parties who did not receive more than 20 percent of the entire vote cast in the last general election.

“Though we do not have yet an order from the court, we have agreed with the Department of Justice to move our deadlines up considerably to get ballots to the absentee election managers in each county,” Bennett said. “This will allow ballots enough time to be sent to military and overseas voters well before the federal deadline, which is 45 days before the date of the election.”

Bennett said he urged the Republican and Democrat parties to open qualifying for candidates early in order to account for this change.

“We are doing everything in our power to make sure that our soldiers have their ballots in hand and can mail them back in time for their vote to be counted,” Bennett said.

Bennett’s office tried supported a bill last year that would alter the elections deadline schedule to reflect this end date for qualifying. That bill passed unanimously in the House, but failed to pass the Senate due to time constraints.

“We are bringing the bill again this year,” Bennett said.