ballot box.jpegAs promised, seven members of the newly formed “IQ Ticket” qualified last Friday to run for the each of the seats on the Orleans Parish Board of Assessors. The IQians are so named for their “I Quit” pledge, which obligates them to push for the constitutional consolidation of the seven-member board into a single elected assessor. (Unlike virtually every other political subdivision in the free world, Orleans Parish does not have one assessor but rather seven board members who purport to perform the assessment functions of the parish.) The qualifying IQians include Maria “I.Q.” Elliott (D), Jackie “I.Q.” Shreves, (I), Errol “I.Q.” George (D), Chase “I.Q.” Jones (D), Ron “I.Q.” Mazier (N), Nancy “I.Q.” Marshall (D), and Charlie “I.Q.” Bosworth (N).

In an apparent effort to circumvent the Louisiana prohibition against the listing of any political party on a ballot other than those officially “recognized political parties,” see La. R.S. §§ 18:441, 551, each of the IQians applied to have “I.Q.” designated on the ballot as their actual nickname.

In the meantime, the incumbents, desperately clinging to their fiefdoms of power in this post-Katrina era of reform, are likely to consider litigation to force the nicknames to be stricken from the ballots. In fact, they may have a strong case: Louisiana Revised Statute 18:463 expressly prohibits a candidate from designating on the ballot a “title, designation, or deceptive name” or an “occupational or professional description or abbreviation.”

There is precedent for Louisiana courts striking down “deceptive” nicknames. In None of the Above v. Hardy, 377 So.2d 385 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1979), a candidate who originally qualified for the governor’s race as Luther Devine “L.D.” Knox legally changed his name and asked to be listed on the ballot as “None-of-the-Above.” In rejecting Mr. None-of-the-Above’s request, the court recognized a state has a constitutional right to regulate how and in what circumstances candidates’ names should be placed on ballots, to protect voters from confusion or fraudulent or frivolous candidates.

And who could forget Albert “Super N***** Jones?” He no doubt believes he would be serving his second term as governor today but for the Man’s refusal to allow him to use his provocative nickname in the 1999 gubernatorial election. Unfortunately for Mr. Jones, the administrator of elections sought permission to strike the “Super N*****” nickname as “inflammatory and deceptive.”  In language that could spell trouble for the IQians, the Attorney General noted that “[t]he ballot is not a public forum for advancement of political ideas, issues or objectives; that is left for the candidate’s campaign.” In rejecting any First Amendment concerns, the opinion concludes that the voters of Louisiana can and should be protected from the “confusion and frivolity” of “the myriad appellations and items of descriptive matter that might logically follow [the insertion of titles or degrees with candidates’ names] which election fever and ingenuity would undoubtedly generate.” See id.

Do the voters of Orleans Parish need such protection here? The incumbents certainly might. Whether they seek it through litigation remains to be seen. Developing . . .