There are 72 bills pending before the House Apportionment and Elections Committee, and 46 bills before the Senate Elections Committee. These measures range from the quirky to the noble, from election reforms to election deforms.

House Apportionment and Election Chairman Tommy Reynolds (D-Charleston) introduced legislation (HB 650) targeting political phone calls to place them under the same "Do Not Call" restrictions as business solicitations. He would prohibit "push polls" which spread negative information about a candidate under the guise of an opinion research poll.

But when you read the full measure, you uncover a more disturbing change to state law. Currently, no person may attack a candidate for any reason "reflecting upon the honesty, integrity, or moral character" pertaining to his private life, unless it is true. Even if true, these charges can't be made within the final five days of the election (beginning the Friday before the election).

Reynolds' bill changes the whole meaning of the section by removing the context of private life and including provisions like "past practice" and "voting record." He then extends the time period from five days to fifteen days. Whereas now you cannot attack a candidate's private life within five days of the election, Reynolds would prohibit even truthful criticisms of a candidate's voting record up to two weeks before the election. Effectively, any truthful criticism of an incumbent within 15 days of the election would be illegal. This would dampen many of our state's editorials, but would also prohibit you from criticizing a candidate's vote in an e-mail to a friend.

Representative Bill Denny (R-Jackson) introduced a measure (HB 318) to repeal the Nonpartisan Judicial Election Act which prohibits judicial candidates from running as Democrats or Republicans. In 1998, to counter the Fordice-Republican assurgency, the legislature created nonpartisan judicial elections and prohibited political parties from endorsing judicial candidates. In 2002, the federal courts agreed with a Republican Party free speech lawsuit ordering, "a state may not directly suppress core political speech of a political party concerning the merits of judicial candidates by prohibiting the party from endorsing or financially supporting judicial candidates." While allowing parties to endorse, the Court did not alter the law prohibiting judicial candidates from running on a party label.

Some will argue judges should not run under partisan labels because it somehow questions their integrity. But, we demand integrity from a governor and an attorney general and our legislators - most of which run as Republicans or Democrats. If we permit partisanship for the legislative and executive branches, why not the judicial? Certainly a candidate should be allowed to run as an independent, but considering all the speech limits we place on judicial candidates, they should at least be allowed to associate with a party with which they share general philosophic agreement

Senator David Jordan (D-Greenwood) has a measure to apportion Mississippi's presidential Electoral Votes one per congressional district and two at large. Currently, whoever wins a majority of Mississippi's votes for president receives all six of Mississippi's Electoral Votes. Jordan's measure would split Mississippi according to congressional district. For example, John McCain won a majority statewide and carried three of the four conservative leaning congressional districts. But Barack Obama won the Delta dominated Second Congressional District. Had Jordan's proposal been law, one of Mississippi's votes would have gone to Obama.

Currently only two states provide for splitting their Electoral Votes: Maine and Nebraska. Typically in those states, the outcome does not create split votes, but this year, Obama did poach one vote from the Republican going Nebraska. California Republicans have looked at similar measures to award that state's 55 electoral votes. Their version of Jordan's bill would effectively transfer 20 to 22 of the 270 needed Electoral Votes from Democrats to Republicans, or in other words, lock into the Republican column a state the size of Ohio.

There are a multitude of voter ID bills in both chambers ranging from toothless exceptions to effective photo secured identification. Conventional wisdom predicts no measure of strength will pass the House of Representatives. Joey Fillingane (R-Sumrall), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary A Committee, has emerged as the legislative champion for voter ID. He describes himself as an eternal optimist that the legislative process will succeed in delivering an effective ballot security ID requirement.

However, Fillingane pursues another path to deliver this reform as well. He seeks to conduct a statewide initiative to collect the necessary signatures to force the measure onto the ballot for voters to make their own decision. Republican Party Chairman Brad White has committed resources to assist Fillingane in making this end run around legislative obstruction.

A strong voter ID measure, like most of the legislation discussed in this column, is not likely to be signed into law this year. But unlike the other measures, voter ID proponents have a backup plan.

Brian Perry of Jackson, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at