County clerk David Shelton called his trip to the Statehouse a success.
Shelton said following his testimony Thursday morning before the House Elections and Apportionment Committee, its members voted to send forward a minor change to an election bill that would give candidates for municipal and county office slightly more time to withdraw from a political race.
Shelton appeared before the committee to speak in favor of the bill, one authored and sponsored by state Rep. Matt Hostettler, R-Fort Branch, whose District 64 includes southern and eastern Knox County.
Current election law says a candidate must withdraw from a race at least 85 days before an election; the bill would change that to 81 days, essentially giving candidates a few more days to change their mind.
Dubbing it the “cold feet clause,” Shelton said committee members really had few questions and merely wanted to be sure that the change would not cause an “unnecessary delay in the completion of the ballot process.”
Members also wanted clarification in that the length of time to actually file to run for office wouldn't be also extended as part of the new process.
Assured those two things would stay the same, Shelton said “by a unanimous vote,” the bill passed the committee.
Shelton said the law has been weighing heavily on his mind since last year's municipal primary election.
At the end of candidate filings in February, only one race was to be on the primary election ballot — a Democratic party challenge between city council District 1 candidates Will Drews and Eric Burke.
As the law stands now, candidate filings end, typically, at noon on a Friday; candidates have until noon the following Monday to withdraw.
Burke came to Shelton that following Wednesday wanting to withdraw from the race — about 72 hours too late.
Shelton would like to see that changed to a full week, and many of his counterparts across the state agree, he said.
"You have a whole month to sign up but only three days to withdraw," Shelton has said. "I just think people should have a few extra days to do a bit of soul searching, to take the time to decide whether or not they want to go through with a campaign or not."
The county Election Board went ahead with the primary election last year — Drews emerged victorious and went on to make an unsuccessful bid in the November election — but that one primary race cost the county about $5,000, and that was with several cost-cutting measures in place.
The bill will now go before the full House for a vote.
If it passes, then a similar bill would go before the Senate for consideration.