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Candidates must be properly vetted before citizens venture into voting booths

Today’s revelations that a Democratic candidate for constable in Dallas County has a lengthy rap sheet in Ohio for being what one news outlet called a “big-time con artist” were shocking, to say the least, and beg the question: who exactly are the candidates that have qualified to run for elected office in Dallas County?

The law of averages makes it less than likely that any of them have as sordid a past as Nicholas Douglas, whose greatest hits include getting arrested for stopping an actual cop while impersonating an officer, but it does raise alarms about the relative simplicity by which one can run for office in this country.

While there is likely little that the Dallas County Democratic Party could have done to thwart Douglas’ candidacy – anyone who submits the proper paperwork on time and pays the qualifying fee has a right to run for office in this country – we desperately need someone vetting these candidates before they are allowed to run for public office.

While a criminal record should not disqualify a person from running for office – people make mistakes and without criminals we likely wouldn’t have enough elected officials to fill the various positions – a person charged with impersonating an officer should absolutely be disqualified from seeking the position of constable, which is essentially a small-town peace officer with limited policing authority, just as a crook shouldn’t be allowed to oversee finances.

Where the responsibility for such oversight resides is up for debate – unfortunately, the press can’t take on the job, because the press doesn’t know who the candidates are until they’ve already qualified – but the fact that it is badly needed is not.

Bad actors seeking public office is not a new phenomenon – not in this city, not in this state and not in this country – but voters deserve to know just how bad before they go to the voting booth.