Legislation has been introduced in the Georgia General Assembly to give voters more choice at the ballot box by expanding ballot access to political bodies.
Georgia law states that in order for a candidate to get on the ballot he must turn in petitions equaling 5 percent of the registered voters from the district he plans to run in. If a candidate plans to run statewide, he or she must get signatures from 1 percent of registered voters in the state.
The 1 percent rule also applies to parties attempting to receive a line on the ballot. Provided they are successful they are still not a "party" as defined by Georgia law, they are a "political body" and they must receive 1 percent of the registered vote in any statewide race to maintain that status. In order to receive an automatic ballot line for all candidates and major party status, a candidate for governor or president must receive 20 percent of the popular vote nationally in a general election. If a party falls below 20 percent, it loses major party status.
According to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News, Georgia has the worst ballot access laws in the nation. “There is no other state with a law that has kept all minor party or independent candidates off the ballot for such an important office as US House for decades. Every state has had minor party and/or independent candidates on the ballot in recent years for president, and US Senate (although one must go back to 2000 to make this completely true, for president, because of Oklahoma),” says Winger. “Every state except Georgia has had multiple minor party and/or independent candidates for US House during either of the last two elections. Georgia law for US House is absolutely the worst ballot access law of any type in the nation.”
Senate Bill 359, the Voter Choice and Ballot Access Act, was introduced last week by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth). This legislation would give political bodies, such as the Libertarian Party, a ballot line for statewide, legislative and local office provided the body receives the support of at least 1 percent of registered voters in a statewide race.
The legislation would also allow for electoral fusion, which would give political bodies the ability to nominate a candidate seeking its endorsement that is also running for the nomination of a major party.
Former US Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), the 2008 Libertarian Party presidential nominee, has endorsed SB 359. “The citizens of Georgia deserve more than just the status-quo on their ballot each election cycle,” said Barr. “This legislation is a step in the right direction towards meaningful ballot access reform.”
“Reform to our state’s draconian ballot access law is long overdue and we appreciate Sen. Shafer introducing this legislation,” says Jason Pye, Legislative Director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia. “Libertarians believe very much in competition, whether it is in the marketplace or elections. We are calling on the legislature to pass this bill and let voters have choice.”
The Libertarian Party is Georgia’s third largest political party and the only party in Georgia promoting fewer taxes, less government and personal liberty for all Georgians. To learn more, please visit www.LPGeorgia.com.
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