Skip to comments.SPOTLIGHT: 3rd parties need not apply
Posted on 10/02/2002 11:45:41 AM PDT by Lysander
[ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 9/30/02 ]
SPOTLIGHT: 3rd parties need not apply
Georgia sets high bar on ballot access
By BRYAN LONG
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer
More than 18,000 people signed petitions seeking to place Libertarian Wayne Parker's name on the 11th Congressional District ballot.
But as of now, voters won't have an opportunity to choose him.
Meanwhile, fewer people voted in the Republican primary runoff last month --- 15,622 people. Republican Phil Gingrey won with just over 9,900 supporters and is now raising money and making stump speeches. Parker, despite all his signatures, files court motions in an effort to get on the ballot.
Parker's situation illustrates why no minor-party candidate for U.S. House has appeared on Georgia ballots since 1943. Unlike Democrats and Republicans, who qualify to run for office essentially by signing their names and paying a fee, Libertarians and other third-party candidates must gather thousands of petition signatures. And as Parker can attest, even that's no guarantee.
Richard Winger, publisher of Ballot Access News, a San Francisco-based newsletter, says Georgia's ballot access laws are the toughest in the nation.
"It's almost boringly routine in the rest of the country for a minor party candidate to appear on the ballot," Winger said.
During the last congressional election in 2000, every state but Georgia and Arkansas had a minor party candidate run for Congress. This fall in Tennessee, eight of the nine congressional races have minor party opposition.
Mississippi allows any group to become a political party and gain ballot access to all offices merely by submitting a list of officers. South Carolina does require 10,000 signatures to form a political party. But after that, it merely submits the names of candidates for any office without additional signatures.
Georgia's standards are a lot more complicated.
For starters, there are four sets of laws that govern ballot access. One applies to political parties, such as Republicans and Democrats. Another pertains to candidates of political bodies, such as Libertarians, that offer candidates for statewide office. A third deals with local elections. The fourth pertains only to the U.S. House. The U.S. House rules require the candidate to collect the petition signatures of 5 percent of the total number of voters from the previous election. Figuring out how many signatures were needed in a district that didn't exist until this year was a challenge for the state. It required a lawsuit, which Parker won in June. Even then the number of required signatures has been adjusted a handful of times to the current 9,558.
Collecting signatures requires the candidate, or his petitioners, must collect a name, address, phone number and a notarized signature from each signer.
And the address must be within the congressional district --- a requirement that proved particularly difficult in the 11th since it snakes through 17 counties and divides numerous cities. And the address must match the one in the county elections office computers. Voters who have moved in the last two years are often invalidated.
Parker thought he'd met all the requirements but learned in early September that elections officials had thrown out most of his signatures --- many of which were ruled outside the district --- and that his name wouldn't appear on the ballot.
Parker says his records indicate he has more than enough valid signatures. He has a lawsuit in federal courts.
The tough ballot access requirements go back to a different era in Georgia politics. Until 1943, any group could gain across-the-board ballot access by registering a slate of officers with the secretary of state. But when Communist Party candidates started appearing on ballots in Georgia, the ruling Democrats changed the rules to toss them off, said Winger, who has studied ballot access issues for two decades.
At the same time, the new standards also made it extremely difficult for Republicans. That didn't last, because the Republicans were already an established national party, but other parties have found it tougher to break through without popular presidential candidates.
Georgia has eased some of its third-party requirements over the years, twice relaxing the threshold for statewide offices, most recently in 1986. Libertarians have reached the benchmark for placing candidates in statewide races and regularly field candidates for local races. Libertarians earned the designation of "political body" and are allowed to field candidates for any statewide office as long as the group continues to earn 1 percent of the vote. And while local district races still require signatures, the districts are much smaller.
But the state has never amended the rules for U.S. House candidates.
"We shouldn't be afraid of competition," said state Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Decatur), who co-sponsored an unsuccessful bill this year that would have eased Georgia's third-party requirements at all levels. "Diversity of parties and opinions makes for a healthy democracy."
Parker says he's fighting a battle that can only benefit voters. "The average Joe is tired of choosing their candidate like they do their toothpaste --- choosing the one that advertises the most," he said.
You have to get 1% of the vote to get on the ballot so people can vote for you?
When you get more signatures than the Big Two primary candidates get votes, and you still can't get on the ballot... you KNOW you're getting shafted.
They are a Priesthood trying to cover their asses.
It is so much more than guns, drugs, and taxes. If you cannot vote to change things what is left to do?
The LP has done at least one thing right. Due to their persistant whining, many States have re-vamped their ballot access policies. Not all of 'em, but a good start none the less.
Most of the "person on the street" conversations I have at work, or in a check-out line at the grocery store, give me the impression that most people don't vote because the they are fed up with the BS government keeps pulling on them. I've heard it said, half-jokingly, that people figure out what a politician is for by looking at the opposite of what their campaign promises are.
It's time to face it, the Big Two parties need to go. The times have left them behind.
No, shoot a line of coke and tax a snort collector...
Thats for statewide offices only. The U.S. House rules require the candidate to collect the petition signatures of 5 percent of the total number of voters from the previous election.
The whole gathering signatures thing seems kinda stupid when the number of names required to break into that loop are higher than what the "validated" candidates are drawing in their Primaries.
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