[gpga-news] AJC: Suit challenges Georgia's ballot access laws

Hugh Esco hesco at greens.org
Tue Jun 5 22:26:54 PDT 2012

Suit challenges Georgia's ballot access laws
By Aaron Gould Sheinin 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Two political parties have sued the state of Georgia in federal court,
saying the state's ballot access laws violate the U.S. Constitution.

The Green and Constitution parties say state law that requires their
candidates to gather thousands of signatures to get on the presidential
ballot is unconstitutional. The suit names the state and Secretary of
State Brian Kemp as defendants.

"There are several different clauses in the Constitution we feel are
being violated," said Garland Favorito, elections director for the
Georgia Constitution Party. "You should have free and fair elections.
These parties are on the ballot in 30 and 40 states every presidential
election. Why can’t get they get on the ballot in Georgia?"

A spokesman for Kemp, the state's chief elections officer, would not
comment about the suit itself but defended the state's methods.

“Georgia’s ballot access laws have been challenged in the past, and the
courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have consistently
upheld Georgia’s nominating petition requirements as constitutional,"
Kemp spokesman Tim Fleming said.

State law says that a party's candidates are not automatically placed
on the ballot unless the party in the previous general election fielded
a statewide candidate who received votes equal to at least 1 percent of
the total registered voters in the state. If that hasn't happened, a
candidate must collect signatures from at least 1 percent of the total
registered voters who were eligible to vote in the previous election.
This year, that would require a candidate to collect more than 51,989
signatures to gain to appear on the ballot.

According to the suit, no minor party has qualified a candidate for the
statewide ballot in Georgia since 2000. The case only involves the
presidential race, meaning Cynthia McKinney's announced bid for the
Green Party nomination for U.S. Congress would not be affected.
McKinney, a former Democratic congresswoman, is seeking to reclaim her
former seat.

The suit accuses the state of violating the equal protection clause of
the U.S. Constitution, which says no person or group can be denied
legal rights granted to others in similar circumstances.

It is not unusual for a state to require signatures for independent
candidates or those nominated by third parties. But Georgia has been
labeled as having the most restrictive ballot access laws in the
country by Ballot Access News, an independent chronicler of election
law in the states.

Lawmakers appeared willing to consider the problem during this past
legislative session, but a bill by the Legislature's only independent
-- Rep. Rusty Kidd of Milledgeville -- did not pass. Kemp's own special
advisory committee on election law reform suggested easing the petition
restrictions, but the General Assembly would have to make the changes.

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