On March 18, U.S. District judge Richard Story struck down part of Georgia’s stringent ballot access law requiring third party candidates to collect an enormous number of signatures to appear on the ballot, ruling it unconstitutional.
Under old law, parties not recognized by the state of Georgia were required to collect signatures from 1 percent of eligible registered voters to get on the statewide ballot, equating to over 50,000 signatures. Now candidates only need to collect 7,500 signatures.
Georgia’s previous ballot access requirement narrowed voters’ choices for their presidential candidate, but now the future for third parties is looking brighter in the Peach State.
In 1972, Congressman John G. Schmitz, the American Independent Party presidential candidate that year who got over 1,100,000 votes nationwide, did not qualify to be on the Georgia ballot. In 1976, former Georgia Governor Lester Maddox, who ran as the American Independent Party presidential candidate, couldn’t get on the ballot in his own state.
Ralph Nader, who was the Green Party nominee in 1996 and 2000 and an Independent nominee in 2004 and 2008, was never on the ballot in Georgia, even though he placed third in 2000, 2004, and 2008.
But now one hindrance to ballot access in Georgia has been lessened this election cycle.
“This is a huge victory for Georgia voters who wish to vote for minor party or independent candidates for president,” said Richard Winger from Ballot Access News. “The decision is important for the 2016 race, because when one compares the easier requirements to get on the ballot for president in each state (minor party or independent), Georgia required the 3rd highest number of signatures. Only North Carolina and California required more. The Texas minor party petition was a slightly smaller number of signatures.”
The ruling may be an opportunity for those in the #NeverTrump movement who are flirting with the idea of running a third party candidate against GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.
Georgia attorney and RNC rules committee member Randy Evans told Daily Report that the court’s ruling is “particularly noteworthy given that it comes at a time when institutional powerbrokers are meeting in Washington, D.C., to discuss the creation of another party should Donald Trump become the GOP nominee.”
— Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) March 21, 2016
Nicholas Sarwark, the chairman of the Libertarian National Committee which is the executive body of the Libertarian Party, told Truth In Media’s Joshua Cook, “While the Libertarian Party already has ballot access in Georgia, we applaud Judge Story’s ruling striking down Georgia’s unconstitutionally high ballot access requirements. For 45 years, we’ve been fighting to give Americans a real political choice, while Republicans and Democrats have put up these barriers to competition to try to stop us. The real winners in this ruling are the people of Georgia who will have more political choice on their ballot.”
A 2015 Consider This video from Truth In Media highlighted the fact that the Republican and Democrat parties no longer represent the majority in the U.S.