Back of the Bus: Georgia's Repressive
I was heartened by the letters
criticizing Georgia's sinister-sounding black box voting system [in
the December 22 issue]. However, Georgia's election woes go beyond
Georgia has arguably the most repressive and undemocratic ballot
laws in America. Since 1943, Georgia requires a petition, signed by
5% of registered voters, for any third party candidate for the U.S.
House to get on the ballot.
This effectively outlaws the creation of viable, active alternative
parties in Georgia. No third party candidate has ever been able to
meet this outrageous signature requirement. Not one.
In 2001, Richard Winger, America's leading ballot law expert,
observed: "In all U.S. history, no one has ever overcome a ballot
access hurdle for U.S. House greater than 13,000 signatures. Yet in
the average district in Georgia, almost 15,000 signatures are
Ballot laws for other offices are similarly crippling.
Thus Georgians are denied the right to vote for Libertarians (except
for a few offices), Greens, Constitutionalists, and other
alternative parties. Voters don't get to hear the fresh new ideas
these candidates bring. Or benefit from the political competition.
Of course, this is great for those in power. In the 2004 elections
over 50% of the state House, over 1/3 of the state Senate, and 1/3
of House seats had only one candidate.
Last year, legislation to reform this -- HB927, the Ballot Access
Reform Act of 2005 -- was introduced in the Georgia General
Assembly. However, the Republican-Democratic monopoly voted it down.
Historically, new parties have played a vital role in American
politics. In Georgia, however, they have been forced to the back of
James W. Harris
(published in Creative Loafing, January 4,