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09 March 2010

New Bill Eliminates Nominating Petitions For Third Party, Independent Candidates

Monday, Democrat Alan Powell, Independent Rusty Kidd and Republican Mark Hatfield introduced a ballot access bill that would completely eliminate the need for independent or third party candidates to gather signatures in order to appear on the ballot.

The summary of House Bill 1257 reads as follows:

A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Chapter 2 of Title 21 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to primaries and elections generally, so as to remove the requirement that political body and independent candidates file nomination petitions in order to gain ballot access; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

During the 2010 legislative session, several bills have been proposed lowering the threshold that third party and independent candidates must achieve before being awarded a spot on the ballot.

HB1257 is, by far, the most wide reaching.

The bill simply states that if you don't want to qualify as a Democrat or a Republican, you pay your qualifying fee directly to the Secretary of State (or local election superintendent as the case may be) and you're on the ballot as an independent.

Seldom do I use my position as a member of the state Democratic committee to advocate for legislation, but I believe it is appropriate for me to do so in this case because of language contained in the Charter of the Democratic Party of Georgia:

"we seek to protect and enhance political freedom of all people and to encourage the meaningful participation of all citizens within the framework of the United States Constitution and the laws of the United States and the State of Georgia."

I believe political freedom means the ability for citizens to participate in the political party of their choice and vote for the candidates of their choice without fear of retribution or intimidations. I believe political freedom also means that citizens with a desire to serve in government must be able to run as a Democrat, Independent, Libertarian or Republican without having to part the Red Sea just to get on the ballot.

Obviously, the purpose of the Democratic Party --of any political party-- is to see its candidates elected to public office.

We have campaigns so that Democrats and Republicans can make their case to the voters as to why their political party should be in power. If the voters want another choice though, political freedom dictates that they should have it.

No political party should use restrictive ballot access laws as a means to maintain its power.

A lot of ballot access bills have been introduced during the 2010 legislative session. House Bill 1257 is the best. This legislation should receive a fair hearing and be passed into law by our public servants.