Kemp Appoints Two Ballot Access Supporters to Elections Council

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(APN) ATLANTA — Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp has appointed two ballot access advocates to his Elections Advisory Council, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

They include State Rep. Rusty Kidd, the only independent to serve in Georgia’s legislature, and Associate Prof. David Shock, a Political Science professor at Kennesaw State University, who is a Libertarian.

Kemp announced the formation of the 16-member Council and the appointments on December 14, 2010.

“The Council is comprised of experienced election officials and leaders from across Georgia, including city and county officials, county election directors, representatives from Democratic, Independent, Libertarian and Republican backgrounds, and members of the Georgia General Assembly,” Kemp’s office wrote in a press release.

“Throughout 2011, the Council will review the Georgia Election Code and State Election Board Rules, and make recommendations that improve and strengthen Georgia’s election laws and procedures.  The Council will look particularly at improvements that create cost savings and increase efficiencies for state, county and local governments,” Kemp’s office wrote.

“Though we are proud of the progress we have made to secure our elections and guarantee ballot access, I know there are always opportunities to improve our elections processes at all levels of government,” Kemp said.

The Council will hold public meetings throughout 2011, which will offer the public an opportunity to make comments and present information.

“In the interest of ensuring a transparent process, all suggestions and written materials submitted by Council members and the public will be placed on a dedicated Elections Advisory Council website. The Council will meet multiple times in 2011 and make recommendations for legislative or State Election Board rule changes that will be proposed in 2012,” Kemp’s office said.

“One of my key responsibilities as Georgia’s Secretary of State is to ensure the highest degrees of fairness, access, security and transparency in a non-partisan manner in all of our elections processes.  The Elections Advisory Council and I look forward to hearing and sharing the views of Georgians on how we can all work together to accomplish these goals,” Kemp’s office said.

Rep. Kidd previously co-sponsored legislation in the last Session which would have altogether eliminated petition requirements for minor party and independent candidates.

The bill, HB 1257, was introduced by Reps. Alan Powell, Mark Hatfield, and Tom McCall, in addition to Kidd.

The Libertarian Party of Georgia has announced that passage of such a bill is one of its top priorities in the 2011 legislative session.

“My name was put forward by the Libertarian party,” Prof. Shock told Atlanta Progressive News, adding that his interest in ballot access is “both academic, and in my outside political activities.”

Shock published an article in The Social Science Journal in 2008 which measured restrictiveness of ballot access laws for non-major party candidates across the US.

He found that for non-statewide races–such as Congressional District, legislative district, county–Georgia’s five percent petition requirements for ballot access for independent and political body candidates was the worst in the nation. 

“It’s a civil rights issue in a way.  Courts have not recognized political affiliation in the same way as other [categories] like race and gender,” Shock said.

“To [change] ballot access laws, it’s gonna have to be through the legislative process, and using persuasive techniques to get the people in power to do the right thing,” Shock said.

“It’s not the easiest thing to do.  I think people can make a good argument.  From a democratic governance perspective, ballot access is a big black eye on American democracy,” Shock said.

“This was Sec. Kemp’s initiative.  This came up–he mentioned this in a debate I believe about having a Council–it was something kind thrown out there,” he said.

“I’m hopeful,” he said of the Council.  “The key is going to be public participation in the meetings that are gonna be held around the state.  I think if there’s enough participation, and the media covers it, it will create some pressure for change.”

“A lot of these changes are not in the best interests of a lot of elected officials [Democrats and Republicans].  I have a good feeling about the Council– it’s going to bring out some issues.  Mary Norwood and Brad Bryant have raised ballot access to a level [of public awareness] it has never been,” he said.

(END / 2011)

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