Bozarth Successfully Petitions onto Ballot in State House Race
(APN) ATLANTA — Bill Bozarth, the former executive director of Common Cause Georgia, has successfully used Georgia’s five percent petition law to get on the ballot in the State House District 54 race.
Jared Thomas, a spokesman for Secretary of State Brian Kemp, confirmed Bozarth’s accomplishment in an interview with Atlanta Progressive News.
Bozarth is running against Beth Beskin, the Republican nominee, and Bob Gibeling, the Democratic nominee, in the November 2014 General Election.
Bozarth had to collect signatures of at least 1,776 of the voters who were registered as of the last election. He collected and turned in more than two thousand.
“I saw number one, it’s a really daunting process. Now that I’ve done it, I can certainly understand why so many people don’t seem to make it,” Bozarth said.
“On the surface, when you first look at the challenge, it seems reasonable,” at least for a State House race where the district is not so populous, he said.
“A [State] House seat presents the most attainable challenge, a number that doesn’t look so daunting when you first see it,” he said.
“I had people to help me with good organizational skills,” he said, adding that the key was “getting people involved as volunteers.”
“The petition has to be signed by the circulators. I had 66 people that did this. Some people were asked to get people on their street or, if they were in a highrise, to get people in the building. Some people asked only their friends,” he said.
“Ten different Saturdays and a couple times during the week, ten of us would go ‘cold calling’ – knocking on doors,” he said.
“The third way, was my campaign manager and myself going out on a lot of days during the week, going door to door,” he said.
“I had somebody that was organizing it and doing all the notarizing. He also kept a spreadsheet of every signature we had,” he said.
“If you didn’t do all that, the challenge of getting signatures, even for a [State] House race,” would be too much, he said.
Several people tried to get on the ballot as independent candidates, but were not successful this year, including Randy New, who wanted to run against State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta), and Alvelyn Sanders, who wanted to run against State Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta).
According to a source familiar with the matter, Mr. New made efforts to collect signatures, but said he found that in the southern parts of the district, it was difficult to locate people at the addresses where they were registered, and in the northern parts of the district, there were many highrise buildings that had secured entrances.
Mr. New is on the ballot as a write-in candidate, Thomas told APN, adding that voters will have to know to add his name because he won’t appear on the ballot.
“We’re very proud of it,” Bozarth said of his accomplishment.
“We had an event after we turned the signatures in and we celebrated. It is significant, now course, the pleasure from that is only momentary, that’s just step one,” he said.
“I will say having over two thousand people we have talked to, and essentially have some stake in me being on the ballot – will probably remember me when we go back and ask them to vote for me,” he said.
Bozarth said he held on to the contacts and sent almost 2,000 “thanks for helping us get on the ballot” letters.
“When you’re running for office, you’ve got to come up with a way to get people to remember you in the voting booth,” he said.
“It’s almost prohibitive. I did meet the challenge, but the bar in my opinion is very high,” Bozarth said of the five percent requirement, adding that he likes the Open Primary concept used in states like Oregon and Washington.
In an Open Primary, all the candidates of every party run together in one open primary, and then the top two go into a Run-off.
“Oregon has been doing it for so long. The longer they do it, the more people like it,” he said.
Currently, there is one independent, State Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville) in the State House, and none in the State Senate. Kidd won a Special Election in 2009 and thus did not have to petition to get on the ballot, but he did have to petition in 2010.
Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News, tells APN that there have been a few candidates over the last ten years to successfully get on the ballot for State House, although only a fraction of those who have tried.
Winger said that, according to his records, Rep. Kidd got on in 2010 and 2012 [although Kidd only had to petition once, in 2010], two independent candidates got on in 2008, two independent candidates got on in 2006, and five Libertarian candidates and two independent candidates got on in 2004.
The last time someone successfully used the five percent requirement to run for U.S. House in Georgia was in 1964, Winger said.
Winger said he believes Bozarth’s getting on the ballot will help, not hinder, the cause for ballot access and reduced petition requirements in Georgia.
“I think it will make it stronger. The more people do it, the stronger we get,” Winger said.
“It’s an awful lot of work for election officials to count these things. They don’t like doing all this work. The more people turn in petitions, the more we get county officials on our side… the more the legislature realizes there really are a lot of people interested in this, maybe we should pay attention,” he said.