Georgia Green, Constitution Parties Push Forward on Petitions for Ballot Access, despite State Appeal
(APN) ATLANTA — The Green Party of Georgia and Constitution Party of Georgia are moving forward with their efforts to gather enough signatures to get their candidates for President of the U.S. on the November 2016 ballot in Georgia, in the wake of a federal ruling that lowered the threshold to 7,500 signatures, even as the State of Georgia has has a notice of appeal of the ruling.
This election season, minor political parties (“political bodies” per the Georgia code) will finally have a fighting chance to get their Presidential candidates on the ballot in Georgia, after a federal court ruling struck down Georgia’s restrictive statewide ballot access laws as unconstitutional.
Per the ruling, the new interim threshold, 7,500 signatures, applies until the Legislature amends the respective provision Georgia election code.
Hugh Esco, Georgia Green Party’s State Director, was not exactly thrilled with the court’s interim threshold of 7,500.
“The 7,500 signature threshold is framed as an ‘interim remedy,’ to protect the ‘state interests’ in ‘avoiding over-crowded ballots and voter confusion.’ We had urged a 5,000 signature threshold in the settlement conference and had argued that the evidence on the record would easily justify a 2,000 signature threshold,” Esco said.
“That being said, we feel that 7,500 signatures is an achievable goal, though with only 89 days left now, we’re asking folks to step up and take this challenge seriously, and to respond urgently,” Esco said.
“The eighty page order is what we would call ‘good law.’ Its scope is limited to the Presidential race, but we count this as a significant victory and the first chink in undermining the undemocratic impact… [of] the 1971 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Jenness v Fortson,” Esco said.
“But the downside is that we have to name a candidate (or at least a slate of Presidential Electors) before we can begin to circulate a petition. And that is where this all gets rather tricky,” Esco said.
“The distinction between the code sections is important and one which threatens to balkanize the Party. We can only name a candidate at our Conventions. On June 4th (tentative), 38 days before the deadline, we are scheduled to nominate our Presidential Electors and our Delegates and Alternates to the Houston Presidential Nominating Convention. On August 4th through 7th, that Quadrennial Convention will meet and on August 6th, 25 days after the petition filing deadline, the Green Party of the United States will nominate its Presidential slate,” Esco told APN.
The Constitution Party, on the other hand, chose their candidate a few weeks ago.
“We are actively pursuing efforts to start gathering for this cycle. Darryl Castle and Scott Bradley, our President and Vice Presidential ticket, are high profile candidates who are very active with the party,” Garland Favorito, elections director for the Constitution Party of Georgia, told APN.
“It’s a dying task to get 7,500 signatures. It was pretty dramatic for the judge to do that. He already ruled against it,” Favorito noted. As previously reported by APN, the original federal district court decision was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals and sent back down for reconsideration.
“There were a combination of factors of why we won. Some key points were not brought up in the first court case, the appeal was sent back because the State didn’t have a compelling interest to keep Presidential candidates off the ballot. We had to use different case law the second time around and we switched attorneys. Laughlin McDonald of ACLU represented us, which made a difference,” Favorito said.
The Constitution Party of Georgia’s troubles with ballot access in Georgia go back to as early as 1996, around the same time that the Greens started gaining support also.
Because of a technicality not published in the Georgia elections code for signature gatherers, many tens of thousands of signatures were thrown out in that year’s election, Favorito said.
“A circulator could not be the notary according to Georgia code. The state used a general law to rule out the majority of the signatures collected. A similar thing with the Natural Law Party that same year. They [the State] did not inform us of the law even though they had a lawsuit a few years earlier. And the Secretary of State didn’t count the ballots until the last week. It was an intentional effort to keep our candidate off the ballot. It did a lot of detrimental damage to the party,” Garland recalled.
But despite what the Court described as “petition fatigue,” both parties are gearing up to collect for their candidates this season.
“The Georgia Green Party will be providing support to petition circulators working to put their candidates of choice on the Georgia ballot. Of the roughly a dozen candidates who have filed with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) as seeking our nomination for President, so far six have responded asking to be included in our petitioning efforts,” Esco said.
“Three of those candidates already have a visible presence in Georgia. As the leadership of the state party our role is… to facilitate a process where our members and supporters can nominate the candidate of their choice. We fully expect at least a couple of the campaigns to organize active petitioning efforts in Georgia,” Esco said.
The Green Party hopes to reach out to supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders if, as it appears is likely, he does not win the Democratic nomination for President of the U.S. this year.
“We believe that the Democratic Party nominee will inevitably be Hillary Clinton and after supporters of Bernie Sanders compare the Green Party Platform to the issues espoused by the Vermont senator, many will channel their enthusiasm and support to the only progressive candidate on the ballot,” Al Herman, Treasurer of the Georgia Green Party, told APN.
“As we get closer to November, polls will likely indicate that the State of Georgia will remain “red,” at which time a vote for the Democratic Party candidate will be a “wasted vote,” thus allowing progressive voters in Georgia to vote their hopes, not their fears, by voting Green,” Herman said.
If any Georgia political body obtains statewide ballot access for their Presidential candidate this year, using the interim threshold, and that candidate receives one percent or more of the vote, then, per another provision in the Georgia code, that body’s statewide candidates will be able to appear on the ballot without having to petition.
The Libertarian Party of Georgia’s statewide candidates appear on the Georgia ballot without petitioning using that provision to perpetuate themselves on the ballot every two years.