The election system in Georgia is broken, and a new bill may make it worse. But you can help fix it.
Both Republicans and Democrats take every opportunity to stack the deck in their favor — at all levels of government. They desperately want to keep real competition out of the running, so campaign regulations, debate participation, and ballot access laws are designed to exclude third parties as much as possible. These restrictions can be especially harsh at the state level.
“Georgia has some of the most restrictive ballot-access laws in the country,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently noted. “Currently, candidates must submit a nomination petition signed by tens of thousands of registered voters — 1 percent of voters for statewide offices or 5 percent of voters for other offices.”
Petitioning for that many signatures is incredibly expensive, so only the most well-funded and well-connected candidates have an easy job of making it onto the ballot. Many of those candidates are effectively unopposed in the general election.
For third parties, this can be an insurmountable barrier. Not a single third-party candidate for U.S. House has collected enough signatures to appear on Georgia’s ballot in more than 75 years.
“To appear on the ballot for US House I would need to collect signatures from 5% of the ‘active voter’ population between January and June of any election year,” said Libertarian Party of Georgia Vice-Chair Ryan Graham in an interview with News Growl. “That equates to roughly 20,000 signatures, but because the term ‘active voter’ is a slippery concept in Georgia you really need 40,000 signatures to prevent being disqualified.”
A bill drafted with input from LP Georgia, H.B. 191, would have dramatically reduced the signature requirement and would have given Georgia voters real choices on Election Day. Unfortunately, H.B. 191 got stuck in a legislative committee that has no interest in political competition and opted not to hear the bill.
Now, instead of making ballot access better, Georgia politicians are about to make a terrible situation even worse. A new bill that has passed the Georgia state House, H.B. 316, would mandate new electronic voting machines to be implemented throughout the state, despite warnings from cybersecurity experts who increasingly recommend the use of paper ballots in order to create a physical trail of evidence for voting outcomes.
“This is a bill to replace Georgia’s insecure, unverifiable electronic voting system with a much more expensive insecure, unverifiable, hackable electronic voting system,” said LP Georgia Chair Ted Metz. “We demand transparent, verifiable, recountable, auditable elections with a source document created by the voter.”
Any bill that would significantly impact the state’s revenues or expenditures are required to include a fiscal note that serves as “a reliable estimate” of that financial impact, according to Georgia state code, but H.B. 316 passed both the House and Senate without one — and without the bill’s sponsor requesting a waiver.
“The law says bills have to have a fiscal note, but this bill passed without one,” LP Georgia Chair Ted Metz said. “If Gov. Brian Kemp signs this bill, he is complicit in an unlawful act.”
Politicians may not care about fair elections and transparency, but they do pay attention when their constituents complain. That’s where you come in.
Contact the governor’s office today, and demand that Gov. Kemp veto H.B. 316. Contact your state legislators and demand that they speak out against H.B. 316. Explain to your friends and family why this bill is so dangerous and encourage them to complain as well.
Making a phone call and writing a letter take only a few moments, but they can have far-reaching effects — especially when combined with hundreds or thousands of other concerned citizens each demanding action.
For people who want to bring radical change to the system, politics will always be an uphill battle. Together, though, we can move mountains.
Chair, Libertarian National Committee