Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is now prohibited from enforcing the 5 percent petition requirement for certain candidates seeking office in Georgia, handing a victory to the Libertarian Party of Georgia and any potential candidate who wishes to seek office as an independent.
Because the Libertarian Party of Georgia isn’t a political party under state law and is instead considered a “political body,” a candidate must receive the signatures of 5 percent of registered voters in the district in which he or she wants to run. The same threshold applies to independent candidates. The Libertarian Party is, to this author’s knowledge, the only entity to gain ballot access as a political body.
As a result of Georgia’s restrictive ballot access laws—often criticized as being among the most restrictive in the country—no independent or third-party candidate has made it on the ballot for a U.S. House seat since 1964. In March, Judge Lanier Anderson issued an opinion in which he wrote that Georgia’s ballot access requirements violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the 5 percent signature requirement “was adopted with a discriminatory purpose.”
The opinion issued today by Judge Leigh May Martin, who serves on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, prohibits Secretary Raffensperger from enforcing the 5 percent petition requirement. Instead, only 1 percent will be required. This 1 percent petition requirement is equal to the requirement necessary for an entity to gain status as a political body under Georgia law.
“Until the Georgia General Assembly enacts a permanent measure, a candidate to whom this signature requirement applies may access the ballot by submitting a nomination petition signed by a number of voters equal to one percent of the total number of registered voters eligible to vote in the last election for the office the candidate is seeking,” Martin wrote, “and the signers of such petition shall be registered and eligible to vote in the election at which such candidate seeks to be elected.”
The opinion can be found here.