Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hold the Freakin' Presses! Garland Favorito Press Release on HB 1257!

Big News of the Day Kids,

The hardest working single issue advocate in Georgia, Garland Favorito, has issued a press release on HB 1257. The drop dead date on this bill is Thursday, 25 March 2010. If it doesn't get out of the rules committee, it can't get a floor vote and will pass into oblivion, not into law. Here at Bludgeon & Skewer we've been focused on ballot access since early in 2009 and this is the best chance Georgians have had in decades to level the political playing field in our great state. Don't let this opportunity slip by, barrage the state house players with emails and phone calls to move this important piece of legislation out of committee. We'll keep a sharp eye peeled for any signs of a committee meeting and relay any info we can, 10 motivated voters in that meeting can move this legislation forward. 10.

Here's Garland's press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Garland Favorito

March 13, 2010 (404) 664-4044

House Bill Proposes Open Ballot Access to All Candidates

ATLANTA, GA – A new bill that was introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives last week would open election ballots by removing the petitioning requirements that are currently imposed on all third party and independent candidates who want to run in local or statewide races. The bipartisan bill, HB1257, would also save time and money for state and counties by eliminating signature verification. It was introduced by Reps. Alan Powell, Tom McCall, Mark Hatfield and “Rusty” Kidd.

Any candidate who is not a Republican or Democrat, must currently gather thousands of signatures from registered voters who are qualified to vote for the candidate before their name can be placed on the ballot in a State House, State Senate, U.S. House or other partisan local race. Only Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians can name statewide candidates now without petitioning.

Georgia is currently ranked by Ballot Access News as having the most restrictive ballot access laws in the country. Some restrictions are 10 times more than the national average of all other states combined. For example, Georgia requires a political party to receive 20% of votes cast in the last gubernatorial or presidential race to run a full slate of candidates. That barrier is ten times the national median of about 2%. Likewise, Georgia requires a third party U.S. House candidate to collect verified signatures from 5% of the registered voters in the district before their name can be placed on the ballot. That barrier is 10 times the average of about .5% that is required by other states.

The restrictions have resulted in a perpetual lack of qualified candidates throughout Georgia. No 3rd party U.S. House candidate has qualified for a normal election since 1943 when existing laws were passed. Only about 39% of all State House races have been contested by both a Republican and a Democrat. Only 44% of legislative races were contested by both a Democrat and Republican in 2004, 17 points below the 61% national average. Georgia is also ranked worst in the nation for political party presidential qualification, having an average of just 1.2 3rd party presidential candidates on the ballot since 1972. In 2008, six presidential candidates were on ballots in enough states to mathematically win the Electoral College but only three of them were on the ballot in Georgia.

Petitioning has recently come under fire due to claims of mistreatment by petitioners. Former Chatham County Republican Commissioner, Jeff Rayno, was referred for a felony investigation in a December 2009 State Election Board meeting on grounds that he forged petition signatures although no forged signature was produced. He filed a U.S. Justice complaint against former chairwoman, Karen Handel, and her Inspector General, Shawn LaGrua, who still works in the Secretary of State’s office. In another case, a petitioner was arrested at a park while trying to collect signatures for a Green party candidate.

The proposed legislation would move Georgia from being ranked as one of the top five most restrictive states in every type of race to a more open ballot access state such as Florida. While offering Georgia voters more freedom of choice, it still maintains qualification fees to deter frivolous candidates. Nevertheless, the bill is expected to encounter opposition from the General Assembly leadership team and partisans in both sides of the legislature. House Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman, Mark Hamilton, will now determine if the bill will get a hearing. A similar but far less comprehensive measure, HB1141, was removed from the hearing schedule last week.
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