March 26, 2020 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
To view the complaint download here.
Atlanta, Georgia — Door-to-door canvassing for signatures under COVID-19 quarantine cannot be required as a condition of appearing on local ballots, the Libertarian Party of Georgia argues in its second lawsuit filed against the Georgia Secretary of State. The Party’s ongoing suit, on behalf of all political bodies and independent candidates, challenges the legal requirement that every district candidate either 1. file as a Democrat or Republican or 2. undertake the onerous task of collecting signatures from up to 5 percent of the registered voters in the relevant district. The limited 180 day window in which candidates must collect those signatures is now interrupted by coronavirus-related quarantine, in which people have been instructed to shelter at home and limit their contact with others. The two requirements – in-person signature petitions and mandatory social distancing – leave Libertarians, Greens, and others no way to fulfill the state’s ballot access requirements without endangering hundreds of lives.
Martin Cowen, the most recent of more than two dozen candidates to try and fail to meet the signature requirement to run for U.S. House, is a plaintiff in both suits. Bryan Sells, the attorney for the Libertarian Party and its co-plaintiffs in both suits, says the Secretary of State’s office lacks the power to pro-rate the number of signatures that should be required in response to these extraordinary circumstances. The issue must be settled by a court, and filing this suit requests a judicial review of the requirements.
“We’re optimistic that the courts will recognize how inappropriate it would be for independent candidates to go knocking on doors, handing around pens and clipboards, and speaking to voters about how signature requirements work,” said Cowen, who is required to collect signatures in Georgia’s 13th Congressional District. “Georgia’s signature requirements are unconstitutional under the best of circumstances. To enforce them now is not just unfair, but dangerously negligent of 2020’s novel public health concerns.”
Georgia’s laws governing who may appear on election ballots are the worst in the nation. Republicans and Democrats appear on ballots almost automatically, while independent and minor-party candidates must collect thousands of signatures, petition the state, and pay dearly to earn that access. The Libertarian party maintains that all such favoritism and exclusion is an encroachment on the civil liberties not just of candidates, but of the majority voters whose views are not represented by either R or D candidates.
To protect Georgian’s rights to have competitive, fair, and free elections, the initial lawsuit recommends reducing the number of petition signatures candidates need to be on the ballot, or eliminating the signature requirement for all candidates (not just libertarians). Under the current emergency conditions issued to combat the spread of COVID-19, collecting thousands of in-person signatures is not only unnecessary and unconstitutional, it is immoral and downright dangerous.
The Libertarian Party of Georgia is committed to America’s heritage of individual freedoms, limited government, and social tolerance. We value a free market economy of innovation and prosperity, a foreign policy of peace and non-intervention, and liberty and justice for all. If this sounds like you, learn more about what we do and what we stand for. You can find a libertarian affiliate in your community, join us at community service events and business meetings every month, or just sign up to let us know you’re interested. A world of peace, prosperity, and personal freedom is possible. Be a part of making it happen.