With just ten legislative days left before Georgia’s “crossover day,” the battle to expand ballot equality for third party and independent candidates for office continues. The Libertarian Party drafted and found sponsors for HB191, which would remove unfair and often insurmountable barriers, giving third parties and independents the same ballot access rights Republicans and Democrats enjoy. Two-thirds of Georgia Assembly incumbents don’t face even a single challenger in 2016 or 2018, yet Democrats and Republicans collude to exclude would-be challengers and maintain a firm grasp on power.
Ryan Graham, Vice Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, told a WABE/NPR reporter in an interview aired this morning,
“We shouldn’t be afraid of hearing new ideas, and if you have good ideas, you should be able to take a little bit of competition. Everyone should be allowed to run for office. …if you’re putting limits onto competition, that’s bad.”
Running unopposed has big advantages for incumbents and major party operatives, at the expense of voter choice and election integrity.
H.B. 191 faces stiff opposition, most immediately from the Chair of Governmental Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Rynders, who has threatened activists and promised the bill won’t even get a hearing in his committee. Rynders, a Republican who frequently runs unchallenged in District 152, has much to lose if voters are offered meaningful alternatives. Anyone who supports more choices on Georgia’s ballots and freer, fairer, and more competitive elections, should contact Rynders this week to insist on a hearing.
In a state whose past and present are marred by election irregularities, deliberate disenfranchisement, and other chicanery, Georgia continues to have the worst ballot access laws in the nation The right to cast a ballot is sacred, but the right to appear on a ballot is equally sacrosanct. Without the ability to add a candidate, checking a box next to one’s only option falls short of the right to vote.