Competition is good for everything — except the Georgia ballot

Competition will solve any problem, according to the wisdom of the rubber-chicken circuit.

School systems would be sharper if they only had some competition. Widget prices would plummet and wages would skyrocket, if only the power of competition were unleashed.

Fox News’ Glenn Beck even wonders if competition from private armies might juice our national defense. “I’d like to give it a whirl,” he says.

The one place where increased competition can’t work — and in fact is too dangerous to attempt — is the Georgia ballot. Republicans and Democrats agree on this point. Over the last 70 years or so, both parties have conspired to make sure that they remain the dominant actors every election cycle. This one included.

Mary Norwood, candidate for Fulton County Commission chairman/AJC

Mary Norwood, candidate for Fulton County Commission chairman/AJC

Since 1988, a small piece of ground has been given up to the Libertarian Party, which can place candidates on the ballot by votes of its state convention. But Georgia law still places a tremendous — some would say insurmountable — burden on the non-aligned individual who seeks high office.

The irony is palpable. In a season in which Republican and Democrats are focused on disenchanted, independent voters — former Gov. Roy Barnes has said, semi-seriously, that he would run as a Whig if he could — three independent candidates in Georgia are struggling to survive.

Mary Norwood, the former candidate for mayor of Atlanta, is conducting an independent bid for chairman of the Fulton County Commission.

She must gather the signatures of 23,000 Fulton County voters by noon July 13. In other words, she must track down the equivalent of one of every 10 people who cast a vote in the 2006 race for governor, plus a few more — 5 percent of the Fulton electorate.

On Tuesday, Norwood announced she was headed to court next week to head off a challenge that threatens 8,000 signatures already in hand.

You see, Norwood preprinted the word “Fulton” in the spaces on her petition forms reserved for the signatures and addresses of voters — after getting written approval from the county Board of Registration and Elections.

Brad Bryant, who will replace Kathy Cox as state school superintendent

Brad Bryant, who will replace Kathy Cox as state school superintendent. Vino Wong

John Eaves, the Democratic incumbent, insists that state law requires “Fulton” to be handwritten by the person signing the petition. There’s every probability that Eaves is right. But that is the point. The law is weighted to frustrate the rugged individualist that politicians so love to praise on the stump.

“It’s very time-consuming. Each individual signature is a retail sale,” said Anne Fauver, Norwood’s campaign manager. “It takes a lot of attention to detail by the circulator. It’s hard work, and hot work.”

Other states, such as Utah, allow electronic signatures via — God forbid — the Internet.

Georgia has what some call the most restrictive ballot laws in the nation.

Each legal-sized page of 15 signatures must be signed by the “circulator,” who attests to their validity, and notarized. Hard copy only, and collected in binders. The law does not specify the color of the binders.

Brad Alexander ran the successful 2006 Republican campaign of Casey Cagle for lieutenant governor. He is trying to quickly stitch together volunteers to gather signatures for Brad Bryant, named by Gov. Sonny Perdue to replace state School Superintendent Kathy Cox. Her resignation becomes effective June 30.

Bryant needs 44,071 validated signatures — 1 percent of the state electorate — for a rare November appearance on the statewide ballot by an independent.

Only three have accomplished the feat in the last 20 years, according to Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office. The last was a candidate for labor commissioner in 2002.

None have won.

Alexander paints this complicated scenario of high-stakes trolling for signatures: “You’re trying to get registered voters to sign petitions at a Braves game. And you have to have a separate sheet for every city and every county. You theoretically could have 200 petitions going at a big event like that at one time,” he said.

Real estate executive Ray Boyd, who intends to mount an independent campaign for governor/AP

Real estate executive Ray Boyd, who intends to mount an independent campaign for governor/AP

Norwood plans to use professional signature-gathers to complete her quest, at a cost of $3 to $4 per verified John Hancock.

But despite support from Perdue, the Bryant campaign so far lacks serious funding.

“Every dollar we raise we’ll use to put some folks — who’d like to be working — to work,” Alexander said. He’s attempting to build an $8-an-hour army of unemployed college students.

Ray Boyd is the third independent of note — rejected as a candidate for governor by the Republican party this spring after refusing to sign a loyalty oath. Unlike Bryant, Boyd says he has $2 million to spend.

“I’m still in the game, but I’m fighting just like [Norwood and Bryant] are,” Boyd said. “The law is incredibly difficult. It’s not written very well, but it’s not written well on purpose. I’m going to make a concerted effort to make sure that nobody has to go through this again.”

If nothing else, it would be worthwhile to ask the next candidate you meet to be more specific when the benefits of increased competition are discussed.

Is it a concept that applies only to schools and businesses, or would it work for political guilds, too?

Originally posted Wednesday, June 23.

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36 comments Add your comment

[...] I was writing a post about ballot access earlier today, but the title of Jim Galloway’s article on the troubles of Mary Norwood, Ray Boyd and Brad Bryant to get on the ballot in a state with such draconian ballot access laws says it all (my friend Richard Winger of Ballot Access News calls them the worst in the nation): Competition is good for everything — except the Georgia ballot. [...]


June 23rd, 2010
8:30 pm

Why can’t we try to get the best possible candidate for State School Superintendent? Why is it necessary for the Republican Party to try to sneak someone in through the back door? I don’t care if you are democrat or republican-I want you to be the best possible person for the job.


June 23rd, 2010
9:08 pm

Isn’t John Eaves the guy who talked Shirley Franklin into running the race baiting radio ad for his re-election? When the chips are down Eaves will do whatever he has to in order to win.


June 23rd, 2010
9:51 pm

I’m sure this red tape, much like the voter ID requirements of which our legislators are so enamored, is necessary to combat signature fraud. Why, without it, you might have “illegals” signing petitions!

Bludgeon & Skewer

June 23rd, 2010
9:57 pm

Greetings All,

We’re in a state of respectful silence over here at the Secret Underground Libertarian Command Center in awe of the ballot access article just penned by Big Jim Galloway over to the AJC’s Political Insider. Are there cracks showing in the 1943 Georgia Ballot access law that have successfully contained the waters of Liberty for the last 67 years? Will the news that citizens of other states in this great country can show support for third party candidates for elected office by the effortless utilization of the internet finally start the ball rolling here in Georgia for electronic petitioning? We sincerely hope so.

There is another little quirk in the ballot access laws of Georgia that it’s citizens could use to trigger major political change in 2012 that would remove the power of the republican and democrat party to dictate which candidates are able to run in state house and state senate races. One of the caveats of the current law is that if a third party, and here in Georgia, that means the Libertarian Party, can run a candidate for Governor who receives 20% +1 of the vote in an election year, that body will transition to full fledged political party with access to every race in Georgia in the next election cycle.
That would mean no unchallenged incumbents anywhere in Georgia, no safe districts anywhere in Georgia and the end of the good ol’ boy system.

That is one of the goals of the Libertarian Party of Georgia this year. We have a stellar candidate for Governor with Libertarian John Monds leading the charge for Liberty in 2010. John burst on the political scene in Georgia in 2008 with a record setting 1,000,000 votes in his PSC race, votes that were earned the old fashioned way, day by day and face to face. John declared for the Governorship in 2009 and his leadership and performance inspired 9 other Libertarians to seek statewide office this year in pursuit of the goal of spreading the words of Smaller Government, Lower Taxes and More Freedom to every corner of Georgia in 2010.

We ask you join with us and dismantle Georgia’s 1943 Jim Crow Ballot access laws by voting for Libertarian John Monds for Governor this fall as well as supporting our candidates for every statewide office from US Senator all the way down the the Public Service Commission. Go to LPGeorgia. com and examine the party platform, review our candidates and take action to bring more choice and meaningful change to Georgia.

Vote for Maximum Freedom and Minimum Government. Vote for Libertarian John Monds for Governor!

[...] Galloway has a long piece about the crazy ballot access rules in Georgia. Oh, and he suspects Thurbert is a member of the hair club for men. [...]


June 23rd, 2010
10:16 pm

Tom, This is not a Republican effort. It is a Sonny effort because the two Republican candidates do not support his view of the Obama Race to The Top education plan. I think the entire Republican party should rise up and be against this mess.


June 23rd, 2010
10:24 pm

Didn’t we get a new state constitution under Gov. Jimmy Cater? And the ‘43 ballot problem wasn’t resolved? Anyone who wants to pay a reasonable qualifying fee should have access to running for any office they wish. George Washington was right. Political parties are !@#$%^%$#@#$%!


June 23rd, 2010
11:23 pm

Chuck Donovan
Libertarian candidate for US Senator, Georgia 2010


June 24th, 2010
12:22 am

Shame on John Eaves! Preventing people from voting for the candidates of their choice has a long and storied history in the South, including in Georgia. John Eaves should know this as well as anyone. It seems that John Eaves’ scurrilous tactics in his Fulton County election against Lee Morris were just the tip of the ice berg. How many signatures does it take to recall John Eaves?

Bitter EX democrackkk

June 24th, 2010
7:17 am

WE the PEOPLE must RISE UP and SHUT DOWN the TWO most EVIL FORCES that CONTROL us, the democrackkks and republicannots! These two ‘parties’ have power that was NEVER intended by our US Constitution!


Karl Marx

June 24th, 2010
8:25 am

Anyone who thinks the Loony-Tairans storm troopers have the answers should watch how they treat dissenters in their party. No thanks.

The Truth Hurts

June 24th, 2010
9:11 am

“Brad Alexander ran the successful 2006 Republican campaign of Casey Cagle for lieutenant governor.”????

It would appear Brad Alexander is still fabricating his resume. Anyone who was around in 2006 knows it was not Brad calling the shots that resulted in the first ever Republican LG for GA.


June 24th, 2010
9:40 am

Curiously, in a supposed anti-incumbent year, most of the departing are not retiring but seeking higher office. We may recycle more than we replace. The bad news is that a frustrating 114 seats still have but one contestant. Two of them aren’t even incumbents, meaning they will affect state policy without being vetted by voters. And I have to think that we’d be better off if many had run instead for the Legislature — and cut down on the number running unopposed. Georgia’s problems are numerous. They aren’t going away. There’s too much stale thinking at the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle. New voices would be welcome.


June 24th, 2010
9:55 am

Just a small correction to the article, Mr. Galloway: The Libertarian Party can assign candidates for office at the state convention only for statewide candidates and only so long as one of these candidates gets at least 2% of the vote in an election. But the only way for them to get access for down ballot candidates (state representatives, county commissioners, etc.) is to 1) petition like Ms. Norwood is now doing, 2) have a gubernatorial candidate receive 20% of the vote, or 3) change the ballot access laws.


June 24th, 2010
10:19 am

But I should also add — THANK YOU for bringing attention to the state and national shame known as our ballot access laws, Mr. Galloway.


June 24th, 2010
10:21 am

I will be voting for John Monds, and I will support candidates that want to end ballot access restrictions!

Georgia Conservative

June 24th, 2010
10:32 am

Anyone who claims to want change and is serious about ideas that work, regardless of their political stripe or party affiliation, should be for greater ballot access. The only people well-served by Georgia’s assinine ballot access laws are the political elites of both parties who are primarily concerned about their own self-interest rather than the good of the state and its citizens.


June 24th, 2010
10:37 am

I voted for the Libertarian candidate for Governor in the last election. It was a protest vote. I will probably do the same this year. Georgia is such a backwards state when it comes to just about everything. We need to get the good ol boy stranglehold off of this state.

Bill Orvis White

June 24th, 2010
11:50 am

There’s a good reason why states like Georgia doesn’t need or want loony-tune third parties involved: we are a two-party country and knowing that, it makes it simple when we go to the polls. When I’m in the booth, I know that any with a “D” after his name is a far-left September 10th McFly Secular Progressive who will raise my taxes and throw God out of everything. When I see an “R” by anyone’s name, I know that I will have someone in office who will fight for low/no taxe$, the 10 Commandments in public spaces, religious freedom for Christians, gun rights, free markets, school and healthcare choice.
I don’t know what I will get with some wacky Libertarian. Yes, they all like small gov’t and that’s good, but they’re for pot smoking and Godlessness. This country found out from its founding that two parties is the way to go. We don’t need ballots with freaks on them like that Will Jones fella who comments on here all the time with his anti-religious and anti GW Bush rantings. Everyone knows (Will included) that this once-free nation took the proper course under the previous honorable president. We need to get back to those principles which made us great: expand Gitmo, increase the Surge, cut taxe$, repeal Obamacare and kill Crap and Trade.
God Bless,


June 24th, 2010
11:52 am

Let’s see, if I remember correctly when the Republicans took over the state of GA they were going to change things for the better. There was a lot of hoopla that GA would now be the “promised land”. So, after 8 years, what has changed? Nada. And the non-compete clause for getting on the GA ballot remains unchanged. So much for the relief that Republicans were going to bring to the state of GA. So the “you lie” phrase now should be hurled at the GA Republicans. As the old saying goes, “what goes around comes around”.

David Staples

June 24th, 2010
12:41 pm

Bill Orvis White – sure… Republicans are for low taxes, free markets etc. How’s that working out for ya’? Why don’t you go ask Saxby “Subsidy” Chambliss about those farm subsidies? You realize we’re taxed to give those subsidies (non-free market) to farms, right? Same with Johnny “Tax Me” Isaakson. You far-right Republicans are only interested in freedom when it suits you. Forget about those who preach freedom for everyone. What business is it of yours or mine if someone decides to have a beer on Sunday, smoke a ciggarette or marijuana within their own home or spend their own money gambling at a casino or online poker? It’s not. So until you can see through the hypocrisy of your statements, perhaps we need a third party that really is for a limited government. Not just one that talks the talk until they’re elected… where they they raise taxes and increase spending like any good Democrat.

Georgia Conservative

June 24th, 2010
1:49 pm

Bill Orvis White. If what you say were true, life would be easier. The truth is, you can’t always count on someone wearing the Republican name to be conservative. Take our last presidential election as a great example. The Republican candidate co-sponsored a largely unconstitional act to restrict political speech (McCain-Feingold) which was signed by a Republican president (Bush) who never met a domestic spending program he didn’t like. McCain was also an early proponent of a Cap & Trade program, though he seems to have backed off on that. I’m not saying every candidate is going to toe the line on every issue, but some of these guys are hard to pin down. Having other candidates from both the right, left, and middle in the races will certainly give the electorate the options they need. It would also create much more political discourse and, I dare say, more idea campaigning versus the typical us vs. them we get from both parties.


June 24th, 2010
1:53 pm

Bill – let me guess you are an OWG – old white guy. You are a dying breed old man and your views are dying with you.


June 24th, 2010
3:04 pm

Two Chicken Farmers, Perdue and Cagle, have destroyed the state of Georgia in 8 Years. These lovers of imported cheap labor laid the burdens on the taxpayers of GA back in taxes. His buddies feasted and the rest of us lost our jobs and any respect for our institutions as we watched the publci trust disappear. Sonny and Cagle built slavery camps all of Ga and filled our schools with none speaking vistors. These are the Republicans who want you to vote them back in office, our government is out of control and failing the citizens. Thanks you Sonny


June 24th, 2010
3:04 pm

I’m a disenchanted Georgia voter because there’s not a good candidate in the bunch for governor. It’s going to be a long 4 years with whomever is elected.


June 24th, 2010
3:38 pm


Welcome to GA politics. that’s been the problem for years, no good candidates to vote for. that’s why this state is such a mess.


June 24th, 2010
6:34 pm

Along with making changes to make it easier to get on the GA ballot, the Republicans should seriously consider the necessity of requiring that one sign a loyalty oath to the party before one can run as a Republican. Never trust anyone who signs such an oath! Vote Democratic!


June 25th, 2010
10:58 am

Boyd’s refusal to sign a “Loyalty Oath” to a political party has won points with me. I am not saying I will vote for him as I have not had a chance to research his positions on issues. I am saying that I will be giving him a closer look and will consider his candicy because of his stance against the oath.


June 25th, 2010
11:46 am

Rebuplicans are crazy right wing anti-abortion religous freaks. Dems are equally crazy supporting welfare for all, anit-white worker class; imiigration reform at any cost.

There is no choice but to feel bad about GA…

[...] The irony is palpable. In a season in which Republican and Democrats are focused on disenchanted, independent voters — former Gov. Roy Barnes has said, semi-seriously, that he would run as a Whig if he could — three independent candidates in Georgia are struggling to survive. Read the complete story. [...]

David S

June 25th, 2010
2:42 pm

Just look at the unbelievable list of losers running for the 4th congressional district. There has not been a 3rd party candidate who has been able to gain access to the ballot for congress in GA since 1935 !!!!!

As for filing fees let’s not forget that filing fees are also just about keeping the rich in control. If they are not rich, then the money they must raise typically makes them beholden to their donors.

In California, filing fees can be waived with additional petition signatures. It is called “signatures in lieu of filing fee.” Here in GA the same process is called a “pauper’s petition.” Pretty clear where the bias lies in this state. Oh by the way, this was not meant as an endorcement of socialist California, just a comment on good ‘ole boy GA.

Ballot access laws are generally mentioned as a way to eliminate “confusion” on the ballot. What is really meant is competition from people with principles and folks who are ready to fix the problems caused by the incumbents and their predecessors.

I remember the pictures that came out of South Africa of the long lines of folks waiting nearly 8 hours to vote. They showed pictures of their ballots and what you saw were many many candidates for each office. No wonder so many people wanted to vote. They had a real choice.

We have only the republicans and the democrats to blame for the problems of this country and this state. They ARE the only parties that have been elected in the past 120 years at least.

Seems like a real change is needed.


June 25th, 2010
2:58 pm

You can always write in a candidate’s name on a ballot, but even then it has to be in a proper format and the correct, exact name. I wrote in the name of the Green Party candidate for president in 2004 and it was properly tallied by the elections office. But, of course, it would have been easier to vote for him if his name and party was already printed on the ballot.

David S

June 25th, 2010
3:22 pm

In most states in order to be counted you even have to jump through hoops to become on “official” write-in candidate. Talk about restrictive. Representation of public sentiment is not the goal of elections.

Byron Mathison Kerr

June 25th, 2010
3:40 pm

Georgia’s ballot law is very hostile to Independent and 3rd-Party candidates. I remember Ralph Nader saying it was one of the worst in the nation. His 2000 and 2004 Presidential campaigns decided it was way too costly to commit any resources to getting on the ballot in Georgia. But he was on the ballot in Alabama. I had to trek over to UAB in Birmingham to hear him speak. I have always greatly admired the guy and consider myself better politically educated by having followed his campaigns.

[...] Click here for a little background. Norwood says 8,000 signatures are at stake. She must gather 23,000 signatures by July 13. [...]