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.
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.
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.
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.