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Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it has declined to hear Coffield v Kemp, the suit challenging Georgia’s unreasonable requirements for independent candidates for Congress. According to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News, since the requirements were instituted in 1964, nobody has ever been able to fulfill these requirements.
That same year saw the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by Congress. It is notable that for decades, southern states had been engaged in a cat-and-mouse game, amending their laws in response to federal court decisions requiring them to allow black people to vote.
Georgia now requires a petition signed by 5% of registered voters in the district. The state also requires that all petition sheets be notarized, that all petitions be collected on over-size paper, and forbids the petition drive to begin until six months before the July petition deadline. Also, candidates must pay a filing fee of 3% of the annual salary, or approximately $5,000. The filing fee must be paid before the signatures are filed, and is not refundable.
Faye Coffield, the plaintiff in the case, was an independent candidate for U.S. House in 2008 in Georgia’s 4th district. Incumbent Democrat Hank Johnson, was the only candidate on the ballot for the office, in either the primary or general election. “We have done the best we can,” Coffield said regarding the decision. “It is apparent the Courts will continue to refuse to address the disenfranchisement of the millions of independent and non-party affiliated voters.”
Other candidates who have been denied access to Georgia’s ballot include Ray Boyd and Jeff Anderson. Boyd, who attempted to run for Governor of Georgia in November 2010, had this to say: “Every registered voter in every state in the union for every elected office should have the same opportunity to be on the ballot if they meet the minimum standards required for the two major party candidates to appear on the ballot.”
Jeff Anderson, who attempted to run for Congress in Georgia’s 11th District, said: ‘While disappointing, today’s declination by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the Georgia ballot access case, “Coffield v. Kemp” is an understandable reflection of the national misimpression that this issue is no big deal; certainly not for just one state or any small jurisdiction. But the driving principle behind appropriate ballot access, at least in the case of federal offices, is of critical importance to all citizens interconnected by our federal government — improvement of the candidate pool through wider and more clear opportunity, leading to better quality elected officials and in the end, better governing across all constituencies. Our tasks now are to continue working toward improved governing using the existing election structure, while illuminating its shortcomings and pressing for the corrective legislation that only principled lawmakers will bring.’
Free and Equal will be there every step of the way.
Free & Equal is a nonpartisan, non-profit public-policy advocacy organization dedicated to election reform and improving ballot access laws in the United States.