Well, ballot access reform is dead for the session

Sigh. I knew shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up about the recommendations presented by Secretary Kemp’s Electoral Advisory Board, but I did. And now it looks like the proposed revisions Georgia’s onerous ballot access law is dead.

While I’m not entirely sure that House leadership was behind the proposed changes to begin with, and I have reason to believe that they weren’t; but on the other hand, I know Speaker Ralston has been friendly to this issue in the past. But unfortunately, looks like the perfect was the enemy of the good; at least that’s what the report filed by Maggie Lee tells us:

[A]fter initial signs that the state Legislature would pass [ballot access reform], it now looks dead.

It’s been stripped out of an omnibus update of voting laws which was approved by a state House Governmental Affairs subcommittee.

There’s no problem with the merit of the proposal, said Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, but he removed it on the grounds that ballot access activists are contacting legislators and saying, sometimes “angrily,” that they want more than a 25 percent cut.

“I decided as well as some others, OK, if you’re accusing us of doing nothing, fine, we’ll do nothing,” he told the committee as he suggested leaving it behind. After the hearing, Hamilton said he’d like to “find the right balance” on the signature quota.

The committee unanimously supported his move to shift the other parts of the omnibus law to House Bill 899, which will carry them through the Legislature.

Hamilton said he’ll commit to holding a hearing on a ballot access bill next year if Kidd files one.

That’s just awesome. You know, I’ve never been too thrilled with our ballot access laws nor some of the tricks used to try to make them more difficult for independents and third parties to deal with, but this proposal was better than what is currently on the books.

Politics is, as they say, the art of compromise. You’re never going to get everything you want in a particular bill or policy proposal. Do I believe that third parties should be given the same ballot access as Democrats and Republicans? Absolutely, on principle. But I know getting the same treatment is just not realistic. We have to take baby steps, and anything we get that is better than the current should be considered a win. This is what we call incrementalism; though such a term is strangely looked down upon by some people.

So what has happened is language backed the Secretary of State has ostensibly been flushed down the toilet because a certain voter advocacy group didn’t bother explaining to its members to be polite and respectful when dealing with legislators.

Brilliant work, guys. Please go back to wearing your tinfoil hats while whining about Diebold and other patently absurd conspiracy theories now that you’ve killed what semblence of ballot access reform we could have gotten. Thanks for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

9 comments

  1. HB899 is my bill. It’s a long bill, meant to include non-controversial election law items and we decided not to let this issue bog down the rest of the bill.

    I support greater ballot access and you’ll see me working on that in the future.

  2. Calypso says:

    “…language backed the Secretary of State has ostensibly been flushed down the toilet because a certain voter advocacy group didn’t bother explaining to its members to be polite and respectful when dealing with legislators.”

    Jason, while I understand, and agree with, your frustration of having nothing to show for this cause in this legislative session, can’t you direct just as much blame to Chairman Mark Hamilton for getting his underpants in a wad and telling the bill’s supporters that he’s taking his ball and going home just because he doesn’t like their ‘attitude’?

    salty-How do you like that sentence? 😉

  3. CobbGOPer says:

    What’s so hard about this? If I want to run as a Democrat for public office, I fill out my paperwork and pay my fee and I’m on the ballot. If I’m a Republican, I fill out my paperwork and pay my fee and I’m on the ballot. But if I want to run as anything else, I have to fill out my paperwork, pay my fee, and then go get tens of thousands of voter signatures.

    How hard is it to eliminate the last requirement? It’s not really that complicated.

    • Besides if the GOP knew what was good for them they’d realize that at least for the next few years if they can get their close races into a runoff (instead of losing outright in a 2 man race in the general) that should benefit them.

      The ultimate reform would be reduced barrier to entrance (make it 1,000 signatures per house district, 3,000 senate, 10,000 congress and 25,000 statewide) and instant runoff voting and you’d really be cooking.

      • CobbGOPer says:

        I just don’t see why they need signatures period. If you’re a D or R, again, all you have to do is fill out the forms and pay your fee. It should be that way for anyone wishing to run regardless of what party you’re in (or not in). THAT is a reduced barrier to entrance.

        • I’m kind of with you but at least major party candidates face the potential of a primary before they get to the general election. The signature requirements that I propose should be relatively easy for a candidate that wants to seriously compete to get. I don’t particularly want a general election ballot for something like Governor to have 100 jokers on it – especially with out ridiculous runoff laws (which really serve to disenfranchise the larger number of voters who vote on the normal election day).

          Absent runoff reform, I don’t think you should make it easier to force a runoff where fewer people vote by clogging the ballot with a bunch of jokers. And I think the truly serious third party or independent candidates would be served by some minor barrier to entry that differentiates real candidates from some guy who has a great name.

  4. Andre says:

    There are some folks who still don’t fully grasp the principle, “90% of something is better than 100% of nothing.”

    If I can get 90% of what I want in a bill, get the bill through the legislative process, and then get the Governor to sign the bill into law, I’m going to count it as a win and call it a day. I can always go back and get the remaining 10% that I didn’t get the first go ’round.

    The VOTER GA group just shot themselves in the foot, not supporting a 25% reduction in the number of signatures to get on the ballot. Take the 25%. Then come back and ask for another 25% reduction. It may take four years, but eventually, the signature requirement would be gone or so low that it isn’t a burden.

  5. Loren says:

    I have to admit, while I’m 100% in favor of reducing barriers to ballot access, I’m not sure that I’m terribly keen on doing that by changing the metric by which we calculate the number of signatures.

    With registered voters, at least you’re certain exactly how may signatures are needed. But with “likely” voters, how and when is that calculation made? Did the bill define “likely”?

    Sure, voter turnout is about 75% in a Presidential election year, but in the 2010 off-year election it was only about 55%. And in odd-year elections, it’s even lower.

    Unless “likely” is governed exclusively by Presidential election years (which doesn’t make sense), this would mean that the signature requirement would fluctuate by thousands of signatures depending solely on what other contests are on the ballot. Someone could make a US House ballot in a mid-year election, and then be disqualified from the next election even if he gathered more signatures.

    If we want to take a baby-step toward improving ballot access, just cut the percentage. Don’t make it 5% of “likely” voters; just make it 3% of registered voters. That’s roughly equivalent to turnout in midterm elections anyway.

    • greencracker says:

      “likely” is defined in the proposal — it’s technically voter turnout in the jurisdiction (district, county, city, whatever) at the previous presidential election.
      In general, over time, that number is generally roughly 75 percent of registered voters.

      3% of registered voters was an alternative proposal, but beats me why they chose one or the other.

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