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COLUMN: If Your Candidate Is Any Good, Make Them Compete

OPINION: Jessica Szilagyi talks about the importance of ballot access and allowing candidates who seek office outside the two party platforms a chance to be on the ballot.

The following column is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not those of AllOnGeorgia.

In two short weeks, a number of people across the state will qualify for various positions ranging from county commissioner and Board of Education member to seats in the Georgia legislature and United States Congress. 

But a number of people who plan to seek office have a few more [really high] hurdles to clear before they can appear on the ballot.

That’s because any candidate running for office outside of the two major party platforms has to collect signatures which must be approved by the Board of Elections (or Elections Superintendent/Secretary of State, depending on the county and race) before their name can appear on the ballot. They need permission from the government to run, arguably because your government officials don’t think you – as voters – are qualified to  make these decisions on your own. As a result, the two parties that are permitted are the two parties that limit the number of parties on the ballot to just two.

That’s right, which political party you claim determines how easy it is for you to run for office. Republicans and Democrats pay a fee and are automatically placed on the ballot after signing a non-binding party allegiance pledge. Independents, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, Green Party members, and any other third party candidate must go door-to-door and collect signatures to merely get permission to appear on the ballot. Depending on the office, the number of signatures can range from a few hundred to 1,742 if a candidate is running for Sheriff in, say, Bulloch County or tens of thousands of signatures if an individual is running for Congress. 

We’ve ranked 50th, dead last, the absolute worst in the nation for ballot access year after year.  In Georgia, these candidates have until July to collect the signatures, but it’s no easy feat, which is why no third-party candidate in Georgia has ever collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot for the U.S. House since Georgia passed an election “qualifying law” in 1943. It’s why we had just one Independent state representative elected in the last few decades. And it’s why our election seasons are rooted in partisan rhetoric as opposed to policy-based solutions.

It’s even more difficult to explain to people that signing the petition doesn’t mean an pledge to support said candidate or even a promise to vote for that candidate in the general election. The signature is merely helping the candidate gain access to have their name on the ballot. Voters will still have the ability and the right to decide who is best suited for the job in the General Election. 

But there are a few reasons people should sign any and every ballot petition 

  1. The honesty is respectable.  Candidates who opt not to align with political parties with which they don’t share values should be praised, not punished. We, as a people, say we hate when people act one way on the campaign trail and differently once elected but we don’t even offer a pathway for them to be who they are unless they jump through unnecessary hoops. 
  2. Choices are what we desire and deserve. People complain constantly – at all levels of government – that ‘not enough good people run’ and that we don’t have any new choices. That’s very likely because the people who don’t fit the perfect mold of one of the two parties can’t get on the ballot for you to have the opportunity to cast a vote for them. 
  3. Should the government be deciding who gets to run for office or should The People?
  4. Finally, and probably most importantly, if the person you plan to support is the best person for the job and has the message that resonates with voters, they won’t be threatened by competition. They’ll merely be better, more articulate candidates because they’ve had to compete.  

So when someone knocks on your door and asks if you’ll sign their petition so they can run for office, whip out your blue pen, sign on the line, and thank them for offering themselves for service…especially if you, yourself, are unwilling to do the same.

For kicks and giggles, here’s a video I did on ballot access a few years ago that briefly explains how ridiculous all of this really is.

Georgia's Ballot Access Laws

OPINION: Did you know that Georgia has been ranked 50th in the nation for ballot access laws? According to Jessica Szilagyi, the signatures of 22,000 registered voters are required for an independent candidate to place their name on the ballot for a U.S Congressional race, and 60,000 signatures are needed for a statewide race. In order to have more than two choices, she urges the support of ballot access reform. Do you agree?

Posted by FOX 5 Atlanta on Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Jessica Szilagyi is a former Statewide Contributor for

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