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Georgia judge eases ballot access for third-party candidates

September 7, 2021 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — Third-party candidates will now need to collect fewer signatures to run for congressional seats and other elected offices in Georgia.

U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May wrote in a ruling Friday that the state must allow third-party candidates for non-statewide offices to appear on the ballot if they collect the signatures of 1% of registered voters, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. That’s the same threshold required to run for statewide office in Georgia.

May’s ruling came in a lawsuit challenging a 1943 state law that sets a 1% signature threshold for third-part candidates seeking statewide office such as governor or U.S. senator, but raises the signature requirement to at least 5% of registered voters for other offices such as U.S. House or state legislative seats.

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No third-party U.S. House candidate has ever been able to meet that bar, the newspaper reported.

“The court determined that this remedy would alleviate the unconstitutional burden imposed upon plaintiffs, while safeguarding the state’s interest in preventing ballot crowding and frivolous candidacies,” May wrote.

Nominees from the Republican and Democratic parties automatically appear on the ballot.

May had previously ruled in March that Georgia’s requirements for third-party candidates were “overbroad” and unconstitutional.

Her order means that third-party candidates will have to get more than 4,600 valid signatures in each congressional district, down from more than 23,000 under the old requirement.

Lawyers for the state have said in court filings that they may appeal May’s ruling ahead of the 2022 election cycle.