Dalton businessman John Dashler wants to be Georgia’s next governor. But first the independent has to get on the November ballot.

The Democratic and Republican nominees for governor, as well as the Libertarian candidate, will automatically be on the ballot.

But independents and third-party candidates for statewide races, including governor, have to gather the signatures of 1 percent of Georgia’s registered voters, approximately 40,000, by mid-July.

Dashler said last week he will meet that goal. But he added that the petition requirements are a big hurdle for an independent candidate.

“They are unreasonably high,” he said.

One percent of voters may not seem that high, but elections law specialist Richard Winger says Georgia has the toughest requirements in the nation.

Ralph Nader, he notes, wasn’t able to get on the Georgia ballot in either of his presidential runs.

“Georgia is just one of five states where Nader never appeared on the ballot,” said Winger, editor of the Ballot Access News newsletter.

If the 1 percent requirement for statewide races is hard, the requirements to get on the ballot for county commission, General Assembly and congressional races is even harder. An independent or third-party candidate has to get the signatures of 5 percent of registered voters in the jurisdiction he is running in to qualify for the ballot.

One problem in getting those signatures is that people who believe they are registered to vote but really aren’t may sign the petition. And people who don’t live in the district may also sign.

“As a rule, for every five signatures gathered (for down-ballot races), only two will prove to be valid,” said Trevor Southerland, executive director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia.

Winger said Georgia’s tough requirements grew out of a 1943 law expressly designed to make it harder for Republicans to compete with the then-dominant Democratic Party and to keep the Communist Party off the ballot.

Since 1943, just one independent candidate has ever been on the ballot for U.S. House of Representatives in Georgia and that was only after a federal court temporarily reduced the number of required signatures because the state was late in delivering district maps.

The signature requirement for statewide offices was also 5 percent until 1979, when it was lowered to 2 percent. In 1986, state Sen. Culver Kidd, D-Milledgeville, convinced lawmakers to reduce it to 1 percent. He tried several times, but was never able to pass legislation that would have reduced the requirements for the down-ballot races.

The Libertarian Party gathered enough signatures to get ballot access for statewide offices in 1980, and it has kept ballot access by getting at least 1 percent of the vote in at least one race every election since.

“We will be fielding a full slate of candidates in statewide races this November,” said Southerland.

The party will nominate those candidates in convention on April 22.

The Libertarian Party doesn’t have guaranteed ballot access for races other than statewide offices. But Southerland says the party has several candidates who will be trying to get on the ballot for county commission races and the General Assembly.

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