“The right to vote embraces not only a voter’s access to the ballot, but also his access to alternative viewpoints and positions presented on the ballot.”
We all may agree with the court ruling quoted above, but the fact is we live in a political and legal world dominated by two "major" parties which appear to be doing all they can to make it more difficult to secure the right to vote. The Constitution Party of Georgia is involved in a legal fight for your full right to vote, rights that have already been won in Tennessee and other states.
Politicians and bureaucrats, most of whom are members of said parties, don’t want to share or lose their power. And judges, beholden primarily to those parties, can and do at times block that right, often simply by dragging their feet.
In Georgia and Tennessee, the Constitution and Green parties joined forces to challenge those states’ ballot access laws. But both are hampered by the very people who are required by law to protect our rights – elected officials, bureaucrats and judges.
Georgia has what some consider the toughest ballot access laws in the U.S. To gain ballot access, the Constitution Party – and all other political parties without ballot access in Georgia – must gather the signatures of at least 1% of all registered voters in the state. That’s more than 50,000 signatures for the Presidential ballot. The percentages required for other races are even more restrictive.
Political parties seeking ballot access in Georgia must also pay all of the expenses related to gathering those signatures and getting their candidates on the ballot. On the other hand, taxpayers foot the bill for all elections involving Democrat and Republican candidates, whether or not they are members of those parties. That includes primaries, the general election and any necessary run-offs.
The Constitution Party of Georgia (CPGA) sued the State and its officials to gain ballot access and get Constitution Party of the United States (CP) Presidential Nominee Virgil Goode on the ballot for the November 2012 election. Among other issues, the CPGA argued the number of petition signatures the State requires to get a political party’s candidates on the ballot is unconstitutionally high.
Mike Raffuaf, one of the attorneys handling the CPGA case said, “There’s a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the outer limits [of the required number of petition signatures] were 1% of the actual voters. Georgia requires more than those outer limits. It requires 1% of registered voters, not 1% of actual voters.”
Federal District Judge Richard Story ruled against the CPGA, but on grounds which ignored the issues actually raised in the lawsuit as well as recent court rulings in our favor which have been issued in other states. CPGA attorneys immediately filed a motion to reconsider and are awaiting the court’s decision on that motion. Unfortunately, the judge does not have to adhere to a specific
timetable and could deny the CPGA access to the November ballot in Georgia simply by not issuing a timely ruling. And time is critical. Attorney Mike Raffuaf said, “The Presidential ballot locks up after the Democratic Convention [September 3-6, 2012] … so at least by then we’d need a ruling.”
The Constitution Party of Tennessee (CPTN) won its lawsuit, but discovered its fight was far from over. Darrell Castle, national Vice- Chairman of the CP and one of the attorneys representing the CPTN said, “It’s always been relatively easy to qualify as a candidate in Tennessee, but not as a party.” Until now, unless a candidate was
Democrat or Republican, no party affiliation was listed next to their name, effectively branding them an independent.
Castle said the judge ordered the Tennessee Legislature to change the law, but said “the changes made it worse.” So the CPTN sued again. This time, Castle said, the “judge was put off by what the Legislature did … and told the Legislature specifically what he wanted done,” ordering the state to list the party affiliation of each candidate on its ballot.
The State appealed and asked for a stay of the district court’s order. While the federal appeals court has not ruled on the lawsuit itself, it has ordered Tennessee election officials to comply with the lower court order and list party affiliations next to candidates’ names.
Despite that, Tennessee Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins said he will not comply with the order until required to by state law, which will be at the end of August. Until then, candidates who have qualified to run but who don’t belong to one of the “major” parties will still not
have a party affiliation listed next to their name. It also means those candidates will not be invited to candidate forums or be asked to fill out the questionnaires typically sent to candidates by activist organizations, putting them at a disadvantage at election time.
Castle said they are preparing for various scenarios and “will consider suing again if they refuse [to comply with the court’s order]. The appellate judge was clear that the lower court’s order is in force until the appeal is ruled on.”
“One of the other things I’ve learned from this,” Castle said, “is how [the other political parties] will fight to keep any dissenting views from being heard.”
Restoring the Republic is one of the basic tenets of the Constitution Party of Georgia. Such a Restoration cannot take place unless politicians, bureaucrats and the courts themselves respect not only the rule of law but the spirit of the law. That will happen only when “We the People” demand it.
Legal actions are expensive and Georgia law requires taxpayers to pay to secure their own right to vote. Donations may be made
directly to the Constitution Party of Georgia or to VOTER-GA which is assisting the CPGA in its lawsuit. VOTER-GA donations are tax deductible and you may specify that your donation be used only for
CPGA legal fees.