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March 1999

Southern States Fight to Open the Ballot to Third Parties

Georgia--If a citizen who is neither a Republican nor a Democrat wants to run for public office here, he or she faces the Great Wall of Georgia--ballot access laws so restrictive that no third party candidate has even qualified for the ballot in over 75 years. But now a powerful coalition between state legislators and third party leaders is determined to bring down the wall.

On February 17 at the Georgia Capitol Rotunda, Rep. Brian Joyce (R.-Dist. 1) and leaders of the Natural Law, Green, Libertarian, Reform, and U.S. Taxpayers parties held a press conference to express their unified support for reform of Georgia's ballot access laws. Rep. Joyce had just sponsored a new bill that would dramatically reduce Georgia's ballot access signature requirements and open the door for third parties.

Coordinating these efforts are Patricia Cox of the Natural Law Party and Hugh Esco of the Green Party, co-chairs of the Georgia Coalition for Ballot Access, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded last year to change ballot access laws that unfairly discriminate against third parties. "Georgia's ballot access laws are in place not to test a third party's grassroots support, but to lock new parties and new ideas out of the political arena," Ms. Cox commented.

Although Rep. Joyce's new bill was voted down in committee on March 9, Rep. Joyce and the Coalition now intend to build strong legislative and public support for the bill in 1999 so that it can be resubmitted--and passed--early in 2000.

Florida--Until last year, a third party needed 250,000 signatures to qualify a candidate for the ballot in Florida--more signatures than would be required for the candidate to get on the ballot in all the countries of Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada combined. Fortunately, in 1998, voters in Florida passed a state constitutional amendment that significantly reduced this requirement. "The Natural Law Party will now be able to run a powerful slate of Florida candidates in 2000," said Sam Farling, chair of the Natural Law Party of Florida, who is already beginning the organizational activities needed for a powerful campaign. If you live in Florida and would like to help out, please call Sam at 941–453-3009 or e-mail him at

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