Georgia to fight ruling that lowers bar for third-party presidential candidates

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who oversees elections in Georgia, on Wednesday asked the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta to review a ruling that lowered the number of signatures required to petition to get on the ballot from tens of thousands to 7,500.

Kemp's office said he filed the appeal both to uphold Georgia law and because the plaintiffs seek more than $200,000 in attorneys fees if the state loses the case.

The case could raise tantalizing possibilities if a third-party conservative challenger emerges to siphon votes from Donald Trump if he wins the GOP crown - or from Trump himself if he's denied the nomination.

Amanda Swafford, a one-time Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, has floated a potential bargain with the Georgia GOP that might help Republicans in the 2018 race for governor, but could boost the third party’s chances in down-ticket races. Here’s what she posted on Facebook:

She told us it was a potential response to a federal judge’s decision last month that ruled a portion of the state’s ballot access laws violated the U.S. Constitution — and significantly lowered the bar for a third-party candidate to land on the ballot.

“As an independent and someone dedicated to ballot access reform in Georgia, I think it has real potential for all parties as every side with a stake in the process concedes a little in the deal,” she said.

Doug Craig, a Libertarian who has already announced a bid for governor in 2018, said he has a meeting with Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office this month to discuss a potential deal.

“I could live with that,” he wrote of Swafford’s proposal, “but would love a long-term solution.”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.