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Lawsuit: Ease requirements for 3rd-parties in Georgia amid coronavirus

JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

In a time of “social distancing” and the coronavirus, third-party candidates shouldn’t have to go door to door collecting over 20,000 signatures to get on the ballot in Georgia, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.

The lawsuit by Libertarian Party and Green Party nominees for the U.S. House of Representatives asked a judge to reduce the signature requirement to account for days lost because of social distancing guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The public health emergency caused by COVID-19 makes it virtually impossible to gather petition signatures,” the lawsuit states. “Gathering signatures during the COVID-19 outbreak endangers public health and the lives of petition circulators and potential signers.”

Georgia has some of the most restrictive laws in the nation for third-party candidates. Those running for the U.S. House must submit a petition with signatures from 5% of the number of registered voters in the district.

No third-party candidate for the U.S. House has ever satisfied the 5% requirement since it was adopted in Georgia in 1943, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are Libertarian Party nominee Martin Cowen, who is running in the 13th Congressional District, and Green Party nominee Jimmy Cooper III, who is running in the 8th Congressional District.

Cowen would have to collect 24,503 signatures and Cooper would need 20,719 signatures by Aug. 14.

A separate lawsuit over Georgia's ballot access laws is pending with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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