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Georgia House bill aims to open door for third parties
Flowery Branch's Amanda Swafford backs measure
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A bill in the state legislature proposes making it easier for third party and independent political candidates to get their names on the ballot in Georgia, but debate remains about just how far to lower the bar.

Amanda Swafford, a former Flowery Branch councilwoman and Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, is going public with her backing of the legislation.

“Georgia’s ballot access laws are some of our country’s most restrictive,” Swafford said.

Candidates not associated with the Republican or Democratic parties must currently acquire the signatures of 5 percent of all registered voters to get their names on the ballot.

If passed, House Bill 58 would require just 2 percent of those who voted in the last election to sign on. The bill is sponsored by Republican Reps. John Pezold of Fortson, Joe Wilkinson of Atlanta, Michael Caldwell of Woodstock, David Stover of Newnan and Scot Turner of Holly Springs and independent Rep. Culver Kidd of Milledgeville.

Swafford said the change would help get more candidates involved in local elections by making the playing field more level.

A similar bill failed to get support when introduced 10 years ago, and Swafford said it may take another year before getting the votes needed for passage.

Hall County Republican Party Chairman Kris Yardley said he supports easing the restrictions, but cautioned that some “test” must be in place to determine an independent candidate’s viability for office.

Otherwise, Yardley said, ballots would be open to an unlimited number of candidates, which could in turn complicate how elections and runoffs are decided.

Swafford has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to buy radio advertisements in support of the bill.

“We have to keep pressing forward,” she said.

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