On January 18, the U.S. Supreme Court revealed that it had decided not to hear Coffield v Kemp, 10-596. This is the case from Georgia that challenges the state’s procedures to get on the ballot as an independent or minor party candidate for U.S. House of Representatives. The state requires a petition signed by 5% of the registered voters. The state also requires that all petition sheets be notarized, that all petitions be collected on over-size paper, and forbids the petition drive to begin until six months before the July petition deadline. Also, candidates must pay a filing fee of 3% of the annual salary, or approximately $5,000. These hurdles, taken together, have existed since 1964 and no one has ever overcome them. An independent had complied with the 5% petition in 1964, before new restrictions passed in 1964 had taken effect. Before the 1964 restrictions passed, the petitions weren’t due until October and were not checked, and did not need to be notarized.
The Coalition for Free and Open Elections (COFOE), the Center for Competitive Democracy, and Free & Equal, had jointly filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the case. Faye Coffield, who filed the case, was an independent candidate for U.S. House in 2008 in Georgia’s 4th district. Because she was unable to get on the ballot, the incumbent, Hank Johnson, a Democrat, was the only name on the ballot that year, in both the Democratic primary and the general election.
The U.S. Supreme Court has not agreed to hear a ballot access case brought by a minor party or independent candidate since 1991, when it accepted Norman v Reed, an Illinois case won by the Harold Washington Party.