When voters in Georgia’s 14th Congressional district go to the polls in November, two things are certain: the names of Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene and Democrat Marcus Flowers will be on their ballot.
Libertarian Angela Pence is hoping to make history and get her name on the ballot as a third-party candidate. No third-party candidate in Georgia has ever been able to run for the U.S. House, because the state has the most stringent ballot-access rules nationally–even the Libertarians, an established party in Georgia that runs candidates for many statewide and local legislative races every election cycle.
The 30-year-old, blue-haired entrepreneur and mother of eight is determined to beat the odds–which at this point sit somewhere between a snowball’s chance in hell and winning a multi-state Powerball jackpot.
“And maybe not even that good of a chance to get on the ballot–much less trying to win,” UGA professor Charles Bullock, the state’s expert on Southern politics, told Atlanta Civic Circle. “Georgia is one of the most difficult states.”
Under the current law, Pence needs 23,000 signatures–representing 5% of active voters in the 14th Congressional District–to get her name on the November ballot as a third-party candidate, and she has until July 12 to submit them to the state for vetting.
That is one of the highest numbers of signatures needed for ballot access nationally. By contrast, in North Carolina Green Party candidate Matthew Hoh just gained a spot on the ballot for the U.S. Senate race with 16,000 valid signatures–well over the 13,865 required by that state’s Board of Elections.
The Libertarian Party has sued the Georgia Secretary of State to challenge the dauntingly high 5% signature threshold required for third-party ballot access in a congressional race. Last year it prevailed when a federal judge struck down the 5% signature threshold for U.S. House races as too onerous, but in January the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling.
But Bullock believes “some court will throw that out” someday and come up with “something reasonable that a person could hope to achieve.”
So how many signatures does Pence have so far?
“I honestly don’t know that answer,” she told Atlanta Civic Circle, despite being pressed for a number. Pence had about 4,000 signatures when we last checked in with her at the end of April.
Some candidates seeking ballot access pay people to collect signatures for them, but Pence has been running an all-volunteer operation. She estimated that she has 30 or 35 volunteers all over her mountainous district helping to collect signatures.
“Over the last few weeks, we’ve been blowing up our signature sheets. They come up and say ‘where do I sign?’” Pence said.
Meanwhile, the 14th District’s controversial Republican incumbent, Marjorie Taylor Greene, easily trounced her competition in the May 24 primary, winning 69.5% of the vote, while Marcus Flowers handily won the Democratic primary with 74.7% of the vote.
Pence continues racking up the miles traversing the far-flung 14th District in her old Honda for more signatures. The closer she gets, the odder things get, she said. “I actually had to go last week and have a tire completely changed because somebody shoved a nail through the sidewall of my car.”
When asked if she thinks it was done on purpose, she replied, “It was the sidewall of my tire. I don’t know how else it would have got there.”
Undaunted, Pence believes her quest to get on the ballot has been worth it, no matter the outcome.
“It has brought light on third parties, and that is something I wanted this campaign to do,” she said. “It’s been very rewarding and humbling to see the response that I’ve gotten in my district–to see how many people truly feel like we need a third party.”
Pence believes that with enough pressure, Georgia will change its stringent third-party ballot access requirements.
“We will see a change in ballot access laws over the next 10 years,” she predicted. “That is one of my personal goals.”
GEORGIA’S 14TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT:
Racial demographics: 75.3% White; 12.1% Hispanic; 9.8% Black; 1.0% Asian; 0.7% Native American; 0.1% Pacific Islander
Median household income: $54,634
Education: 82.2% high school graduates; 18.8% College graduates