Minor political parties are rejoicing and celebrating a significant victory in Cowen v. Ga. Sec’y of State, as a stepping stone in loosening Georgia’s rigorous ballot-access restrictions. Georgia’s rigorous 5% petition requirement is one of the highest barriers in the nation for a political body to overcome, a barrier that has never been breached in Georgia since its adoption in 1943. In Cowen, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia erred by granting summary judgment in favor of Georgia’s Secretary of State without applying the test established in Anderson v. Celebrezze to determine Cowen’s associational rights violation claim under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
The case was remanded to the district court for the court to apply the Anderson test in determining whether Georgia’s five percent signature ballot-access restriction violated Cowen’s associational rights. The Anderson test is a multi-step process for evaluating the constitutionality of ballot-access requirements under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The ruling in Cowen has implications for the future of Georgia’s rigorous ballot-access requirements and may lead to the emergence of third-parties within the context of the entrenched two-party system in the state.
Sean Callihan, Casenote, Resolving the Ambiguity: How Cowen v. Ga. Sec’y of State Helps Third Parties Climb Georgia’s Steep Mountain of Ballot-Access Restrictions, 72 Mercer L. Rev. 939 (2021).