Third Parties Take Pennsylvania Ballot Access Case to Federal Court

The Green and Constitution parties have filed paperwork to sue Pennsylvania for it’s requirement that candidates must collect 33 times as many signatures as Republicans and Democratics running for the same statewide office. While the Libertarian Party is named as a plaintiff, it is reported they have not (yet) signed onto the action. From NEPA News:

The plaintiffs, which include the Green and Constitution parties, want the court to strike down the current signature standard as unconstitutional and order state officials to replace it with a less onerous requirement.

In addition to the state, the suit names state Attorney General Thomas W. Corbett Jr., Gov. Ed Rendell and Secretary of State Pedro Cortes.

The suit was filed in an election year featuring unusual circumstances that dramatically widened the gap between the signature requirements for major- and minor-party candidates.

To qualify for the ballot, independent candidates and minor-party nominees for statewide office must gather at least as many voters’ signatures as 2 percent of the ballots cast for the largest vote-getter in the last statewide election race.

Because there was no statewide race last year, this year’s threshold is based on the 2004 election, in which state Treasurer Bob Casey won nearly 3.4 million votes _ more than any candidate in the state’s history.

That means statewide candidates running outside of the major parties will need 67,070 signatures this year — compared to the fewer than 30,000 they needed in 2004 and 2002. The standards for Republican and Democratic candidates are uniform and much lower — 2,000 signatures for governor and U.S. Senate and 1,000 for lieutenant governor.

Also from the article:

In a related development Wednesday, 10 members of the House State Government Committee met with representatives of several minor parties to discuss potential legislation to change the signature requirement.

Rep. Paul Clymer, the panel’s chairman, said there appeared to be tentative support among the lawmakers for basing the standard on voter registration and the minor-party delegates seemed receptive to shortening the period they have to gather signatures. He declined to speculate about how soon a bill might reach the floor, given the many issues competing for legislators’ attention.

I’m a bit confused as to why third-party officials would be receptive to having a shorter period of time to collect the egregious amount of signatures. I checked Ballot Access News, but found nothing to eliminate my confusion. Hopefully, Richard Winger will have an update tomorrow which will clarify the situation.

Stephen Gordon

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