ShareThis Page

Federal judge's order against Pa. called 'huge win' for minor-party candidates

| Friday, July 1, 2016, 2:33 p.m.

A federal judge in Philadelphia issued an order Friday that significantly reduces the number of signatures required for minor-party candidates to seek statewide office in Pennsylvania.

“This is a huge win for voter choice and free elections in Pennsylvania,” said Oliver Hall, an attorney and director for the Washington-based Center for Competitive Democracy.

The Constitution, Green and Libertarian parties sued Pennsylvania's Secretary of State and elections chief in 2012 over ballot access.

Republican and Democratic candidates are required to collect at least 2,000 signatures on nomination petitions to get on their parties' primary ballots. Independent or third-party candidates can't be on primary ballots, and the number of signatures required for them to get on November ballots has needed to equal at least 2 percent of the largest number of votes cast for an elected candidate in the previous election.

In the past three presidential election years, the number of votes cast ranged from 20,601 to 25,697, court documents show.

In his order Friday, U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel set uniform requirements that will apply “until such time as the Pennsylvania Legislature enacts a permanent measure amending or modifying the process” for minor-party candidates to get on ballots. The filing deadline for nominating petitions for this year's election is Aug. 1.

Constitution, Green and Libertarian party candidates for president, U.S. Senate and governor are required to collect at least 5,000 signatures, while candidates for lieutenant governor, treasurer, auditor general, attorney general, Supreme Court justice, Superior Court judge and Commonwealth Court will need at least 2,500 signatures, according to the order.

While the order applies specifically to the Constitution, Green and Libertarian parties, Hall said “any other minor-party or independent candidate who tried to get on the ballot would have a very good argument that they should be permitted to benefit from the judgment as well.” They would have to get approval from Secretary of State Pedro A. Cortes or, if he refused, a court, Hall said.

Bob Goodrich, chairman of Pennsylvania's Constitution Party, celebrated the decision.

“It does make for a level playing field for all candidates,” Goodrich said, noting the party is working to collect enough signatures to get Constitution Party presidential nominee Darrell Castle of Tennessee and other party candidates on the Pennsylvania ballot.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.