Aug 13, 2010

PA: Green and Libertarian Parties Call on Democrats and Republicans to Cease Authoritarian Ballot Control Efforts

A press release from the TGB Report:
HARRISBURG, PA – In a display of non-partisan unity on behalf of all Pennsylvania voters who desire a free choice of candidates in the November 2, 2010 general election, the state’s Constitution, Green and Libertarian Parties today called on Republicans and Democrats to withdraw the nomination petition challenges that major party operatives filed against every non-major party candidate for statewide office in Pennsylvania. The minor parties also called on the major party candidates who are the intended beneficiaries of the challenges to condemn them as an attempt to suppress voter choice in the upcoming election. Under Pennsylvania’s uniquely punitive and discriminatory ballot access scheme, minor party and independent candidates may be ordered to pay $80,000 or more in litigation costs and attorneys’ fees if they defend against such challenges.

The Constitution, Green and Libertarian Parties specifically called on Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Corbett to condemn the challenge filed against Libertarian Party gubernatorial nominee Marakay Rogers. They called on Republican congressional candidate Pat Meehan to condemn the challenge to independent candidate Jim Schneller. And the minor parties called on Democratic senatorial nominee Joe Sestak to condemns and withdraw the challenge that he personally filed to Green Party senatorial nominee Mel Packer.  Corbett, Meehan and Sestak must condemn the challenges whether or not they were involved in the filing, the minor parties say, because they are the intended beneficiaries.
"These petition challenges filed against every non-major party

candidate for statewide office in Pennsylvania prove that when it

comes to elections, Republicans and Democrats both stand against voter

choice," said Constitution Party State Chair Wes Thompson. "Voters

cannot allow our democratic process to be hijacked by private,

entrenched political parties that want to decide who we can and cannot

vote for."

"Pennsylvania Greens have fought to give voters a free choice on

election day, and now we are asking voters to stand with us," said

Green Party State Chair I.K. Samways. "Tell Joe Sestak that you oppose

his anti-democratic effort to deny you a free choice of candidates in


"No one knows the potential for corruption to infect the petition

challenge process better than Attorney General Tom Corbett," said

Libertarian Party State Chair Mik Robertson. "It is a shame that so

many soldiers have died to bring ballot choices to people in Iraq and

Afghanistan, while the political machines in Pennsylvania work to

restrict ballot choices for our own citizens."

In 2004, Pennsylvania courts adopted a uniquely punitive ballot

access scheme, by authorizing the assessment of litigation costs

against minor party and independent candidates who defend their

nomination petitions when challenged by a private party. Prior to

2004, no state in the nation, including Pennsylvania, had ever ordered

candidates to pay such costs. That is because, as the Supreme Court of

the United States observed more than four decades ago in Harman v.

Forsenius, "It has long been established that a State may not impose a

penalty upon those who exercise a right guaranteed by the

Constitution." Several landmark Supreme Court decisions since then

have reaffirmed that states may not impose mandatory financial burdens

on candidates and voters as a condition of their participation in


Nevertheless, in 2004 Commonwealth Court Judge James Gardner Colins

ordered independent presidential candidates Ralph Nader and Peter

Miguel Camejo to pay $81,102.19 in litigation costs to the parties who

challenged their nomination petitions. Relying on that

unconstitutional decision, in 2006 Commonwealth Court Judge James R.

Kelley ordered Green Party senatorial candidate Carl Romanelli to pay

his challengers more than $80,000 in costs and fees.

Attorney General Tom Corbett’s Grand Jury investigation into the

"Bonusgate" scandal subsequently revealed that employees of the State

House Democratic Caucus had illegally prepared the Nader-Camejo and

Romanelli petition challenges at taxpayer expense. The Pennsylvania

courts still refused to set aside the judgments awarding costs to the

challengers. The candidates continue to oppose enforcement of the


"In the wake of the Bonusgate scandal, which exposed rampant

corruption in the petition challenge process, the Pennsylvania courts

ratified a discriminatory ballot access scheme that subjects minor

party and independent candidates to bank-breaking and clearly

unconstitutional costs and fees if they defend their nomination

petitions," said Oliver Hall, an attorney with the Washington,

D.C.-based Center for Competitive Democracy, which is representing

Pennsylvania’s Constitution, Green and Libertarian Parties in a

federal lawsuit challenging state election laws. "If Pennsylvania

voters want a free choice at the polls, they must stand up for

candidates’ rights to seek office, regardless of partisan


The Constitution, Green and Libertarian Parties say that Republicans

and Democrats must pledge not to file nomination petition challenges

until Pennsylvania’s unconstitutional election laws are reformed.

The Voter Choice Act (SB 252), which State Senator Mike Folmer (R-48)

and eight co-sponsors introduced in February 2009, would enact the

needed reforms by eliminating the discriminatory requirement that

minor party and independent candidates submit nomination petitions

with tens of thousands of signatures. The bill, however, has

languished in committee.

"The time is ripe for reform, but so far it’s business as usual in

Harrisburg," Hall said. "The major parties are going all out to deny

Pennsylvanians a free choice of candidates in November, and they will

continue to do so until voters make it clear that they will not

tolerate such anti-democratic tactics."

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