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PA Libertarian and Green Parties condemn anti-third party court decision

Press release:

GREEN PARTY OF PENNSYLVANIA
http://www.gpofpa.org

LIBERTARIAN PARTY OF PENNSYLVANIA
http://www.lppa.org

The Green Party of Pennsylvania and the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania
condemned a decision by federal Judge Lawrence Stengel last week.  Stengel
concluded that the lawsuit, brought by the Green, Constitution, and
Libertarian Parties of Pennsylvania, targeted the wrong plaintiffs, and thus
threw out the case.

Stengel ruled that the plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the
Pennsylvania system of using courts to determine if petitions are valid, and
assessing court costs against candidates whose petitions are deemed not to
have enough signatures.  In recent years, these costs have amounted to over
$80,000 for the “crime” of trying to run for public office.

The lawsuit, Constitution Party v. Cortes, was filed in May, on behalf of
the alternative parties by the Center for Competitive Democracy (CCD), a
non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)(3) legal advocacy group.  The suit, filed in
federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, challenged
the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania Election Code provisions that
authorize courts to order candidates to pay litigation costs and fees to
private parties who challenge their nomination papers.  In recent years,
these fees have amounted to more $80,000 for the crime of doing no more than
trying to run for public office.

Due to the courts’ role in fining candidates, which is not required by
Pennsylvania law, the lawsuit specifically listed State Court Judges as the
plaintiffs in the case.  And because the lawsuit targeted State Court
Judges, it was filed in federal court to avoid a conflict of interest.
However, last week, federal court Judge Stengel did not agree with this line
of thinking and threw out the case due to the plaintiff’s “lack of
standing.”

Judge Stengel refused to comment on the other two issues in the case. One
issue was the systematic refusal of the Pennsylvania Department of Elections
to tally write-ins.  A closely related issue is that many counties in
Pennsylvania don’t count and report any write-ins.  The other unmentioned
issue in the decision is the 15% registration threshold for a party to be
fully ballot-qualified.

Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania Chair Michael Robertson noted “It is clear
from this ruling that federal courts cannot be relied upon to uphold the
integrity of the electoral process any more than the Commonwealth courts. It
is truly a shame when our troops are sent to foreign lands to secure choices
for foreign voters that our citizens do not enjoy.”

Sadly, this is yet another defeat in a long-line of attempts by
Pennsylvania’s alternative parties to seek justice in the electoral arena.
“Everyone knows Pennsylvania’s ballot access laws are discriminatory to
alternative political parties.  The laws are made by the Democrats and
Republicans in the state assembly, and then enforced by other Democrats and
Republicans in the courts.  There is no incentive for anyone currently in
power to change the rules to allow people out of power to more easily
challenge their authority.  The situation is outrageous,” said Steve Baker,
Chair of the Green Party of York County.   “The Pennsylvania Constitution
states that ‘Pennsylvania Elections shall be free and equal,’ yet the
partisan courts won’t acknowledge even their own framework of law.”

Marakay Rogers, the Libertarian Party candidate for Governor, remarked “Once
again, the voters of Pennsylvania are being insulted by court rulings that
prevent them from having a real choice of candidates as other states give
their voters.  The two old parties that dominate Pennsylvania’s legislature
and courts are only providing us with the illusion of a free vote when all
parties’ candidates are not given equal opportunities to make it to the
ballot.”

Despite this set-back, Greens and Libertarians vowed to keep fighting.  “We
will continue to fight these horrible laws in the courts and in the
legislature,” said GPPA Steering Committee Member Bob Small.  “Luckily, we
can also look to the Voters’ Choice Act to bring about some sanity to ballot
access in Pennsylvania.”  Both parties are members of the Pennsylvania
Ballot Access Coalition.

The Voters’ Choice Act, or SB 252, was introduced by Sen. Mike Folmer
(R-Lebanon), last year.  The bill would equalize ballot access across all
parties, not just the Democrats and Republicans.  Unfortunately, the bill
has been sitting in committee for over a year, with little indication that
it will be passed before the end of the year.

Stated Allegheny County Libertarian Mark Crowley, “With about 10 million
age-eligible Pennsylvania voters, about 7 million registered as Democrat or
Republican, only one-half typically vote.  That means 6.5 million of the 10
million consistently reject the major party choices.  No wonder such an
uninspiring and unpopular minority needs court decisions like this to
protect its incumbency.”

Said 2006 Green Party Senate Candidate Carl Romanelli, “Until people get
angry about the erosion of their most fundamental right – the right to vote
for the candidate of their choice – we will continue to see candidates
restricted from the ballot.  I don’t know anyone who thinks that our
politicians are doing a good job at fixing our most pressing problems.  If
we have any hope at fixing our economy, our schools, or our environment,
we’ll need to elect new people with new ideas to Harrisburg.”

SEE ALSO
PA Ballot Access Coalition
http://www.paballotaccess.org

8 Comments

  1. Denver Delegate Denver Delegate April 16, 2010

    Mik Robertson wrote:

    The GPPA and the LPPA have also worked together on some issues of common interest, like gay marriage or issues of local control. I think there are other areas where inter-party cooperation is possible, even on the national level.

    Mik, you may want to remind your LNC reps about that … some (Starr, Carling, Karlan …) view such collaboration as a disqualifying conflict of interest.

  2. paulie paulie April 16, 2010

    Mr. Schwab,

    I agree completely.

  3. Dave Schwab Dave Schwab April 16, 2010

    The campaign for Top Two primaries in CA makes me think that as Americans grow increasingly sick and tired of Republicrats, they’ll go to greater lengths to protect their monopoly on power. It’s imperative that Greens, Libertarians, and other independent parties work together to protect our constitutional rights.

  4. AroundtheblockAFT AroundtheblockAFT April 16, 2010

    So, who would have “standing?” That’s who needs to be the plaintiff.

    Meanwhile, SB252 is being held in committee by someone, probably the Republican chair of the committee. Maybe a coordinated drive to punish a vulnerable committee member at the ballot box in November would get their attention?

  5. Mik Robertson Mik Robertson April 16, 2010

    @2 In Pennsylvania the CP, GP, and LP have worked together on several legal actions in an effort to reform the election code. Our members have also worked together with independents and other political organizations to form the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition. Together, the Voters Choice Act was developed and is currently in committee in the state legislature.

    The GPPA and the LPPA have also worked together on some issues of common interest, like gay marriage or issues of local control. I think there are other areas where inter-party cooperation is possible, even on the national level.

  6. 1 response so far ?
    * 1 Ross Levin // Apr 15, 2010:
    ” ……… third parties can work together to undo a bit ……….”

    since when, plz give examples …………

  7. Ross Levin Ross Levin Post author | April 15, 2010

    Since the Democrats and Republicans can work together to suppress the vote, exclude candidates, and make our elections more dysfunctional, thank goodness third parties can work together to undo a bit of that.

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