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Free and Equal: Pennsylvania Political Insiders Intimidate Third Party and Independent Candidates to Drop Out of Races on Threat of Extensive Challenge Fees

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Every third party or independent candidate who filed for statewide office this year has been removed from the ballot in a blatant display of intimidation. Organizers from several political parties and voter rights organizations held a press conference, August 23, to explain what happened and why.

Attending were: state Sen. Mike Folmer; Bonita Hoke of the League of Women Voters; David Jahn of the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition; Gil Freedman of Common Cause Pennsylvania; VotePA Executive Director Mark Kuznik; Democracy Rising PA President Tim Potts; Libertarian Party of Pa. Chair Mik Robertson; Constitution Party National Chair Jim Clymer; Green Party of Pa. representative Bob Small; as well as Libertarian Party nominees for governor, Marakay Rogers, and lieutenant governor, Kat Vallelay, both of whom were removed from the ballot.

The press conference is available online on the Pennslyvania Cable News website. Look for Campaign 2010 in the menu and scroll down to “Ballot Access”.

Ralph Nader was removed from the 2004 Pa. ballot after a legal challenge to his petitions. That year, a step was taken which was unprecedented in any state. Nader was ordered to pay the cost of the challenge which removed him from the ballot, adding up to tens of thousands of dollars. Since then, this tactic has routinely been used to remove third party and independent candidates from the ballot.

According to Rogers, on the second day of her attempt to validate her signatures against the state voter registration database, Republican Party lawyers approached her with a grim message. If she did not stop trying to prove her signatures valid by later that day, they would seek to impose thousands of dollars in fines, should she ultimately lose the challenge. By this means, she and every other third party or independent candidate for statewide office was successfully intimidated into forfeiting their legal right to due process.

“The imposition of exorbitant fees for candidates who are unsuccessful in the defense against a challenge adds yet another layer of deterrence to participation in the electoral process,” Robertson said.

Current Pennsylvania law “falls short of the free and equal elections provisions of our state constitution,” Jahn said. “These people will stop at nothing to remove good, decent people from the primary or general elections.”

This year, the Democratic and Republican Parties were required by law to collect only 2,500 signatures while third party candidates for the same office needed 20,000 signatures, Vallelay said. Even the 20,000 figure is unusually low — in 2006 the requirement for the same offices was 67,000.

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  1. Mik Robertson Mik Robertson September 2, 2010

    Except for identifying Marybeth Kuznik as ‘Mark’ and saying the D and R candidates needed 2,500 signatures instead of the 2,000 they really need, the release is accurate.

    The response to the events of this year in Pennsylvania have been significant. We appreciate all efforts to help publicize the situation, as we are getting some movement from the big interests in response to bad publicity. Hopefully we can change what are some of the worst ballot access laws in the nation.

  2. NewFederalist NewFederalist September 2, 2010

    Good old PA… just good guys versus bad guys on the ballot. Keeps things nice and simple. Thank God the good guys are looking out for us. We would be so bewildered otherwise. Thank you good guys!

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