The Green Party of Pennsylvania applauds Friday's Federal Court ruling which has declared Pennsylvania's restrictive ballot access procedures as unconstitutional. The July 24, Order by US District Judge, Lawrence Stengel takes aim at the restrictive, two-tiered scheme of forcing a disproportionate number of voter signatures, compared to the requirement for major parties; and the threat or imposition of litigation costs and fees on candidates whose nominating petitions are challenged successfully. In cases where independent candidates prevail in a petition challenge, the legal costs can be as high as $50,000.00, Judge Stengel properly notes.
"The restrictions placed on third party candidates is equivalent to a modern day poll tax. Judge Stengel's decision has made it clear that limiting access to the ballot is an unacceptable infringement on the citizen's rights to self-determination and their ability to elect candidates that truly represent the citizen's views and desire for change," said Hillary Kane, Secretary, Green Party of Pennsylvania.
The initiating suit was filed in 2012 on behalf of Green, Libertarian and Constitution Parties of Pennsylvania, as well as various individuals from the three parties. All three parties have long held the notion that Pennsylvania's treatment of third party and independent candidates blatantly violates not only the US Constitution, but also the Pennsylvania Constitution, which states that "elections must be free and equal." The Greens have been plaintiffs in several actions during the past 15 years, and have won some minor victories, but see Judge Stengel's Order as the most resounding, by far.
Since the Pennsylvania Courts imposed over $80,000.00 in costs and penalties on Ralph Nader (2004) and Carl Romanelli (2006), many candidates from third parties have simply withdrawn from the ballot due to the concern over life ruining fees being imposed on them. That has led to a conspicuous absence of third party candidates on Pennsylvania ballots in subsequent years.
In July of 2008, following the "bonusgate" indictments, it was learned that in both the Nader and Romanelli cases the original challenge was only possible through the unlawful use of taxpayer resources and Democratic personnel of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Carl Romanelli offered, "We have seen that the excessive number of signatures independent candidates must obtain is so obscene that even the very wealthy Democratic Party cannot bring a challenge without employing vast criminality. Even worse is the total disinterest on the part of the Pennsylvania Courts in correcting the situation. Thankfully the Federal Court gets it, and has responded appropriately."
Jay Sweeney, Chairperson of the Greens in Pennsylvania expressed his appreciation for the representation the party has in Attorney Oliver Hall, "First of all, the Green Party of Pennsylvania would like to thank Oliver Hall, from the Center for Competitive Democracy, for his superlative effort in presenting this case." He also is calling on the General Assembly to act at once in amending Pennsylvania law at once, as there is legislation pending in the Pennsylvania Senate which would bring Pennsylvania into Constitutional compliance.
"This decision proves what the Green party of Pennsylvania has known all along, elections in Pennsylvania are not open, free and fair. It means that it is now time to move Senator Mike Folmer's Voter's Choice Act, SB 495, through the General Assembly in order to correct this situation," he suggested.
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The Green Party of Pennsylvania is an independent political party that stands in opposition to the two corporate parties. The Green Party of Pennsylvania stands for grassroots democracy, social justice, non violence and ecology
For Immediate Release
July 27, 2015