There's much good news for Libertarians and for Pennsylvania's voters regarding the Voter's Choice Act and ballot access reform.
On Wednesday, January 11th, 2006, members of the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition (PBAC) met with the House State Government Committee in Harrisburg to talk turkey over the contents of a ballot access reform bill. Most of the twenty state representatives who sit on the committee attended the two-hour informal hearings, listening to testimony from Libertarians, Greens, Constitutions, Reforms, Naderites, Socialists, the League of Women Voters, and the public. There were about half a dozen reporters in the audience, and the hearings were subsequently well publicized. Selected articles are included at the end of this report, and photos from the hearing can be found at http://tinyurl.com/cgp3r.
From a historical perspective, the meeting went very well. The last round of hearings regarding ballot access reform were held in 1997, and at that time the committee members were hostile and argumentative. However, this time the atmosphere was cordial and friendly, and the dialogue was open and productive.
Several suggestions and compromises were discussed at the hearing, including:
1. Equalizing the number of signatures across the board for all candidates regardless of party affiliation. That means 1,000 or 2,000 signatures for statewide office, not 67,070. The PBAC accepted this compromise.
2. Equalizing the length of the petitioning window to three weeks for all parties rather than the current four-to-five month period for third parties. The PBAC also accepted this compromise, with the provision that the petitioning window for independents and third parties include primary day.
3. Including third parties in the primary process once their membership reaches 1% of the statewide voter registrations. While the PBAC accepted this compromise, it was noted that the Libertarians do not believe in a taxpayer funded primary.
4. The PBAC's proposed redefinition of a third party per the Delaware Model did not seem to raise any concerns with anyone. This change should make it into the reform bill intact.
In the end, the committee chair stated that the committee would be drafting legislation to achieve these goals. In the meantime, the PBAC will continue to keep up the pressure for the passage of a ballot access reform bill. At this time, the odds of that happening in the next few months appear to be excellent.
Concerned citizens can help the efforts of the PBAC by calling their state representatives and state senators immediately and urging them to push for ballot access reform this month, as outlined in the bill being authored in the House State Government Committee. For more information, refer them to the PBAC's White Paper on ballot access reform which can be found on the web at www.PaBallotAccess.org.
As things stand, the situation is both promising and urgent. There are only a few months left before petitioning for 2006 begins. The more pressure that can be brought to bear on the legislature, the better.
Chair, Legislative Action Committee
Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania
c/o PO Box 260
Cheltenham, Penna. 19012
3915 Union Deposit Road
Harrisburg, PA 17109