Sunday, January 22, 2006

Voters' Choice Act in PA gains in recent days

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

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

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.

Ken Krawchuk
Chair, Legislative Action Committee
Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania

c/o PO Box 260
Cheltenham, Penna. 19012
215-881-9696 (voice)
215-Krawchuk (fax)

3915 Union Deposit Road
Harrisburg, PA 17109
1-800-R-Rights (voice/fax)


Anonymous said...

Three small political parties challenging signature threshold
Alison Hawkes, Times Capital Bureau

HARRISBURG - Third-party political candidates are complaining that
Pennsylvania law is making it nearly impossible for them to get their
names on ballots.

And they say that's true especially this year, in which third-party
candidates running for statewide offices need 34 times as many signatures
as Democrats and Republicans to be on the November ballot.

"Bob Casey Jr. didn't defeat me. Rick Santorum didn't defeat me. The
unfair ballot access laws defeated me," said Ken Krawchuk, a Libertarian
Party member from Abington who said he's considering dropping out of the
U.S. Senate race this year because of burdensome signature requirements.

Krawchuk and other third-party candidates - including three would-be
candidates for governor this year - spoke to the House State Government
Committee on Wednesday in the hope of changing state law.

Election law requires that third-party candidates and independents garner
signatures amounting to 2 percent of the votes of the highest voter-getter
in the previous election for that district.

For statewide offices this year, including governor, lieutenant governor,
U.S. Senate and others, that amounts to a record 67,000 signatures. That's
because in 2004, Bob Casey Jr. won 3.3 million votes for state treasurer.
Krawchuk said third parties actually may need as many as 100,000
signatures to account for those that might be thrown out for various

By comparison, Democratic and Republican candidates need a flat 1,000 to
2,000 votes to place candidates on primary ballots for top statewide
offices, depending on the position.

Third-party members and committee Chairman Paul Clymer, a Republican from
Bucks County, said they don't know of a single independent or third-party
member who's been elected to a state office in recent history, although
they do hold office in some county and municipal positions.

That's despite the fact that some Pennsylvania counties have 15 percent or
more registered voters listed as something other than Democrat or
Republican, said Pennsylvania Reform Party treasurer Thomas McLaughlin.

The third-party members have come together to form the group Pennsylvania
Ballot Access Coalition, which is seeking to change the election code to
reflect Delaware law. The Delaware law allows an automatic listing of
third-party candidates on a general election ballot, with no signatures
required, if the party membership amounts to at least 0.05 percent of
registered voters in the state.

In Pennsylvania, such a change in law would give Libertarians, Green Party
members and Constitution Party candidates an automatic listing on ballots,
according to Krawchuk.

The proposal also asks that independent candidates be required to gather
as many signatures as Democrats and Republicans.

Clymer said the committee will draft legislation.

"There has to be a better way for them to gain access to the ballot,"
Clymer said. "The last thing we want to do in Pennsylvania is feel like we
have blocked out third parties. They do have opportunities, but they're so
onerous, it's difficult for them to participate."

©Beaver County Times Allegheny Times 2006

Anonymous said...

3rd-party access to ballot pursued Signature threshold hinders candidates
Thursday, January 12, 2006
BY SHARON SMITH Of The Patriot-News

It's not often that Socialists, Constitutional Party members and
Libertarians agree on an issue, but access to the election ballot is one
topic the minor parties seem to get behind.

Libertarians, Socialists and Constitution Party members who want to run
for governor this year would have to collect about 67,000 signatures to
have their names appear next to the Republican and Democratic candidates.

Democratic and Republican candidates need only collect 2,000 signatures.

That's one political challenge that's rather tough to overcome, according
to members of the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition. The group, which
is composed of several minor-party political groups, is pushing state
lawmakers to change the process.

Two minor political parties have sued the state in federal court. The
plaintiffs, the Green and Constitution parties, want the court to strike
down the current signature standard as unconstitutional and order state
officials to replace it with a less onerous requirement. The suit, which
was filed Tuesday, also names state Attorney General Thomas W. Corbett
Jr., Gov. Ed Rendell and Secretary of State Pedro Cortes.

Minor-party representatives and candidates testified yesterday at a state
House of Representatives' State Government Committee hearing about why
they should have an easier time getting on the ballot.

Voter turnout would likely increase if more candidates were listed on the
ballot, said Paul Teese, chairman of the Green Party of Pennsylvania.

"I think what we all want is a strong democracy here in Pennsylvania,"
Teese said. "Voter turnout is the litmus test of the health of our

Under Pennsylvania law, minor-party candidates running for statewide
office must collect enough signatures to get on the ballot. That means
they have to get at least 2 percent of the number of votes that the
highest vote-getter running for statewide office received during the last

Other than the retention question on judges, the 2005 election did not
include candidates running for statewide offices. That means that
minor-party candidates would have to use the figures from the 2004
election, said Brian McDonald, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department
of State.

In that election, Bob Casey Jr., who was elected state treasurer, received
3.3 million votes, the most of any candidate running for statewide office.
Thus, minor parties need 2 percent of that total, or 67,000 votes.

The plaintiffs in the federal suit said this year's situation underscores
the arbitrary nature of the signature standards. They asked the court
either to apply the major-party standard to all candidates or to replace
the requirement for outside candidates with a system based on a fraction
of total voter registration.

Rendell's spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit, as did Corbett's
office, which said it had not yet seen the suit.

About 11.6 percent of Pennsylvania's 8.1 million registered voters are
affiliated with a party that is neither Democrat or Republican, according
to the Department of State's voter registration statistics.

John Murphy, who worked on the Ralph Nader presidential campaign in 2004,
also testified about his experience trying to get the independent
candidate on Pennsylvania's ballot.

Democracy can be destroyed, he said, by preventing people from voting and
keeping candidates from running. Nader was not allowed on the 2004
Pennsylvania ballot after state courts ruled that he did not meet the
signature requirements.

It's unlikely that lawmakers would move to change ballot procedures before
the primaries in May. However, committee chairman Rep. Paul Clymer,
R-Bucks, said the committee will consider the group's suggestions.

The disparity in the number of signatures required by third-party
candidates versus members of the two main parties appears unfair, Clymer
said. "We want honest debates in the marketplace," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
SHARON SMITH: 783-5196 or