FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 12, 2010
Oliver Hall - (202) 248-9294
PENNSYLVANIA MINOR PARTIES CALL ON REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS TO WITHDRAW PETITION CHALLENGES AND TO CONDEMN USE OF PUNITIVE AND DISCRIMINATORY ELECTION LAWS TO SUPPRESS VOTER CHOICE
Major Party Challenges Filed Against Every Non-Major Party Candidate for Statewide Office in Pennsylvania Are an Assault on Democracy that Attempts to Deny Voters a Free Choice at the Polls, State Constitution, Green and Libertarian Parties Say
HARRISBURG, PA – In a display of non-partisan unity on behalf of all Pennsylvania voters who desire a free choice of candidates in the November 2, 2010 general election, the state’s Constitution, Green and Libertarian Parties today called on Republicans and Democrats to withdraw the nomination petition challenges that major party operatives filed against every non-major party candidate for statewide office in Pennsylvania. The minor parties also called on the major party candidates who are the intended beneficiaries of the challenges to condemn them as an attempt to suppress voter choice in the upcoming election. Under Pennsylvania’s uniquely punitive and discriminatory ballot access scheme, minor party and independent candidates may be ordered to pay $80,000 or more in litigation costs and attorneys’ fees if they defend against such challenges.
The Constitution, Green and Libertarian Parties specifically called on Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Corbett to condemn the challenge filed against Libertarian Party gubernatorial nominee Marakay Rogers. They called on Republican congressional candidate Pat Meehan to condemn the challenge to independent candidate Jim Schneller. And the minor parties called on Democratic senatorial nominee Joe Sestak to condemns and withdraw the challenge that he personally filed to Green Party senatorial nominee Mel Packer. Corbett, Meehan and Sestak must condemn the challenges whether or not they were involved in the filing, the minor parties say, because they are the intended beneficiaries.
"These petition challenges filed against every non-major party candidate for statewide office in Pennsylvania prove that when it comes to elections, Republicans and Democrats both stand against voter choice," said Constitution Party State Chair Wes Thompson. "Voters cannot allow our democratic process to be hijacked by private, entrenched political parties that want to decide who we can and cannot vote for."
"Pennsylvania Greens have fought to give voters a free choice on election day, and now we are asking voters to stand with us," said Green Party State Chair I.K. Samways. "Tell Joe Sestak that you oppose his anti-democratic effort to deny you a free choice of candidates in November."
"No one knows the potential for corruption to infect the petition challenge process better than Attorney General Tom Corbett," said Libertarian Party State Chair Mik Robertson. "It is a shame that so many soldiers have died to bring ballot choices to people in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the political machines in Pennsylvania work to restrict ballot choices for our own citizens."
In 2004, Pennsylvania courts adopted a uniquely punitive ballot access scheme, by authorizing the assessment of litigation costs against minor party and independent candidates who defend their nomination petitions when challenged by a private party. Prior to 2004, no state in the nation, including Pennsylvania, had ever ordered candidates to pay such costs. That is because, as the Supreme Court of the United States observed more than four decades ago in Harman v. Forsenius, "It has long been established that a State may not impose a penalty upon those who exercise a right guaranteed by the Constitution." Several landmark Supreme Court decisions since then have reaffirmed that states may not impose mandatory financial burdens on candidates and voters as a condition of their participation in elections.
Nevertheless, in 2004 Commonwealth Court Judge James Gardner Colins ordered independent presidential candidates Ralph Nader and Peter Miguel Camejo to pay $81,102.19 in litigation costs to the parties who challenged their nomination petitions. Relying on that unconstitutional decision, in 2006 Commonwealth Court Judge James R. Kelley ordered Green Party senatorial candidate Carl Romanelli to pay his challengers more than $80,000 in costs and fees.
Attorney General Tom Corbett’s Grand Jury investigation into the "Bonusgate" scandal subsequently revealed that employees of the State House Democratic Caucus had illegally prepared the Nader-Camejo and Romanelli petition challenges at taxpayer expense. The Pennsylvania courts still refused to set aside the judgments awarding costs to the challengers. The candidates continue to oppose enforcement of the judgments.
"In the wake of the Bonusgate scandal, which exposed rampant corruption in the petition challenge process, the Pennsylvania courts ratified a discriminatory ballot access scheme that subjects minor party and independent candidates to bank-breaking and clearly unconstitutional costs and fees if they defend their nomination petitions," said Oliver Hall, an attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Competitive Democracy, which is representing Pennsylvania’s Constitution, Green and Libertarian Parties in a federal lawsuit challenging state election laws. "If Pennsylvania voters want a free choice at the polls, they must stand up for candidates’ rights to seek office, regardless of partisan affiliation."
The Constitution, Green and Libertarian Parties say that Republicans and Democrats must pledge not to file nomination petition challenges until Pennsylvania’s unconstitutional election laws are reformed. The Voter Choice Act (SB 252), which State Senator Mike Folmer (R-48) and eight co-sponsors introduced in February 2009, would enact the needed reforms by eliminating the discriminatory requirement that minor party and independent candidates submit nomination petitions with tens of thousands of signatures. The bill, however, has languished in committee.
"The time is ripe for reform, but so far it’s business as usual in Harrisburg," Hall said. "The major parties are going all out to deny Pennsylvanians a free choice of candidates in November, and they will continue to do so until voters make it clear that they will not tolerate such anti-democratic tactics."
A caller after my call with Ron Morris and Jim Roddey said, "In Germany, Hitler won with only a smaller percentage of the vote. If you get a lot of folks on the ballot we could be electing someone like Hitler."
Hitler was NOT ever elected to office. He was appointed. It was corrected on the radio show.
The race for governor: Onorato's ploy - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "And a review of Mr. Krupa's nominating petitions, filed last week, shows that it's members of labor unions that have endorsed Onorato -- and even one of Onorato's campaign workers -- behind the petitions."
I would never call anyone who signed a petition to put a citizen onto the ballot a 'rat.'
Governor Rendell signed the petition to put another candidate on the ballot in a race where Rendell was running.
It is polite. It is civil. It is justified to help anyone get onto the ballot if the person's desire is to stand for political office.