Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Libertarian Party joins lawsuit challenging PA Election Code

Lawsuit filed to protect electoral process and secure voters’ rights

Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania
3915 Union Deposit Road #223
Harrisburg, PA 17109

For Immediate Release: May 5, 2009

Contact: Doug Leard (Media Relations) at Media-Relations@lppa.org or
Michael Robertson (Chair) at 1-800-R-RIGHTS / chair@lppa.org

Harrisburg, PA – On behalf of the Libertarian, Constitution and Green Parties of Pennsylvania, the Center for Competitive Democracy (CCD), a non-partisan,
non-profit 501(c)(3) legal advocacy group(http://www.competitivedemocracy.org/) has filed suit in federal District Court challenging the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania Election Code.

The lawsuit specifically challenges provisions that authorize courts to order candidates to pay litigation costs and fees to private parties who challenge their nomination papers. The lawsuit also seeks to require elections officials to count and certify write-in votes as required by the election code.

“Making minor party candidates pay the costs of validating their nomination papers while using public funds to subsidize the major party nomination process makes a mockery of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection,” said Mik Robertson, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania. “The interest of the government is to secure voters’ rights to choose their elected representatives, not limit those choices.”

The lawsuit, Constitution Party of Pennsylvania, et al. v. Cortes, et al., No. 09-1961, was filed in response to a judgment ordering a 2006 Green Party candidate to pay more than $80,000 in litigation costs to private parties who challenged his nomination papers, and by Pennsylvania elections officials’ routine failure to count write-in votes.

The lawsuit asks the court to hold Sections 2872.2 and 2937 of the Pennsylvania Election Code unconstitutional. Section 2872.2 requires minor party candidates to submit nomination papers to gain ballot access, no matter how many votes the minor party won in the previous election. Section 2937 authorizes private parties to challenge those nomination papers, and authorizes courts to order the candidates to pay their challengers’ litigation costs and fees. The lawsuit also seeks enforcement of Section 3155, which requires elections officials to compute and certify valid write-in votes.

In 1972, the Supreme Court declared in Bullock v. Carter that states may not require candidates “to shoulder the costs” of conducting elections by charging filing fees without providing a non-monetary means of gaining ballot access. In Pennsylvania, however, these candidates cannot gain ballot access unless they submit nomination papers..

Constitution Party of Pennsylvania, et al. v. Cortes, et al. has been assigned to Judge Thomas Golden. CCD is expected to file a motion this week for preliminary injunction to suspend the fees already assessed pending the outcome of the action.

The Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in Pennsylvania and the United States. More than 200,000 people across the country are registered Libertarians, and Libertarians serve in hundreds of elected offices. Please visit www.LP.org or www.LPPA.org for more information.
This is very important stuff.

I went before a judge in Harrisburg in 2006, the same time that this was unfolding in another court room. It happened to me too.

As the judge entered the court room, there was the order, "All rise..." I did. But, I never sat down.

"Your honor, ..." I asked without delay. My list was with a handful of points, each taken in turn. One was to this exact measure.

I wanted to have the assurances from the judge, a guarantee of sorts, before we took another step, that I would not be punished and penalized for defending my rights to be on the ballot. I wanted to know if the judge was going to give me a bill or order court costs to be paid by me. I wanted that intimidation to be removed from the realm of the possibility.

The judge said "No." He would not rule that out as an outcome.

So, the PA judge could both toss me off the ballot and pick an amount for a fine to slap upon me as well. My liabilities were great.

In the other matters, I too was at a great disadvantage. I was on thin ice, to say the least. Every one of my requests were denied.

So, I entered into evidence the papers that were served to me with the proof that the PA Senator's office, District 42, was used in connection of this political case of the highest political gain. The papers had the fax number of the PA Senator's office on them -- clearly an ethical violation from Senator Wayne Fontana and/or his office staffers. Then, after that evidence was booked by the clerk, I got a final bit of clarification and then told the judge that I would not be seeking a continuation of the proceedings as it was most prudent to pull my name from the ballot.

As a tip for all elected officials: Don't use your public office for political gain. That's what got Jeff Habay into jail.

No comments: