Green Party Stays on Ballot in Pennsylvania While Constitution, Libertarian Parties Challenged
There’s a first time for everything. And 2012 appears to be the first time since 2004 the Green Party of Pennsylvania will put statewide candidates on the commonwealth’s election ballot. The deadline for a ballot challenge from the Democratic Party came and went last week, without a challenge. On the other side of the alternative politicosphere, however, the Constitution and Libertarian parties weren’t so lucky.
The deadline to challenge all ballots in Pennsylvania was Wednesday, August 8th at 5 p.m. That deadline came and went, and there was no challenge to the Greens. PW contacted Party Chair Carl Romanelli earlier today, who says there has still been no news to report regarding a challenge—which would appear even more murky being as it’d have been post-deadline.
On July 31, Green Party presidential ticket Dr. Jill Stein and local activist Cheri Honkala handed in more than 35 thousand signatures after a 2-week run to collect almost 70 percent of that. The Party, and all Pennsylvania third parties, are required to hand in 2 percent of the most votes gotten by a candidate in the previous election. This year, that number was 20,601 signatures, compared with a 2,000 benchmark for Republican and Democratic candidates.
While PA Greens called themselves “ecstatic” at the deadline passing, Romanelli noted in a press release that some Green Party petitioners did not participate. And you can blame that one on earned cynicism.
“We had so many of our longtime members working since early March to collect signatures, but we also had many skilled petitioners who did not participate, as the hard work in previous years was nullified by our candidates withdrawing from the challenge, rather than to defend it,” noted Romanelli. “This is clearly due to the regressive practice in Pennsylvania of assessing legal fees and costs on challenges not defended successfully. In addition, the excitement of our strong presidential ticket of Stein/Honkala assured we would obtain a suitable number of signatures.”
During Romanelli’s own run for Senate in 2006, he handed in more than 100,000 signatures, the most in state history, and was still kicked from the ballot.
Late last month, the Green Party had actually been sending out fundraising emails making note of what they called Pennsylvania’s “rigged” election system, which favors mainstream politics. Vice Presidential candidate Cheri Honkala noted to PW in an interview last month that she would spend some of the election season bringing attention to the weird ballot access laws of her home state.
Green Party of Philadelphia spokesman Chris Robinson noted before Cheri Honkala was chosen as vice president, that she has grown the Green Party throughout the city—and especially in Kensington, where she lives. Green Party registration in the 31st Ward has grown 54 percent since 2009, which represents the biggest gains in the city.
“Things looked grim in June,” said Green Party coordinator Hillary Kane, “but the energy and hard work of Jill and Cheri clearly put us over the top. These candidates are not only incredible organizers, but their message resonates with many working class voters.”
On August 1, the day elections were due in the state, Kane stayed in Harrisburg overnight to make sure the Secretary of State received all the signatures. That same day, Stein and Honkala were in Philadelphia, protesting against foreclosures carried out by Fannie Mae. They were arrested for their activism. Stein and Honkala are currently on the ballot in 30 states and the District of Columbia.
Things are looking a bit more dire, though, for the Constitution and Libertarian parties in Pennsylvania, who are both being challenged by the Republican Party—one which has not been shy about scoring undemocratic points in the name of electoral wins recently.
Challenges from the Right
Also on August 8th, two attorneys working for Republican Party officials filed challenges to the validity of the Libertarian and Constitution parties’ statewide petitions. One of the attorneys who filed a petition is the same who filed the challenge to the same right-of-center parties in 2010, and who warned the parties that they might face court costs as high as $110,000, according to Ballot Access News.
In Pennsylvania, the party who loses their case is required to pay the legal fees of the winner.
The 2010 warning was felt by the candidates, most notably Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Marakay Rogers, who fled from the ballot after a similar challenge.
The Libertarian presidential candidate this year is former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who had previously run for president as a Republican, though was removed from the debates after not receiving the threshold for percentage of support and money raised. His views were far from the Republican rank-and-files, as well.
The former chairman of the Libertarian Party has called the Republican Party’s claim that they want fair elections “a load of crap” in light of the challenge. The Libertarian Party submitted about 42 thousand signatures to get on the ballot.
Also according to Ballot Access News, lawyer Oliver Hall of the Center of Competitive Democracy filed a request for injunctive relief in federal court—against the Pennsylvania challenge system as it currently stands. Hall is representing the Constitution, Green and Libertarian parties in the case. He and the Center, based in D.C., have been focusing on Pennsylvania’s system for several years.
In an interview with PW earlier this year, Hall noted that “No other state has such a system” which requires losing candidates to pay the winner’s fees. Pennsylvania is also considered one of the worst states in the country for ballot access, being as it requires 10 times—or more, depending on the year—the amount of signatures for third party candidates. Colorado, for instance, currently has 17 candidates on the ballot for president. If the current challenges go as they have in recent years, Pennsylvania will likely have three candidates on the ballot.
“Without relief from the federal court, the Libertarian and Constitution Parties are placed in the dilemma of either withdrawing their petitions,” notes Ballot Access News, “or risking a judgment that court costs of perhaps $100,000 or more are owed to the challengers.”
Both Romanelli and former Green Party Presidential candidate Ralph Nader owe tens of thousands of dollars to the Democratic Party, stemming from recent challenges.