Constitution Party Kicked Off the Pennsylvania Ballot
On Tuesday, the Constitution Party—whose presidential ticket consists of former U.S. House member Virgil Goode and Lancaster, Pennsylvania attorney James Clymer—withdrew their petition to get on the ballot in Pennsylvania. The decision came after multiple warnings of the court costs by attorneys for the Republican Party, who have challenged the Constitution and Libertarian parties’ ballot petitions.
“The challenge represented a monolithic establishment party which is intent on denying people the opportunity to vote for anyone who might criticize it from a limited government, non-interventionist perspective,” notes vice-presidential candidate James Clymer to Philadelphia Weekly. “It used its almost limitless resources to take advantage of laws designed by Republicans and Democrats to make sure no other party has a place at the election table and court decisions that have supported raising the hurdles a third party has to jump over to get to a general election.”
The Constitution party had turned in about 35,000 signatures to Harrisburg on August 1st, plenty more than the 20,601 third parties are required to get on the ballot. In an act one Libertarian party member referred as “extortion” to PW, Republican Party lawyers had warned the Constitution and Libertarian Parties that their court costs could reach more than $100,000 if they lost signature challenge bids. (In Pennsylvania, candidates kicked off the ballot can be forced to pay their opponents’ legal fees.) That forced the Constitution party, who’s already paid about $50,000 in legal fees, to blink. The Libertarian party has not, yet.
“This means yet another voice in Pennsylvania is stilled,” said Bob Small, facilitator for the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition—a nonprofit that fights for third parties—upon receiving the news.
A member of the Green Party, Small calls himself “basically a free agent” in the fight for third-party ballot access—which is why he’d been volunteering for the Goode campaign. The Green Party, surprisingly, has not been challenged this year by Democrats, who have kept statewide Green candidates off the ballot since 2004.
A previous statement on the Constitution Party of Pennsylvania’s website had asked for both volunteers and cash to fight the Republicans’ challenge.
“The court has ordered that we have a large group of volunteers (20 minimum) to assist in the checking of names and addresses with their database this coming Monday morning in Philadelphia. This could take several days and we need lots of help lined up since not everyone will be able to stay the full time,” the statement read. “Several of us are carpooling and getting rooms to share for lodging. Please advise us if you would like to be included in our arrangements.”
Getting off the ballot, admits Constitution Party secretary and write-in candidate for Pennsylvania state Treasurer Donna Fike, “came down to money. We do not have the large sums of money the two major parties have access to. We are patriots who feel a sense of duty to leave this country better for our children and grandchildren than it is now. We do this at our own expense.”
She adds the party is often “pushed around by unfair rules set up by those with the money to enforce them and a court willing to go along. I am disappointed in what I thought would be a somewhat fair process.”
The Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania is also fighting a challenge by the Republican Party. They handed in about 49,000 signatures to get former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson on the ballot for president, 44,000 of which are being challenged by Republicans. Johnson recently made national news when he suggested Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan is not a libertarian, in spite of many claiming otherwise. Libertarian party members and volunteers have previously told PW they are confident they have the required number of validated signatures to claim a ballot position in November.
“Ballot access laws that discriminate against new or third parties should definitely be changed,” adds Clymer. “There are 40-plus states with ballot access laws substantially less restrictive than those of [Pennsylvania] that could serve as a model but the first step would be to follow the PA Constitution, specifically Article One, Section 5 that mandates “Elections shall be free and equal.” That includes equality in access to the ballot. There is no reason an established political body or minor party should be required to collect more than ten times the number of signatures as the major parties.”