Third Party Ballot Access Bill Reintroduced
There are some state legislative fights that seem to have been going on forever. And the effort for Pennsylvania ballot access is one of them. Currently in Pennsylvania, as Philadelphia Weekly has investigated in the past, third-party candidates get the shortest end of the stick when attempting to get on the ballot for statewide elections; they’re often required at least 10 times the number of signatures as their mainstream party counterparts (or more) just to get on the ballot. In light of that, state Senator Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) has reintroduced bipartisan legislation — Senate Bill 195 — that would make it a hell of a lot easier for independent and third-party candidates to run for office in the commonwealth.
As we noted last year of Pennsylvania’s stubborn ballot access rules:
If your party’s total statewide registration is less than 15 percent at the close of the last election (and it is), you’re considered a minor party. Then, in order to get on the ballot, you need to collect signatures that represent 2 percent of the highest vote-getter in the state’s previous election…
Currently, Republicans and Democrats running for statewide office only have to turn in 2,000 signatures to get on the ballot; Indies’ signature totals are almost always in the tens of thousands. The most infamous case of denied ballot access happened in 2006, when Green Party senatorial candidate Carl Romanelli handed in nearly 100,000 signatures, the most in state history; was still knocked off the ballot; and then handed a $80,000 legal bill by the Bob Casey campaign. (He never paid it.)
Surprisingly, the 2012 Green Party team of Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala were not challenged during the run-up to the 2012 presidential primary, but the Libertarian and Constitution party tickets were. The latter got kicked off the ballot—despite the fact that their national vice-presidential candidate was from Lancaster County!
Folmer introduced mirror legislation last session as Senate Bill 21. A libertarian-leaning Republican, he told us his inspiration for the ballot access fight: “Opposition makes you matter as a candidate,” he noted. “It makes sure you know your issues.” But he also noted the “powers that be” do not want the change to happen. Which makes the bipartisan nature of the legislation and its sponsors a direct rebuke against party bosses.
SB 195 is co-sponsored by Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin), Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny), Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh), and Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne). It was referred to the state government committee on January 17. The legislation would change the rules defining a minority party candidate. Currently, minority parties are considered, as noted above, any party with less than 15 percent of total statewide registration. This would change that to, according to the bill’s language, “at least five one-hundredths of one per centum of the total number of voters registered in the entire State as of December 31 of the year immediately preceding the primary election,” – so, any party with more than 5/100 of 1 percent of registered voters would not be considered a minority party, and would only require 2,000 signatures. Which would make things a lot easier for the indies.