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Pennsylvania's minor political parties file lawsuit demanding ballot access

Libertarian, Green, and Constitution party members request an injunction waiving the requirement to collect a specific number of signatures to qualify for election
Wooden gavel

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Leaders of the Libertarian Party, Green Party and Constitution Party issued a call to action for ballot access Thursday after filing a lawsuit in federal court requesting a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction eliminating the requirement to collect a specified number of signatures on nomination papers to qualify for the general election in November.

The motion, filed May 14 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, names Governor Tom Wolf et al as defendants. 

In a press release Thursday, leaders of the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties accused the Wolf and other state Democratic party officials of deciding to "use their sizable resources to disenfranchise voters and fight against choice."

For decades, the press release said, minor parties and independents have had a difficult time with ballot access -- specifically, meeting the signature requirements, which they called "grossly disproportional."

As a result, they say, minor party candidates and independents are excluded from debates and denied access to the taxpayer-funded primary system, the statement said.

This year, with the COVID-19 outbreak confining most Pennsylvanians to their homes except for life-sustaining activities, minor party candidates found it "impossible" to collect signatures for ballot access.

"Even if we were to petition, we would be potentially putting our volunteers and voters at risk," the statement said.

Representatives for Pennsylvania's minor parties asked Wolf and representatives of his administration for relief in the form of waiving the petition requirements during the health emergency, the statement said. 

Wolf, the statement said, told the questioner that "someone would get back to (them)," and an employee with the state department told a questioner that "third-party candidates are not technically prohibited from collecting signatures," according to the third parties' statement.

“Given the current situation we have few responsible or effective options," said Green Party State Treasurer candidate Timothy Runkle in the statement. "We could either (sit) this one out or take it to the courts.

"Around one third of our offices will go uncontested in the November election if people cannot meet the restrictive access requirements that are now nearly impossible to reach under the Governor’s order.”

“Governor Tom Wolf is picking winners and losers by allowing corporations like Walmart to stay open, yet forcing small businesses to close," said Steve Scheetz, Libertarian Party Chair and candidate for Congress in District 1. "He's doing the same in politics. Wolf is allowing Republicans and Democrats to have ballot access, but blocking smaller third-parties from appearing on your ballot this November.”'

The statement went on to accuse Wolf of being "uninterested" in holding free and open elections, accusing him of doing "nothing but prevent any type of choice on the ballot when we all go to vote in the general election this November."

The statement concludes by asking Pennsylvanians to call or email their state representatives to"demand free and fair elections in the Commonwealth."