Quirk Raises Bar for Penn. Ballot Access

Looks like getting on the ballot for a statewide race in Pennsylvania next year will be nearly impossible.

From The Times-Leader:

Ken Krawchuk knows a thing or two about collecting petition signatures. As the Libertarian Party candidate for governor in 2002, he gathered about 32,000 signatures - 11,000 more than the law required - to ensure his name was on the ballot.

“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life,” said Krawchuk, 52, a computer consultant from Montgomery County who finished third in the four-way race.

In 2006, if he follows through on a prospective bid for U.S. Senate, Krawchuk will have to do something much harder - collect more than twice that many signatures - because of this year’s light election schedule and the record-breaking vote total that Robert P. Casey Jr. racked up when he was elected state treasurer last year.

Minor or “third”-party candidates for statewide office are required by state law to gather a substantial number of signatures - much more than the 1,000 or 2,000 required of Republican and Democratic contenders - to ensure that only the most viable ones are allowed on the ballot. In 2002, they needed about 21,000 signatures; in 2004, the minimum was around 26,000.

The threshold is set at 2 percent of the ballots cast for the biggest vote-getter in the last statewide election. Generally, that is a candidate for one of the statewide judgeships that typically are up for grabs in odd-numbered years and that commonly attract only modest voter turnouts.

But this year, for the first time in recent memory, there are no statewide races. That means state elections officials have to reach back to 2004 - and Casey’s nearly 3.4 million votes, the most cast for any candidate in Pennsylvania history - to calculate the minimum number of signatures that statewide candidates of the Libertarian, Green, Constitution and other third parties will need to qualify for the 2006 general-election ballot.

The magic number works out to 67,070 - and third-party advocates say candidates will actually need to collect 100,000 signatures or more as insurance against legal challenges.

The situation has surprised and disturbed some legislators who specialize in election-law matters.

“For any third party candidate, those are large numbers to get,” said Rep. Paul I. Clymer, chairman of the House State Government Committee, who said he wants to hold informal hearings on the issue this fall in hopes of negotiating and approving a fairer way to set the signature threshold before third-party candidates begin circulating their petitions early next year.

“Philosophically, I believe in participation - don’t try and close the door on people; that’s not what we’re about as a democracy,” said the Bucks County Republican. But “you don’t want fly-by-night parties in there. ... That confuses the process and gets people distrustful as well.”

Gov. Ed Rendell’s Election Reform Task Force said in its final report last May the state election code “should be amended to provide greater access to the ballot for minor political parties and political bodies.” But the panel offered no guidance on how to do that.

A collection of third parties that has banded together as the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition is pressing to change the threshold to 0.05 percent of statewide voter registration. Based on last year’s total of 8.4 million voters, third-party candidates for top offices could qualify for the ballot with only about 4,200 signatures.

Clymer said such a proposal might encounter “political” resistance from the Republicans and Democrats who make up the Legislature.

Still, he said, “we need to see what we can do to help.”

2 Responses to “Quirk Raises Bar for Penn. Ballot Access”

  1. Joe Says:

    Maybe this explains why Jim Panyard decided to run as a Republican rather than as a Constitutionalist?

    It’s a real shame. In our state the number is 15,000 and we have not been able to accomplish that since 2000. I can’t imagine trying to collect 100,000 signatures.

  2. Austin Cassidy Says:

    I’m guessing that’s the reason, but he couldn’t say that was the reason because…

    1. Republicans want a Republican, not a guy unable to run under his real label.

    and…

    2. To admit you can’t collect 100,000 signatures is to admit that you’re unable to be competitive and that you’re having to choose an “easier path” or something.

    It’s a shame… hopefully the CP will still rally behind him for the primary.

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