Minor parties win right to challenge Pa. election code

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A decade after Ralph Nader‘‍s failed attempt to get on the presidential ballot in Pennsylvania, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia ruled Wednesday that minor parties should get another day in court.

The 54-page opinion stated the Constitution, Green and Libertarian parties have the standing to challenge the constitutionality of two provisions of state election code regulating ballot access. Third-party candidates are required to submit nomination petitions with signatures, and then to bear administrative and legislative costs if those petitions are successfully called into question.

The appellate court said its ruling is not meant to prejudge the merits of the case or the precedent supporting a state’‍s interest in preventing voter confusion and ballot clutter and ensuring viable candidates by limiting ballot access.

“It would be a sad irony indeed if the state that prides itself on being the cradle of American liberty had unlawfully restrictive ballot access laws,” the opinion said.

The case will return to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, which originally decided the minor parties had no standing to challenge the election code.

Attorney for the appellants Oliver B. Hall said no other state has dual requirements.

“This is about a free country and whether people are able to participate in the system or not,” Mr. Oliver said.

These issues came to a head in 2004 when Mr. Nader was taken off the ballot for having improper signatures on nominating petitions and ordered to pay more than $81,000 in legal costs. Amid Harrisburg‘‍s Bonusgate scandal, it was found that tax money was used to bump Mr. Nader from the ballot, as well as Carl Romanelli, the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in 2006 who was ordered to pay more than $80,000 when the Democratic Party successfully challenged his signatures.

Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post- gazette.com, 412-263-1878 or on Twitter @LexiBelc.

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