Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania
3915 Union Deposit Road #223
Harrisburg, PA 17109
For Immediate Release: May 5, 2009
Harrisburg, PA – On behalf of the Libertarian, Constitution and Green Parties of Pennsylvania, the Center for Competitive Democracy (CCD), a non-partisan,
non-profit 501(c)(3) legal advocacy group (http://www.competitivedemocracy.org/) has filed suit in federal District Court challenging the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania Election Code.
The lawsuit specifically challenges provisions that authorize courts to order candidates to pay litigation costs and fees to private parties who challenge their nomination papers. The lawsuit also seeks to require elections officials to count and certify write-in votes as required by the election code.
"Making minor party candidates pay the costs of validating their nomination papers while using public funds to subsidize the major party nomination process makes
a mockery of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection," said Mik Robertson, Chair of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania. "The interest of the government is to secure voters’ rights to choose their elected representatives, not limit those choices."
The lawsuit, Constitution Party of Pennsylvania, et al. v. Cortes, et al., No. 09-1961, was filed in response to a judgment ordering a 2006 Green Party candidate to pay more than $80,000 in litigation costs to private parties who challenged his nomination papers, and by Pennsylvania elections officials’ routine failure to count write-in votes.
The lawsuit asks the court to hold Sections 2872.2 and 2937 of the Pennsylvania Election Code unconstitutional. Section 2872.2 requires minor party candidates to submit nomination papers to gain ballot access, no matter how many votes the minor party won in the previous election. Section 2937 authorizes private parties to challenge those nomination papers, and authorizes courts to order the candidates to pay their challengers’ litigation costs and fees. The lawsuit also seeks enforcement of Section 3155, which requires elections officials to compute and certify valid write-in votes.
In 1972, the Supreme Court declared in Bullock v. Carter that states may not require candidates "to shoulder the costs" of conducting elections by charging filing fees without providing a non-monetary means of gaining ballot access. In Pennsylvania, however, these candidates cannot gain ballot access unless they submit nomination papers..
Constitution Party of Pennsylvania, et al. v. Cortes, et al. has been assigned to Judge Thomas Golden. CCD is expected to file a motion this week for preliminary injunction to suspend the fees already assessed pending the outcome of the action.
The Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in Pennsylvania and the United States. More than 200,000 people across the country are registered Libertarians, and Libertarians serve in hundreds of elected offices. Please visit www.LP.org or www.LPPA.org for more information.
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